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Small World Play on a Small Budget

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Love small world play but not the cost of the resources? Want to see 5 easy and engaging small world set ups? Read on for some low cost, high interest ideas...

What is Small World Play?

Small world play is literally playing with small versions of things which are found (or imagined!) in the world. For example, it could be a miniature representation of a zoo, a building site, a fairy world or a woodland - the possibilities are endless!

Small world play is a wonderful way to develop your child’s imagination, creativity and story telling skills. Here are some examples of how you can create your own small world set ups.

You can use toys which you already have or easily create your own with a little imagination. Junk materials, loose parts, fabric and paper/card are all that you will need! If you have books which link to your theme, it's also a great idea to add these.

Small World Play Ideas


zoo small world

You can make animals for a zoo, using this helpful page from Hobbycraft. All that you'll need are some toilet rolls, card, paints and glue! If you don't have a zoo set like this one from Argos, you can create your own enclosures from junk materials. Paint boxes to make shelters for your animals and use blocks to create zoo enclosure fencing.

Digger World

digger small world

Digger world is sure to be a hit with little ones! Brown parcel paper makes an ideal base. Cut and stick on some self-adhesive felt shapes to create grass, water and sand areas. Add an assortment of rocks, gems, pom poms and blocks to keep your team busy! I've also added some Duplo items which compliment the set up. Jumbo tweezers and scoops will help to develop children's fine motor skills.

Under the Sea

under the sea small world

An under the sea scene doesn't need to be expensive. Use blue fabric to create the sea. You can add some yellow self-adhesive fabric to create an island. Rocks, pebbles and shells will make the scene even more authentic! Cheap and cheerful bath or soft toys can be used if you don't have a set of plastic under the sea figures. You may want to add some pirate- themed toys to this set up if you have some!


space small world
Space World

Space is another popular small world set up. Use a large piece of black fabric to create your miniature planet and then add some loose parts. Items such as pine cones, gems, conkers, star sequins and balled up pieces of tin foil will be great additions! Decorate a cardboard tube to create a telescope. If you don't have a spaceship, your child will enjoy creating one using junk materials.

Bear Hunt

Bear Hunt small world
The Bear Hunt

The Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen is a great story to turn into a small world. To make the long wavy grass, fold two thirds of a strip of green paper back and snip it. Stick the third which hasn't been snipped, onto green card. A stream can be made using a piece of card covered in blue tissue paper. Brown parcel packaging makes your squelchy mud. To create trees, cut tree shapes from card, fold the bases under and stick them to a rectangular piece of card. Snow is simply cotton wool balls and a cave can be made by bending a piece of brown card. The character puppets shown in the picture were from twinkl. A free set can be found at Early Learning HQ.

For a great selection of hands-on learning games and activities, don't forget to visit my No Worksheets Allowed shop.

Take a look at my Amazon shop for some fun tried and tested educational resources.

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