Sunday, September 9, 2018

Coles Little Shop mini collectables help kids understand why plastic is bad for the environment

If you live in Australia and you shop at Coles {and most likely even if you don't shop there} you should have heard about the Coles Little Shop mini collectables over the last few weeks. For those who aren't aware they're a set of 30 miniature supermarket items that can be collected individually in blind bags each time you spend $30. They've caused a massive uproar because they were launched relatively close to the introduction of the single use plastic bag ban across the eastern states. Why eliminate plastic bags to replace them with useless plastic crap has been the catch phrase of numerous Australians across social media since their introduction. I can see where people are coming from in regards to the complaints about plastic, however I do think it was just an unfortunate case of bad timing for Coles. No doubt this national promotion was planned months in advance and coincidentally launched close to the plastic bag ban in some states. A genius marketing concept, but a PR nightmare {or perhaps not, any publicity is good publicity as they say}.

Controversy aside though, I have to put my hand up and admit I was always going to collect them. Normally I'm not a fan of plastic toys, but there's just something about little tiny versions of everyday items that's had me as excited as my 5yr old. In fact I've possibly been more excited than her, it's a close call. My inner child is very much alive and well and has been getting an adrenaline rush every time we've gone shopping over the last few weeks. I need to have them all... every single one. Tiny pieces of plastic that literally do nothing, except make my heart explode with happiness every time I hold them {it's entirely possible I have a problem}. It's OK, I let the kids touch them too, occasionally. Last time I checked I was a 33yr old adult, yet I'm as giddy as a school girl.

But what do you do with a bunch of mini plastic stuff once the adrenaline rush of collecting them is over? Contrary to popular opinion, they aren't useless at all, they can actually be quite educational. Learning through play is something I'm extremely passionate about and one of my favourite ways to inject some learning into our days is to do small world play with my girls. Small worlds are little real life environments that give children an opportunity to act out scenarios to help them process new concepts through play. The Coles minis are perfect for small world play because they're real life items and they're already small {be still my beating heart}. 

The obvious choice for a mini collectables small world would be a supermarket, but I've come up with an idea that helps use these little bits of plastic to help educate children why plastic is bad for the environment. Yes I see the irony. Rubbish and the environment have been keen areas of interest for my 5yr old lately and this has been one of the most thought provoking small world scenes I've ever done with her, so I thought I would share it so you can recreate it, or your own version, with your children too.

< Please note this activity is not recommended for children under 3 as some items may pose a choking risk. Full adult supervision is required >


What you will need:


~ A deep tray {we used the Kmart drinks tray}
~ Marine animal figurines {ours are from Oh Ivy}
~ A few pieces of rubbish {plastic, lids, twisty ties etc}
~ Ocean themed loose parts {aquarium plants, rocks etc}
~ Coles Little Shop mini collectables
~ Tweezers, handy scoops or tongs
~ Food Dye {optional}
~ Water


For our small world I went with a rock pool theme using animals found in shallow water relatively close to the shore, so it would be easier for my 5yr old to understand how they could get entangled in litter dumped by people at the beach. You could of course use any marine animal figurines. To set up the small world I first placed all the rubbish, animal figurines and mini collectables into the tray. In a separate container I mixed a few drops of blue food dye with some water then filled the tray with the water. I made ours quite shallow because I didn't want it being splashed everywhere {which eventually always happens}.

I used a mixture of real rubbish which I knew my daughter would recognise {clear plastic, part of a milk bottle lid, a twisty tie and cut up straws} and the mini collectables to represent the dumped rubbish. I knew the collectables would entice her to play and the household rubbish would make the experience even more real for her. I only used collectables that we had doubles of {so our good ones in the case didn't get damaged} and deliberately chose mainly drinks as they're more likely to be dumped at the beach. Please be aware the stickers on the minis may peel off after being in the water and the cardboard ones will disintegrate, so don't use your most cherished ones as they may get damaged {or use a dry sensory material like dyed rice, coconut or beans as a substitute for water}.

I included a pair of tweezers and handy scoopers with our set up to encourage her to remove the rubbish and rescue the animals. I left it up to her to choose which one she used, or if she wanted to use them at all. You could use tongs or a ladle as a substitute or they can just use their hands.

When I first brought out the tray we had a conversation about how it's really bad for the environment and animals when people throw rubbish into the beach instead of in the bin. She was naturally curious so this lead to discussions about the type of rubbish and how each animal had been affected, where the rubbish should have gone instead and we counted how many pieces of rubbish was in the ocean. She then used the handy scooper to remove all the rubbish and rescue the animals {added scissor skill practice without the need for scissors}. There was also a lot of imaginary play with the animals and she repeatedly put the rubbish in and out of the tray freeing the animals each time. You can see our actual play in this post on Instagram {swipe across for videos}. There are so many learning opportunities from this small world, depending on how your child plays with it. I love open ended, child led play and will usually answer and ask questions based on topics she naturally brings up while playing.

Learning Opportunities


- Environmental awareness
- Categorising types of rubbish {recycling, non recyclable}
- Language development
- Animal facts{names, what they eat etc}
- Fine motor skills {removing the rubbish}
- Hand/eye co-ordination
- Hypothesising {how did the rubbish get there, how can it hurt the animals}
- Imaginary play
- Sensory play
- Counting

If you recreate this small world I'd love for you to share and tag me {@finding_myself_young} on Instagram so I can see it. Also, if you have any other awesome ideas for using the Coles minis let me know. I have a few more ideas up my sleeve, but I'd love to hear yours too.

Toni x



Discosure - I did not receive payment or product in exchange for this post. I am in no way affiliated with Coles.

*Some affiliate links have been used within this post. They do not affect the price you pay, but if you decide to purchase I may earn a small commission {to fund my toy addiction}.
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