Creating a world for a child’s imagination to run wild has always been at the heart of my interest in sensory play. Diggers don’t always have to shovel mud, sand and stones – why not add a digger to the land of fairies, where glittering jewels, sequins and feathers form the landscape? My point being that the beauty of creating a play table generates endless options, and whatever you add to the table the children will create a part in the game for it.
Creating a play table allows practitioners to cater for children of different abilities and stages of development, by enabling them to play together and gain as much from it as their peers. The observational opportunities are also fantastic as they play, describe, lead and role play.
It’s a small world
Small world play has grown as a way to explore different themes within the classroom. I think it is important to recognise how easy it is to make the small world play table into a resource for all of the senses. A dinosaur land is a popular theme for a play table, but how often do we focus the children’s minds on the sound of the different sized dinosaurs’ stomps or the smell and feel of the stones, earth, leaves and logs of their land?
How do the children change their play where two worlds collide? Fairies living amongst the dinosaurs – will they ride them like horses, hide behind rocks from them or use their magic powers to control them? Make note of the different words used, how the game play changes and what happens if you introduce other random objects onto the play table to open their minds further.
As children explore the theme open to them, the opportunity for enquiry-led learning becomes apparent as the theme may overspill into other areas such as the book corner, the role play station, art and outdoor games.
Size doesn’t matter
Space doesn’t have to be an issue where small world play is concerned. Plastic tubs filled with different treasures are the perfect tonic for easy to create sensory play. These can be themed by senses, such as sound and touch; by theme, such as cars and pirates or by more sophisticated means, such as man-made and natural materials. These tubs are a great way to encourage children to bring in things to add to the theme too. The use of tub themes can be a fun way to focus on areas such as opposites, pairs or maths games too.
What happens if you send all of the children in your care to choose 1 or 2 items of their choice from the toy, music, role play and garden area and collate them at a play table? Try it and see where the play and imagination leads!
About the author
Lisa Lane launched Sensory Scenes in 2014 with the aim to provide themed bags of fun for play, exploring and learning. With three boys of her own, she is passionate about children being able to manipulate, explore and use their imagination. Sensory Scenes’ themed bags are perfect for individual play, sensory tray play and themed subject planning.