Grab some toys, a few natural materials, and homemade milk carton houses to set up this winter small world play. Try it alongside your other winter activities for preschoolers.
Small worlds give young children the chance to incorporate sensory exploration into their imaginative play.
Through this type of play, kids can work on so many different skills. Here are just a few of those skills:
- Sensory integration
- Conversation skills
- Language development
- Vocabulary practice
All while playing and having fun! Not too shabby, if you ask me!
AND the possibilities for small world ideas are truly endless. You can pair a wide variety of sensory materials, manipulatives, toys, and such to encourage imaginative play in the guise of a small world.
Winter Small World Play
This particular small world is focused on a winter forest scene. Creating the base doesn’t require much. And you can pull the children into every step of the creation process.
Because the kids get even more out of an experience when they’re engaged in building it.
Related: Winter Messy Play Ideas
Materials for Winter Play
Below you’ll find the materials to make this version of a winter small world play invitation.
Keep in mind that you can make adjustments to these materials based on your own preferences or items you already have on-hand.
- White Navy beans
- Acorn caps
- White pompoms
- Clear glass gems
- Sparkly paper snowflakes
- Jingle bells
- Pine cones
- Mini trees
- Forest animal toys
- Garden gnome figure
The white Navy beans make for a great “snow” as the base of your winter small world. If you’d rather use something else as the base, here are a few ideas:
No matter what you choose, I’m sure your students will have a blast with their winter small world play.
How to Make a Winter Small World
Now that you have all of your materials, it’s time to assemble the winter sensory small world.
First, you need to choose a bin for the sensory world. If it’s just one child using it, you can go with a smaller container. If multiple children will be using it, grab something larger.
Related: Snow Painting With Water Balloons
Once you’ve chosen the container, add in the white Navy beans (or “snow” alternative). The kids can help pour or scoop the beans into the bin. You can even challenge them to count how many cups of beans go into making this winter scene!
After the base is in the bin, it’s time to set the scene. Place some nature houses in the “snow.” You can find directions for these houses below.
Add some more snowy effects – pompoms, snowflakes, tiny snowy trees. Some glass gems can act as icy stepping stones for your winter small world play.
And don’t forget the animals! Since this small world is centered around a winter forest, forest animals are key. You’ll find a deer and a cardinal here. Other animals you might want to incorporate are squirrels, bears, wolves, etc. This really depends on what animals live in forests near you.
Maybe you also want to add a gnome . . . just for some magical fun in the forest!
Related: Forest Animal Play Dough
DIY Milk Carton Houses
I thought it would be a good idea to fill you in on how to make the nature houses I mentioned above. They add a nice bit of ambiance to the winter small world play, in my opinion.
You can also use them for other pretend play or building activities. They’re great for a variety of things!
Materials for Nature Houses
Here’s what was used for the milk carton houses in this post:
- Half gallon milk carton (empty and cleaned out)
- Brown acrylic paint
- Mod Podge or glue
- Acorn caps
- Birch bark pieces
- Glue gun
You can use different natural items when you make your own carton houses. Sticks, shells, and leaves would be wonderful additions!
Oh, and you don’t have to be milk drinkers to make these nature houses. Juice cartons would work just as well.
How to Build Milk Carton Houses
Start off by cutting the carton in half. This will give you two small houses to work with. One house will have a flat roof, while the other will have a peaked roof (with a little “chimney” if your carton has a round spout).
Next, paint the houses your preferred color using acrylic paint. The houses in this winter small world play setup are brown, but you can change that up!
After the paint is dry, grab the Mod Podge (or glue). Paint one side with the liquid adhesive and add the birch bark pieces. If you’re using something else, like sticks or leaves, add those instead.
Finally, it’s time to decorate the roof! The roofs here are made of acorn caps. The glue gun did have to come out when affixing some of the caps. It ensured the caps stayed put! You might prefer to add leaves or hay to the roofs instead.
If you want to make the chimney look like it’s in use, add a little bit of tissue paper coming from the spout!
Let everything dry. Then the milk carton houses are ready for some winter sensory small world fun!
Playing and Learning with a Winter Small World
As I mentioned above, kids can learn and explore a lot of different concepts with a simple sensory small world.
You’ll see various types of play with this small world. It all depends on the ages, needs, and interests of the children in your care!
Some children will focus on touching and moving the materials. You might see some grab handfuls of beans to use as snow cascading down into the bin. Depending on the size of your bin, some littles might want to climb right in and play!
Other kids will have fun collecting and sorting the bin’s materials. They’ll put all the acorns in one spot, with all the glass gems going elsewhere.
Still others will have fun with the imaginative aspect of the winter small world play. The gnome will get a ride on the deer’s back. The bird will be serenading the forest with a song. The pretend play opportunities are endless here!
More Winter Play Ideas for Kids
If your students loved this winter small world play, I have a few more ideas they’re sure to enjoy:
Cookie Cutter Snowman Art Project from Fun-A-Day
Winter Train Play in the Snow from Play Trains
Winter Wonderland Small World from Buggy and Buddy
How to Make Snow Cream from Nothing if Not Intentional
Penguin Sensory Play from Fantastic Fun and Learning
Big thanks to my friend, Ann, for this post! She’s a former blogger who graciously passed along this winter small world play so I could share it with you.
Winter Lesson Plans for Preschool
Save yourself a ton of lesson planning time with Preschool Teacher 101’s done-for-you resources! Fully-developed, age-appropriate lesson plans are waiting for you. Click on the images below for more information.
Be sure to join The Pack’s waiting list while you’re there. Members save on resources and have access to trainings and help from seasoned early childhood educators.