Small world play is one of my favorite ways to reinforce learning concepts with my preschoolers, and small worlds are also wonderful for younger learners just experimenting with pretend play. The latest small world I created for my toddler is construction small world play. It is based on his favorite book, Roadwork by Sally Sutton, and it is a vrooming good time!
Construction, roadwork, transportation….themes that make many children rev with excitement. Kids are naturally curious about the world around them. There are many things we encounter on a regular basis that may seem like a world of mystery to young children.
I have witnessed my own kids’ eyes pop open wide with wonder when we’ve passed by construction sites. They ask me questions that sometimes I can and other times, I can’t quite answer.
I find their curiosity and wonder inspiring. I often wish I faced each day with the wonder they have. Kids have a beautiful natural curiosity about the world that we want to encourage. I try to implement a wide variety of preschool pretend play ideas throughout the year to help foster their curiosity.
I love when we have a construction/transportation theme in the classroom. When their little minds and hands can immerse themselves in construction dramatic play, crafts, stories, songs, the classroom is literally buzzzzing! I look forward to nothing more than adding the construction theme small world to this classroom-turned transportation mecca! I sometimes will have two separate similar construction site small worlds because they are so popular!!
I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the Small World A-Z series by Still Playing School. Some of the most talented bloggers have joined together to participate in this series, giving some of the most creative small worlds I’ve ever seen! Be sure to check out the link at the end of this post.
FAQ about Invitation to Play
An invitation to play is a way of setting up materials or toys for a play session and inviting your preschooler to manipulate and play with the items as desired. Children are allowed to play with the provided materials in the way they see fit, which might not be conventional.
There should be no rules in an invitation to play, with the exception of being kind, respectful, and safe.
An invitation to play should be open-ended, which means that they should not be designed for a specific outcome. Set up an invitation to play by taking the following steps:
1. Select a well-lit, comfortable space for the invitation to play.
2. Select a range of items, manipulatives, or loose parts.
3. Arrange them in a pleasing manner.
4. Invite your preschooler to come and play.
There are no rules with what an invitation to play should look or feel like, so there is a wide range of what kind of invitation to play that can be presented. Playdough invitations to play are always popular, as well as small water bins, and activities using natural or recycled materials.
Materials for “Roadwork” small world
- sensory tub or sand table
- kinetic sand
- small construction toys
- traffic signs
- the book Roadwork by Sally Sutton
The set up
Begin by filling your sensory tub with kinetic sand. I used a two-pound bag and that was enough to lightly cover the under-the-bed storage tote I use for a sensory bin.
I used kinetic sand because I wanted the sand to hold its shape for a bit, but I didn’t want wet sand in my house. Kinetic sand was the perfect solution. Then I added the construction toys and traffic signs.
Roadwork small world play
I invited my son to read the book Roadwork with me. It didn’t take any convincing since it is his favorite book. It has been well loved and has been taped back together on multiple occasions.
After reading the book through a couple of times, (because one time is never enough for him), I showed him the small world and said, “Look! Roadwork!” He promptly got to playing, but not without his book as a companion.
Just like in the book, my kiddo began clearing way for a new road. He pushed the sand with the bulldozer, scooped it with the excavator and hauled it away with the dump truck. He packed the sand using the steam roller and planted trees and bushes. He was making a road, and as he worked, I heard him attempt to say the onomatopoeias used in the book.
But what I enjoyed the most about watching his Roadwork sensory play, was that he was attempting to read the book as he played. He would turn the pages and look at the pictures to guide him of what to do next. He matched the construction toys with the pictures.
This was easily one of our favorite small worlds. I loved watching my son play out a story book he has treasured and loved (and stolen from his older brother!). This small world offered him a safe way to experiment with pretend play, something he is doing more and more of.
He also demonstrated some print awareness and emergent reading skills as he turned each page to play out the content of the book, showing that he understands that books tell stories. This will be a small world we return to with frequency.
Other books similar to Roadwork
If you don’t have the book Roadwork by Sally Sutton, no worries. Here are some other books that are similar that would also work with this small world. (But Sally Sutton books are our favorite…and no, this post is not sponsored. We just love her books!)
Tips for Small World Play
Small world play allows young kids to role play real life experiences. This type of imaginary play is not only benefical, it is oh so much fun! It is one of many dramatic play ideas that allows kids to immerse themselves in the world around them.
If you have been following me for a while, you know that I am all about hands-on experiences and that kids learn best by doing. Small world play is one prime example of this and an enriching part of your dramatic play centers!
Here are some of my favorite tips for safe, fun small world play:
- Always supervise young children! Safety first!
- Create a specific workspace in your classroom/home that is designated for small world play
- Implement clear expectations about materials (ie: keep all materials inside the bin, no throwing things, etc.)
- Limit the number of kids allowed to play at one time (I recommend a “capacity sign”)
- Discuss with the kids ahead of time/role play what to do if a dispute over materials arises
- Sporadically use leading questions to promote discussion and problem solving
- Consider having small world play outside- it’s fun and this allows less worry about indoor messes
- It is easy to integrate a variety of small worlds into your current preschool themed activities
Benefits of Small World Play
Small world play isn’t just fun, it is also very beneficial to young children. Here are some of the ways being engaged in small world play helps the littles in your life:
- It helps children gain an understanding of their world
- It gives opportunities for role play and acting out real-life scenarios
- It helps children grow socially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically
- It aides in the development of fine motor skills
- It gives opportunities to explore a variety of materials, such as sand, water, rice, play dough, small manipulatives and much more
- It helps with language and vocabulary development
- It promotes imgination and creativity
- Small world play is FUN!!! Let us never underestimate the power of FUN in a child’s world!
A-Z Small World Series
Don’t forget to check out all the other A-Z small worlds from the beginning of the alphabet to the end! Click on the photo below to be taking to the landing page with the entire collection!
Now, go pull out the excavators and dump trucks and dump out some sand! I am certain your kiddos will LOVE construction small world play. It might just become one of your favorites, too! It will definitely be a revvving-good time filled with loads of learning and FUN for all!
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.