beach small world play

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Many years ago, we made a creative ocean and beach small world play activity and it was a Summer hit! Whether you are looking for activities to keep the kids busy at home through hands-on, sensory play, OR if you need Summer occupational therapy activities to use in skill-building, a beach small world is a fun way to play!

Beach small world

Beach Small World Play

Creating a beach small world using miniature animal forms and homemade colored sand can be a fantastic sensory activity for children.

It doesn’t take much to create a small world, and the benefits are huge:

  1. Imagination and Creativity: Small world play encourages children to use their imagination and create their own narratives and scenarios. They can invent stories, develop characters, and build unique worlds, fostering their creative thinking skills.
  2. Language Development: Small world play often involves storytelling and dialogue, which helps children enhance their vocabulary, expressive language skills, and communication abilities. They can practice describing objects, expressing emotions, and engaging in role-play, leading to improved language development.
  3. Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking: When engaging in small world play, children encounter various challenges and obstacles. They learn to think critically, problem-solve, and find solutions to overcome these challenges, fostering their cognitive skills.
  4. Fine Motor Skills: Manipulating and arranging small objects in a small world setting requires precise hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and fine motor skills. Children practice grasping, pinching, and manipulating objects, which can enhance their fine motor abilities.
  5. Social Skills and Cooperation: Small world play often involves collaboration and cooperation when children engage in shared storytelling or role-playing scenarios. They learn to take turns, negotiate roles, and collaborate with others, promoting social skills and teamwork.
  6. Emotional Expression: Small world play provides a safe and controlled environment for children to express their emotions and explore different feelings through their play narratives. They can process and make sense of complex emotions, develop empathy, and practice emotional regulation.
  7. Sensory Stimulation: Small world play often incorporates sensory elements, such as sand, water, or different textures. Engaging with these sensory materials stimulates children’s senses, promotes sensory exploration, and contributes to their sensory development.
  8. Knowledge Acquisition: Small world play can be a great tool for learning about different concepts and subjects. Children can explore nature, geography, history, and various themes as they create their miniature worlds, leading to knowledge acquisition in a fun and engaging way.

How to make a beach small world

With a bit of imagination, parents can transform a small tray or container into a mini seaside paradise.

You’ll need to first gather just a few items to make a beach small world activity:

  • Animal figures: seagulls, crabs, and dolphins, fish, or other animals
  • Tray or Container: Select a shallow tray or container that is large enough to hold the materials and provide a play space for your child. It can be a plastic tray, a wooden box, or any other suitable container.
  • Sand: Use play sand or kinetic sand to create the beach or ocean floor. You can also dye the sand using food coloring like we did to make our homemade colored sand
  • Water: Incorporate a small amount of water into your small world setup to represent the ocean. You can use a separate container for the water or create a section within the main tray for a shoreline or shallow water area.
  • Rocks and Shells: Gather some small rocks and seashells to create a more realistic beach or coastal environment. You can collect these from a local beach or purchase decorative ones from a craft store.
  • Plants and Foliage: Consider adding some greenery or beach vegetation to enhance the sensory setup. You can use fake or dried plants, small artificial trees, or even real seaweed (if available and safe to use).
  • Tools and Utensils: Provide some child-friendly tools and utensils for scooping, digging, and creating patterns in the sand. Small shovels, spoons, sieves, and rakes can be used to enhance the sensory experience and encourage fine motor skills.
  • Optional Accessories: Depending on your preference and the space available, you can include additional accessories like toy boats, small beach umbrellas, mini beach chairs, or even a small plastic container to mimic a tidal pool.

As children manipulate the sand, feeling its texture and watching it flow through their fingers, they enhance their sensory development.

We used our DIY Colored Sand to do a little pretend play one rainy afternoon.

We used our refrigerator farm animal magnets and had fun with our pretend lake. Once you know how to make colored sand, you can use it for so many sensory bin activities!


small world lake
It was a fun day at the lake 🙂
The bunny went swimming…
And the temptation was too great…we HAD to mix the two colors of sand together. 
Looking for more ways to have fun this Summer? Grab a copy of the Summer Kit!

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