There is something about creating a mini ocean world that captivates children. Whatever it is, the ocean seems to speak to children much like fairies and dinosaurs. It’s a favourite theme and today I’d like to show you a different kind of activity that I’m positive will appeal to the toddler and preschool crowd: it’s an invitation to make a mini ocean world with play dough, fabric scraps and loose parts!
This is small world play at it’s cutest and I can’t wait to show you what the kids and I came up with. It’s going to be good!
Setting Up an Invitation to Create a Mini Ocean World
Setting up invitations to play is a quick and easy way to invite your children to create, explore and play their little hearts out. You can choose any kind of activity to do and any kind of material to work with. The important part is definition and presentation.
For this invitation to create a mini ocean world we settled on play dough, fabric scraps, Playmobil toys, mini animals, seashells, glass gems and a tiny treasure chest with some craft bling in it. (My daughter insisted on the bling, naturally.)
We were especially excited about the play dough and fabric combination. As my daughter and I were tipping over our play baskets we found our bag with fabric scraps and got thinking out loud how they could make amazing waves and the animals could hide underneath it. Well, there’s only one way to find out, so we centered our play tray around it.
Using a play tray is in my humble opinion most valuable. Defining a play space can be very important and help children in their small world play journey. They know where their play world begins and ends and best of all, you can easily move it out of the way so they can continue their play for days. (Read more about play on a tray here.)
I’m also a big fan of presenting invitations to play, create or explore in a beautiful way. The environment of play has a huge impact on children (Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner would certainly agree!) and even on this small a scale a well presented invitation can make the difference between diving in to play or largely ignore.
This is what our invitation to create a mini ocean world ended up looking like:
For the Love of Small World Play
My daughter (6) really enjoys setting up invitations to play. She’s seen me doing this a million times for her and her brother so the concept is very familiar to her. In a way it’s very similar to setting up a tea party or building a LEGO house. The constructing part is just as much fun as the playing part, it ignites different parts of the brain.
The only difference perhaps is that an invitation to create with play dough is close to irresistible! Of course she had to dive in and play.
Let me show you a couple of images that might give you a few ideas for setting up your own invitation to create a mini ocean world.
This tiny glass bottle holds a message my little girl wrote. I found a whole bag of these mini glass bottles at the dollar store and they are also PERFECT for holding fairy dust. Just saying, it will make your child’s day, or even year.
The beads and glass gems come from our craft box and hold a similar kind of “must have essentials” status for children. They come in handy in all kinds of pretend play situations.
The animals come from different places. I just love the Safari Ltd collection and the (more expensive) Schleich animals. Safari Ltd also have good luck minis , which are the penguins, sharks and seahorses you see. They are adorable and my kids love them.
We have a huge box with seashells that we get out for play occasions like these. It’s great to use real elements of nature in small world play. There’s so much kids can learn through play.
In the image below you can see how the fabric scraps were turned into waves and how it ended up looking quite cute!
Using fabric scraps with play dough seems to be counter intuitive to me (it’ll get dirty!) but it was a great experience. There’s so much to explore and such a fun way for kids to experiment. The shiny and sheer fabric were especially popular.
The glass gems are another staple and kids love playing with them. With our baby getting bigger they will probably disappear for a while though. These are most definitely NOT safe for toddlers who want to stick everything in their mouth.
Make Your Own Mini Ocean World
I’m hoping to leave you inspired, filled with ideas to put together something yourselves.
I know you share my love for small world play, so you might enjoy having a look at what we’ve created and played with so far. Find all of our small world play related articles here.
Our most popular so far are the beginner’s guide to small world play and this invitation to create a fairy play dough world.
Thanks for your time and enjoy!
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