Small-world play is something most of us do instinctively with young children. We create scenes and situations with toys and props - animals in a jungle or pirates on a boat, for example - to teach children about the world.
It’s an especially useful tool for building language skills at around 18-24 months, when many children really begin to switch on to this sort of play. So if you are trying to help a child with sounds and words, it’s worth spending some time with them in a small world. Here’s some inspiration for creating small-world play for language:
Choose your subject: big or small, real or fantastic, it’s up to you. The idea is to create a meaningful context in which to identify certain words and phrases. Choosing something your child is already familiar with is a good idea, so that they can build on what they already know and feel confident. Zoos and farms are always good as most children love animals and know of some already through family pets or trips.
Keep it simple: Whatever scene you’re creating, try to limit it to just one space and around two or three characters or animals. Too much going on will dazzle them. Concentrate instead on finding a good mix of materials and textures, especially natural ones. For example you might create an underwater scene in a shoe box, with sand for the sea-bed, a natural sponge and a few shells.