We are huge fans of small world play and will grab just about any opportunity to create one. A lot of asking to get another pet has led us to creating a pet shop small world. The thing is, getting a pet is serious business and more than one conversation needs to be had before committing to take one into your family.
This pet shop small world will give you the opportunity to properly look at common (and not so common) pets, how they live, what care they need, what they cost (!) and so on. Depending on the interests of the children, this conversation could go anywhere!
Scroll along to get some inspiration for setting up your own pet shop small world and read how it all went in our corner of the world.
How to Set Up a Pet Shop Small World
Some times, when setting up a small world for my children, I have a system. (I do!) It’s very simple: I start with the basic layer (ground) and keep adding layer upon layer until we all feel it’s exciting enough and we’ve covered all bases. (In this dinosaur small world I tell you exactly how we do that.)
This time around, the excitement took over from the start and we just winged it all the way. The thing about pet shops is that you already have an idea of what a pet shop looks like, so you just start digging into your toy boxes to find the items you need: animals (great place to start!), staff, enclosures, food, things to sell, cash register, … and so on. While you’re digging through all of your stuff you will keep coming across items you think you could use and so you add and add and add.
Since it was such a chaotic process with the kids and toys all over the place (madness! loved it!) I’ll go over the images with you and give you a bit of a running commentary so you can grab whatever tips you think could work for you.
Here we go. Enjoy!
For the checkout and some of the shop shelves we used wooden blocks. We dug into our LEGO box to get a cash register and some crates and even found a hedgehog which we thought we could sell as a soft toy.
Most of our items came from the Playmobil box though: the people, baskets, milk jugs, lanterns, bowls with flowers (cookies), fruit and so on. Playmobil is absolutely awesome to use in small world play.
Behind the checkout we decided to put two abc cards just because it looked pretty to us!
The turtle and tortoise (yes, we now know the difference, we grab those learning opportunities with both hands!) share an enclosure here. It’s the lid of a tin, filled with felt and fabric scraps, buttons and a frog (why not).
The chicken coop is a plastic little storage box filled with ripped cardboard, cut yarn, and some fabric scraps. Both the felt and plastic chickens and roosters were allowed in.
For the fish tank we used a little plastic container, covered the bottom with fabric, added some glass gems and little bits and pieces from LEGO, Playmobil and Safari Lucky Charms. Whatever you have got lying around really!
That porcelain dog bowl was a little something I found in the second hand shop one day. Those places are true treasure coves on some days!
The chameleon enclosure is an upside down cup, with some fabric, a crochet flower (yes, made by me!) and a stick. Little crochet flowers come in SO handy for all kinds of dramatic play situations!
For the Love of Small World Play
Now that you’ve seen what we made of it, you’ll absolutely love to hear how it all ended. I wish I could show you as an image will say it all … but there was NO time. So bear with me, you’ll feel so much better afterwards, I promise.
After our building and creating while talking about pets and animals and the care they need, the pet shop suddenly had to deal with one crisis situation after another. Some animals escaped, others got sick, some attacked customers and then a couple just vanished while dinosaurs suddenly appeared. It was total chaos. On top of it all, a huge earthquake made everything fall apart. It all lasted no longer than 5 minutes. So much for quality independent play. Life as it is with a three year old!
Some days it can feel like you are putting so much effort into setting your children up for different play experiences and then they ruin it all in a minute flat. Keep in mind that it’s about the process and not the result. Remember the days when you loved building LEGO houses and once finished, all you wanted to do was start again? It’s just like that.
So all in all I considered this a HUGE success as we worked together to brainstorm, and problem solve our way through creating a pet shop small world. That they didn’t even play with it, well, that’s a minor detail!
Enjoy creating your own small worlds and do let me know what your go to materials are, I’m always looking for inspiration!
PS: This post is an updated version of a guest post I wrote for Pre-K Pages, where it appeared first. You can read it here and find a lot more play ideas and educational activities around the theme pets there too. Enjoy!
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