Small world – easy farm setup

This is a relatively easy set up but one that we use time and time again.

Small world farm/animals play, learn through play, early years, small world

We used a fake grass mat (link in the suppliers list), a bit of blue felt cut into a pond shape and our farm and animals to make up this small world play. It’s very quick and easy to set up!

We also have two of these ‘pens’ set up for various animals to go in (don’t ask me why there’s a pig, sheep and brown bear in there together…that’s the mind of an almost 2 year old for you!).


They came from an idea I saw on Facebook a while ago (I don’t have the link so can’t credit the original source) and are made from plant pot holders from Tiger (link in the suppliers list) with a bit of fake grass cut to size in the bottom. I bought the grass from eBay, it’s a sample sized piece from a garden supplies shop. It only cost a few pounds and it worked out to be just the right size – more by luck than judgement there I have to say!


Anyway, hugely fun and easy to set up. We spent ages naming the animals, making the appropriate animal noises, role playing feeding them… and demolishing the roof of the barn (or course!).

Small world farm/animals play, learn through play, early years, small world

Supplies and Suppliers:

Scrap of blue felt

Toy animals (ours are Holztiger)

Farm buildings/toy farm

Grass mat –—70-x-100cm-375020

Tiger plant pot holder – there isn’t a product link on the website but this is the company

Scraps of fake grass

EYFS links:

CL: communicating, speaking

PD: sensory exploration

UW: imaginative play, animals



Sensory bin – dinosaurs/our own Jurassic Park

My LO is currently obsessed with dinosaurs. I think it probably stems from George in Peppa Pig (“dinosaur, roaaaaarrrrr”) so I decided to make her her very own Jurassic Park. She’d picked up some plastic dinosaurs in a gift shop a few weeks earlier and these dinos had been everywhere with us since (and I mean EVERYWHERE!)

Sensory bin/tub/tuff tray dinosaurs/Jurassic park, learn through play, sensory play, small world

I used a few pieces of bog wood bought from our local aquarium supplies shop, some fircones we collected, black coloured rice, plastic jewels, some little handmade volcanoes and her four beloved plastic dinosaurs.

Lottie enjoyed the feel of the rice, she let it run through her fingers for ages. She also loved the noise it made as she sprinkled it back into the tray from high up.


She then discovered she could pour the rice from one ‘volcano’ to the next. You can just about see from the photo that the volcanoes were made from egg carton bits, turned upside down and dribbled with red, yellow & orange paint to look like lava. Oh and I also drew some black rocks on with a sharpie – gotta love the detail!


Much fun was had by all with this one… and there were lots of shouts of “dinosaur, roaaaarrrrrr” as she played!

Supplies and Suppliers:

Dinosaur toys

Bogwood/sticks/wooden bits and pieces

Fircones/leaves etc

Rice – coloured black (see this post for a How to guide)

Plastic jewels –

Egg cartons – cut up and painted

EYFS links:

CL: communicating

PD: sensory exploration, fine motor skills, co-ordination, control

Maths: space, measures

UW: imaginative play, exploring the world, animals



How to – dye/colour rice with paint

I have previously used food colouring and vinegar to colour rice before and I am usually disappointed with the wishy washy colour (and the fact I can always smell vinegar afterwards!) so I experimented with paint instead.  It worked well so here’s what I did:

  1. Split the rice into sealable bags depending on how many colours you want.
  2. Squirt a decent sized blob of paint into each bag. I used non toxic, child safe acrylic paint for mine.
  3. Seal the bag and squidge it until all the rice is covered with the paint and it looks like a mess! (If you’re brave enough this bit is great for children to help do).
  4. Open up the bag and spread the rice out on a covered baking tray for it to dry.  Mine didn’t take long to dry at all but you can speed it up a bit by putting the baking tray in the oven on a very low temperature (I tried 60 deg C) for 20 mins or so.

Et voila – beautiful bright coloured rice with no vinegary smell, perfect for sensory bins, tuff trays and all sorts of messy play!

Early years, sensory play, dying/colouring rice with paint, learn through playSupplies and Suppliers:

Rice – I used Aldi value rice, cheap and copius!

Paint in pretty colours – I used acrylic as I had some in the cupboard and its non-toxic and safe for children. I’m sure other paints will work just as well though.

Resealable (zip-lock) bags


Sensory bin – under the sea

I absolutely love tuff trays but we live in a flat and sadly we just don’t have the room for one.  I managed to find a decent sized plastic lid in a garden centre (I think it’s the lid for a seed irrigation tray but I may be wrong!) and so we use that as our tuff tray/sensory bin.

This week’s efforts have been sea themed.  We are very lucky to live near the sea and we visit it a lot.  I wanted to bring a little bit into our living room so I made this:

Sensory bin/tuff tray/sensory tub of an aquarium, fishes, under the sea. Messy play, sensory play, learn through play, early years.

I used blue and white rice as the base (see next blog post for how to colour rice using paint), some bits of bog wood bought from our local aquarium supplies shop, some wooden and plastic fish and sea creatures, two plastic aquarium plants and some plastic ‘jewels’ (see end of post for list of suppliers).

Lottie loved it! She spent a long time running the rice through her fingers and feeling the different textures.

Sensory bin/tuff tray/sensory tub of an aquarium, fishes, under the sea. Messy play, sensory play, learn through play, early years.


Fantastic messy fun! We explored a lot of the different textures and colours together and she started to role play the fishes swimming about.  I also encouraged her to pick up the jewels and collect them in a pot to help develop her fine motor control.

Supplies and Suppliers:

Rice – coloured blue (see this post for a How to guide)

Bog wood/sticks/wood pieces

Plastic fish (ours are just bath toys)

Wooden penguin –

Wooden crab –

Plastic jewels –

Plastic plants

EYFS links:

CL: communicating

PD: sensory exploration, fine motor skills

EAD: imaginative play

UW: imaginative play, exploring the world, plants, animals




My first post…

I have decided to start a blog. I don’t think I’m a particularly natural writer and I’m sure I often use twenty words when five will do. That aside though, this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while and so I’m embarking upon my journey.

First I’ll give a brief background into how I came to be here, typing this into my phone as I will my 22 month old daughter to go to sleep. She’s currently standing up in her cot, staring down at me lying on the floor and repeatedly throwing her teddy at me – I would say things are not going well! In fairness to her I should probably just stop giving her the teddy back…

Anyway, back to me. I am a stay at home mummy to a lively, talkative and very switched on 22 month old called Lottie. She is my absolute world and I adore her but I have to be honest, I’m totally winging it! Before she was born I’d never even changed a nappy, let alone googled pictures of baby’s bowel movements at 3 in the morning. Prior to my adventures in nappyland I spent 7 and a bit very happy years teaching in an infant school. (The teddy has just hit me in the face…this time I’m not giving it back) I have taught all 3 years in infants but it is in Reception (children aged 4-5) that my heart truly lies. I am passionate about Early Years and I really, really believe in the power of play.

Here comes the reason for this blog…I wanted a way of documenting the various play opportunities I explore with Lottie over the next few years of her life and I’d like to share them with others.  I would love it if one of my ideas inspires someone, sparks off some kind of new idea or simply looks pretty to them! Let’s face it I think a lot of mummies and daddies in the world are just winging it so let’s all wing it together!

If anyone does stumble across this blog and finds some of the ideas useful or interesting please do leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from people with a similar passion for play (and then we can all share ideas!). All suggestions etc are hugely welcome.

(She’s finally asleep and in tiptoeing out of her room I let the cat in by accident <insert mild swear word here>. Its definitely time for a glass of wine tonight!)

Here’s a picture of my daughter at the beach….just because!

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