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Friday, January 17, 2020

Australian Animal Small World Play Tray

When my big girl started at school I noticed  there was an abundance of gum leaves, tiny gumnuts, flowers and sticks always strewn across the paths thanks to the wind. I love using nature in our play so I immediately had a brainwave to set up an Australian themed small world play tray. So I collected a few bits and pieces with my toddler on the way home and set up a surprise play tray for her big sister.

kmart play tray aussie small world


Supplies you will need:

  • Play tray
  • Australian animal figurines
  • Sensory rice or edible dirt
  • Gumnuts, sticks, flowers, rocks etc
  • Wood slice or small chopping board
  • Blue play silk

I like to set up most of our small world play in a tray because it gives the kids a defined play area and the high sides help to contain the mess {most of the time}. Using a tray also means it's portable and can be set up in any room, or moved up high away from tiny hands. 

It can also be taken away and brought back out later, for example if the kids are being too messy I'll remove it then if they want it later I'll bring it back out. We use the Kmart drinks tray but similar trays can be found at other homewares stores in the kitchenware section, or on Amazon here.

Foraging for nature items

Being a nature based play tray most of the items needed can be foraged from the backyard, local gardens or parks. When we set up any type of nature play I usually give the girls a small wicker basket and we go on a nature treasure walk and collect bits and pieces that have fallen around footpaths near our house. 

We love collecting interesting leaves, sticks, small logs, gumnuts, flowers and seedpods. For this play tray all our nature items were foraged except the dried lotus pod which I already had at home.

I don't like mixing dry and wet sensory materials in the same small world because I prefer to reuse all our sensory materials. I used coloured rice and natural wooden elements as the main sensory bases so I used a blue playsilk for the river, rather than water. 

I also find sensory rice is easier to clean up than dirt or cocoa which is why I opted to use rice as the dirt base. However, you could definitely use edible dirt or even real dirt for this small world, it all comes down to personal preference and how messy you want things to get! If you're worried about it getting too messy set up an old sheet underneath the tray so clean up is easy or simply set it up outside.

How to set up an Australian animal themed small world tray

There really are no rules when it comes to setting up a small world tray. I usually start by working out where I want the ground sensory base/s to be then start building it up by adding the other elements {gumnuts, sticks, leaves etc}. If I'm using taller bits of branches as trees I'll put them towards an edge of the tray so they don't get constantly knocked over. 

Australian animal figurines in small world

I also use rocks or sticks to separate different areas like the water and dirt so the spaces are obviously defined at the start of play, however it all ends up a mess once the play starts anyway. 

Lastly I add the animals to wherever they look right. Basically just jump in and start placing things where you think they'll look good and move them around a few times until you feel it looks right {or at least similar to the idea you have in your head}. 

The kids will have their own ideas and make up their own stories while playing, the small world is just a starting point for their play.

Australian kmart play tray

For this small world I used our koala, platypus, tortoise shell butterfly and bearded dragon. I put it together quickly and these were the first of our Australian animal figurines I grabbed. We also have a kangaroo, ostrich, wombat and cassowary that could be used as well. All of our animal figurines are collecta brand, but there are similar ones available from Schleich.

collecta Australian animal figurines

Learning Opportunities

This small world can be used to teach different Australian animal facts like animal names, different animal habitats, what they eat and different types of animals {mammals, marsupials, insects etc}. 

It's a great bookish play activity to do after reading books about Australian animals. It's also a great way for children to engage in imaginary play, and work on language development, fine motor skills and social development. 

Australian animal small world play tray by Finding Myself Young


Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase. 

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