As I may have mentioned once or twice before, I have a tuff spot for Isabelle which we love using in our sensory play. Generally, we use it to contain mess during messy play, but that is only one side of how tuff spots can be used.
One whole other branch of using them is for small world play. If you aren't familiar with small worlds, they are ways to present imaginative play to children. You set up a scene and leave them to play with the materials as they wish. It encourages role playing, imagination and language development amongst many other benefits - and is actually part of the curriculum here in Northern Ireland for the foundation stage (our first years of formal education which are play based learning). This is how our curriculum describes small world play:
"Small world play is a type of imaginative/role play, which enables children to be creative and spontaneous in dramatic as well as mundane
life situations which interest them. It is closely related to puppet play and story telling." Source
I have seen some fabulous small world tuff spots in the past and have wondered if Isabelle was ready for some and whether she would enjoy the concept. She is fabulous at imaginative play and will cook at her kitchen for ages, or play tea parties with her babies. However, small worlds bump imaginative play up a notch and I wanted to make sure I wasn't holding her back by not offering her these opportunities.
In that vain, I set up a farm small world activity for her last week - which coincided with the "F is for..." day of the Adventures of Adam A-Z of Tuff Spots. We don't actually have a lot of materials to include in a small world so I had to keep it simple. I used the farm animals Isabelle received for Christmas and some of her stacking blocks for their various 'houses'. We have some grass samples which made oddly coloured fields for our cows, a tin foil lake for our ducks, and then a big feeding area made of rice krispies and corn puffs. The idea of small world is to present it to children, have a chat about it all and let them play how they wish.
I introduced the farm scene to Isabelle and showed her the animals which we talked about, before I took a step back. Isabelle then decided exactly how she wanted to play with the small world....
By eating the cereal!! The corn puffs in particular, the rice krispies weren't as pleasing obviously. I let her have a few before trying to redirect her attention and she did spend some time feeding the animals, by smashing their faces into the cereal, before she decided it was time to feed herself again! She really wasn't very interested in the role play aspect of the farm at all. I'm not sure if that was because she was so distracted by the food or if she wouldn't have been interested anyway. I suspect the latter! I was a little surprised that she wasn't more interested in the cows, however, as she LOVES cows and we go and visit the local cows as often as we can.
That's OK though - I know that she is still very young to be taking part in small world activities so I am happy to let it slide for a while, and in the meantime I can gather ideas and gather materials for when she is ready. It's also OK because I was going to give her a farm for her birthday, but was wondering if she would really appreciate it and play with it. Now I'm not going to bother and will save it for later in the year or Christmas when she is more interested in that type of play.
I'm so glad we did a small world, and can't wait to explore this type of play further in the future. If you are interested in finding out more about small worlds, take a look at this post on Learning and Exploring Through Play which has amazing ideas.