When possible we like to get a closer look at the animals the girls show an interest in. We’ve created habitats for roly-polies, snails, and a variety of other bugs. We dig for worms and watch the life cycle of butterflies up close. But aside from visiting our local zoo, I’m not quite ready to let the girls get up close and personal with an alligator. We do live in an area where alligators can be seen sunning on the river banks, so there’s a natural curiosity and desire to know more. That curiosity inspired this alligator small world play activity.
Early Childhood Skills
There are a variety of early childhood skills children have the opportunity to practice through small world play. Some of them are:
- story telling and oral vocabulary development
- pretend play
- applying factual knowledge in a pretend situation
- sensory stimulation
- planning and problem solving (particularly when kids design their own small world scenes)
In many cases, small world play will also lead to practicing math skills like sorting, counting, or patterning. They can also inspire additional research on the theme chosen for the small world.
Although I like to put a unique spin on all of our small world invitations, I also like to reuse materials when possible. That way we don’t accumulate too many craft supplies (if that’s possible!), and we get our money’s worth out of our purchases. Many of the materials in this small world were repurposed from our river play dough invitation.
Affiliate links included.
- Safari Ltd Alligators Alive Toob
- Dirt (we just did a little digging in our backyard)
- Ferns or small branches with leaves (we trimmed some from ferns in our area)
- Blue glass gems
- Small pebbles
Time for Alligator Small World Play
My preschooler was the first to play with this small world. She was immediately fascinated by the alligators carrying their babies on their backs. She counted them each. And then she asked me to practice carrying her on my back like an alligator mommy! Alligator mommies are pretty strong!
Next she took all the alligator babies on our tour of the swamp we had created. It was precious to hear her pretend alligator mom voice as she explained the things in the swamp.
Don’t think that small worlds are just for preschoolers though. When the big kids got home from school they started playing right away. I liked to see how they took over planning and reorganizing the small world for their own vision. They added more water, rearranged some things, and then started examining each of the alligator names. This started a conversation about where in the world we find alligators, and we took some time to research together.
Extend the learning by adding in some nonfiction books about alligators, too! Here are some of our suggestions.