Play is a common language which can bring children together, regardless of their differences. It holds tremendous value as a vehicle for learning and development, as well as a way of promoting diversity. In this blog, we will reflect on how one particular type of play, small world, can be embraced as a way of encouraging children to recognise and celebrate their own differences as well as those of others.

Small world play is exactly as the name suggests - play on a miniature scale, based on events, scenarios or locations. Examples include farm set ups, dinosaur swamps, landscapes, fairy worlds, garages, minibeast habitats and beach scenes. The great thing about small world play is its versatility and how it can incorporate all areas of learning and development. However, to really enhance your small world play, it's important to regularly audit your resources. Consider the diversity of your resources:

  • Do they reflect our multicultural country?
  • Are children able to see themselves within the provision?
  • Do you have resources to represent festivals and celebrations in your small world play?
  • Do they challenge stereotypes?

Ensuring your small world provision is diverse is valuable in ensuring all children feel valued and accepted. When children see themselves, their families and their life experiences reflected in the play provision, they feel a sense of identity. This impacts on their self-esteem, confidence and gives them a feeling of pride. They understand that they are a part of the community, within the setting as well as outside, promoting wider inclusion. Establishing and maintaining strong partnerships with parents is a way of ensuring your small world play is diverse and representative of their home lives, cultures and religions.

Small world play enables us to be culturally responsive, including resources which give children the opportunity to understand that everyone is unique. When we are invited to join children in their play, we can encourage positive talk and respect for differences. It's a way to inspire their natural sense of curiosity and drive to explore. Through small world play, we can help children recognise the diverse nature of our communities. In this way, it becomes more than a tokenistic gesture - celebrating diversity through play becomes embedded in the culture and ethos of the setting.

We love to see books used in play provocations. Small world play is fantastic for this and is a further way of promoting diversity in settings. As with your resources, spend time auditing your reading material - is it representative of the community? Does it include a diverse range of authors and illustrators? Books are a great way of inspiring talk, with children discussing what that see and read, linking it to the small world play, re-enacting experiences and retelling stories. Children can see positive images which reflect different ethnicities, abilities, genders and family types. It's a way to promote positive talk about diversity, a way of shaping the views of children and challenging stereotypes.

To get started with bringing diversity to your small world play, try setting up a small world experience based on a particular culture or country. However, it is more than just a tokenisic play experience which is out for a day and then tidied away. Leave it out for children to experiement, explore and extend their play. Here are some ideas of things to include:

  • Books
  • Fabrics
  • Diverse play characters
  • Photographs
  • Flags
  • Maps
  • Instruments

Adults can model play, encourage talk and inspire children to be curious. Engage in sustained shared thinking to wonder and share ideas as well as promoting positive language. Use technology to further develop interests generated through the small world play experience - what information can you find?

Through small world play, we can develop a diverse environment in which all people and experiences are celebrated, valued and respected. We all have a role to play in encouraging acceptance and respect for all, valuing diversity and the positive contribution everyone can make to our communities.

Don't forget to tag us in your play on our social media channels.