Small World Play Outdoors for Preschoolers

Written by: Nia Macchia



Time to read 3 min

8 Fun and Inviting Ways to Bring Small World Play to the Big Outdoors!

It can be easy to think of small world play as something children reserve for indoors, while the outdoors are for big, active play. Small world play gives children the opportunity to be creative, use their imaginations, and develop transferable skills, such as self-regulating, problem solving, collaborating, and persevering. The outdoors is a wonderful space to incorporate small world play! For some children, small world play can be an enticing way to engage with the outdoors. It is another way to bring regularly planned playtime outside for fresh air, sunshine, and fun. The arrival of spring can spark a natural desire to get out, so let's unpack some fun ways to incorporate small world play into your child's outdoor fun!  

child playing with mini dolls outdoors.

8 ways to incorporate small world play outdoors:

  1.  Fairy: Creating a fairy garden is a classic way to bring sparks of magic, wonder, and creativity outside. And you don't need to invest a lot of money to do so! A few fairy figurines, some rocks/gems/pebbles, and some natural loose parts can spark imaginative play that will last for hours! Children love to create fairy homes with just a cardboard box and some craft materials you already have on hand.
  2.  Farm: Bring out the barns, animals, and fences! And don't worry if all you've got are some animals, your child can create a barn with a cardboard box, and fencing can be constructed with a simple border of sticks or rocks. The possibilities are endless!
  3. Dinosaur: Adding some dino figurines into outdoor play opens an entire world of imagination up!
  4. Water: Giving your child access to water can enhance their play. With water, they can create oceans for sea creatures or mermaids. If you don't have a water table or hose nearby, bringing out some pitchers/buckets of water can inspire their play.
  5.  House: Sometimes, having a set of figurines to play house with specifically for outdoor play isn't practical, so gather up their favorites, throw them in a crate or bag, and head outside and bring their everyday small play to an outdoor setting.
  6.  Vehicles: Set aside a stash of toy vehicles (cars, trucks, tractors, etc.) for outdoor play. Having specific vehicles just for outdoors can be a great way to add excitement to getting outside! You can use wooden roadways, or your child can create their own by drawing pathways with sticks in the dirt. See what "direction" they go in!
  7.  Sand: If you don't have a sandbox, that's ok! You can get a single bag of sand and add it to a container to bring outside for small world play. You'll be amazed at how your child can use sand with just a tiny amount. You don't need to have abundant materials and resources to bring small world play outdoors.
  8.  Bring the inside outside: Almost anything you use inside for small world play can be used outdoors. Giving children the freedom to enjoy their small world play in a new setting can open up an entire world. Designate a small world backpack that can hold some fun figurines and head on outside!

child using mini dolls and accessories for small world play.

Materials to keep on hand for outdoor small world playtime:

  • Dolls and stuffed animal friends
  •  Natural loose parts (sticks, rocks, pebbles, pinecones, etc.)
  •  Natural blocks, bricks
  •  Tiny houses, little people, furniture, fantasy figurines
  •  Cardboard boxes and wooden crates 
  •  Roadways, signs, fencing 
  •  Mushrooms, trees, animals
  •  Water tables, sandboxes, sensory bins, etc.

The Many Benefits of Bringing Small World Play Outdoors

There are so many benefits to children playing outside.  Small World Play offers a unique avenue for children to explore and express themselves creatively. When immersed in the great outdoors, these play items become catalysts for imaginative adventures. Small World Play not only captivates young minds but also enhances crucial developmental skills. Through the exploration of miniature worlds, children learn to problem-solve, communicate, and develop fine motor skills. Embrace the enriching possibilities of Small World Play outdoors, providing your preschooler with an environment where their creativity knows no bounds, fostering holistic growth and joyous exploration. outdoors can offer a revitalizing way to engage, create, and imagine, giving your child the opportunity to see their small world play in new and beautiful ways.  

"When we treat children's play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them to feel the joy that's to be found in the creative spirit." Fred Rogers


Author: Nia Macchia