Happy land is a huge hit in my house. I did really well at the car boot sales this summer and have managed to get a nice little set together as well as some road mats and storage boxes that turn in to play mats. I am always finding whole towns and villages set up in the playroom or on the living room floor. I really enjoying sitting down to one side and listening to how they make little stories with the figures and talk through how they want their stories to play out.

Each child has their favourite little people or animals. Little “M” loves the church as it sings songs and bells chime when you press a button. Little “B” likes the animals especially the horses!

I love seeing play develop and spread out as they create the scene. We often leave this out all day and the children come back to it after meals or after the school run. The older children bring a new dimension to the play and it carries on growing and developing!

I think we sometimes forget how important it is to let children expand their own play and learning and can be quick to get things tidied away for the next activity or for lunch. I used to see children at toddler groups really engaged in their play only to have everything packed up around them after an hour. I tried to put myself in their shoes. If you are enjoying something, such as a hobby or craft, you don’t want to pack it all away for lunch. You want to come back to it and enjoy it some more!
After tidying things up for nap time, I have often seen the same little ones wake up and come back to the same toy, trying to recreate the same set up they had before. This must be very frustrating for them! I then witness the same story line carrying on.
Imaginative play can not really be fully enjoyed if it is under a time restraint. We need to give children time to take the play in the direction they want and to see it to a natural conclusion for themselves! That is a really fulfilling imaginative play session!

So this is why I try very hard to let small world stay out all day long! The same with role play!
 If the toys are just strewn around the floor and being walked over then pack away. But when time has been taken to set a scene and children are thoroughly absorbed in story lines, make it a “Tidy up free zone” for the day. Listen to their stories, watch how they use the set up and enjoy it with them!

  • Provide the children with the time and space to play, immerse themselves in an imaginary world that they have created, explore their own story lines and revisit their play over and over again.
  • Observe the children at play and make some lovely observations about language used and imaginative play. Look at how the children play together or along side each other. Using the same space and engaging others in their play and stories.


You should see lots of engagement, focus and playing with what they know. Small world play is great for children working through situations form their own lives and experiences. Taking roles in their play and acting out experiences with other people.
Their will be a lot of cooperative play and drawing others in. Sharing their ideas and taking turns to lead the direction of play. There are likely to be times when all the children are playing in the same space and times when a solitary child is playing with the set up. Both provides great opportunities to observe and note for the children’s learning journeys. It is also  interesting to see how the older children deal with disagreements and differences in story line direction. They always seem to sort it out with out any help! Very young children show their understanding of how toys are used and tend to use repetitive patterns when exploring the set up.

Today’s play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas:
  • Personal, Social and Emotional
  • Communication and language
  • Physical Development
  • Literacy 
  • Expressive Art and Design
  • Understanding the world.

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