One of my favorite things to offer my preschoolers are small world play settings. Autumn is the perfect time to invite preschoolers to this small world, as the seasons are changing from summer to fall and the farmers are out harvesting their fields.
One of the greatest advantages to inviting children to small world play like this one it that it allows the children opportunity to use the knowledge and vocabulary they have learned during a thematic unit. My preschoolers had spent three weeks learning about farms, tractors, and harvesting, so this was the perfect way to close our unit during our fourth week of study. (Although, I was so pleased with the response to this small world that I left it available to my students for a few more weeks after).
Materials for tractor and farm themed small world play
- tractor toys
- small farm animal toys
- acrylic pumpkins
- green and blue felt
- burlap scraps
- autumn dyed rice
- small containers to be troughs
- floral rocks
- full length mirror (optional)
How to set up small world play
I began by setting a full length mirror on the preschool table to serve as our play space. I love setting up invitations to play on mirrors. It adds another depth of dimension for the children to explore. Another advantage is that a full length mirror creates obvious boundaries, but since it runs the length of the preschool table, the children can sit at the table and there is plenty of space for everyone to play at once.
I cut some green felt to represent a pasture and cut blue for a pond. The burlap scraps made a nice defined space for a field to be harvested. Small rocks added a nice decorative element, and the dyed rice served as grains that had been harvested. I scattered the acrylic pumpkins around the farm setting, also to be harvested.
What happened during the small world play
This small world play setting was a time when I was able to sit back and observe my students’ learning. Their learning didn’t need any direction from me, as the previous three weeks of our farm theme had prepared them for some amazing self guided playful learning.The children sat down and immediately began playing. The only restriction I gave the children was that the materials were to stay on the mirror, and that the rocks could be moved, but not dropped, for fear of breaking the mirror.
The children played in different ways. Some students retold stories from picture books we had read during our farm theme. I’ve listed them for you at the end of this post. Some of the children played solo, while others worked collaboratively. While I observed the students and as I jotted down notes about their learning I noticed that the children were reenacting all the things they had learned during our unit. The play included tractors harvesting fields of wheat (rice) and pumpkins, tractors pulling animals out of the pond (inspired by the book Otis) and cows being milked and then breaking out of the pasture, among many others.
What I was most impressed by was the use of language and new vocabulary the children used as they played and conversed with one another. They used the words harvest and pasture, foal and dairy, fertilizer and field, among many other terms. That use of new language was enough for me to know that this small world play was well worth the time the children spent playing.
Some of our favorite farm and tractor themed books
I am Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home mama of five! I am 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 range of levels, including preschool and college, and a little bit of just about 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