Sensory Play · Small World Play · Throwback Thursday

Seaside Small World

Whilst doing our seaside/under-the-sea crafts and play this week I was reminded of a small‑world scene that I set up in the tuff spot some time ago now.

I had originally made some yellow sensory rice for playing with (as I have mentioned before, when I make coloured rice, I simply add food colouring to rice in a baking tray, stir thoroughly, and then leave to dry overnight). It was early spring and I thought it would be nice to do some spring-themed sensory play, but A and E weren’t too keen and everything just resulted in them piling in items from the play kitchen as always.

After a few days of playing tea parties and using the rice in play-cooking, I decided I wanted to vary the play slightly (or at least try to), and tried to think of something that I could do with yellow rice as a base. In the end I decided to try a seaside small world scene in the tuff spot. This involved a little more preparation than a lot of our play (and a little extra cost), as it did involve water beads. I absolutely love water beads, as do A and E; the texture, the variety of colours, their versatility as a sensory play material. They are amazing. I was so excited when we passed the putting-things-in-the-mouth-stage with both A and E, as it meant I could finally buy some. And I did. I bought lots and lots; they are very very cheap, and Amazon has so much choice! The only problem is that they need putting in water to grow, for approximately 24 hours. So, just like when we play with coloured rice, a small amount of advance preparation is required!

Once I had some water beads ready I set up the scene. I did it very simply, using only three materials; it is not the most impressive looking scene, but A and E loved it (if you search Pinterest you will find many many amazing-looking small world seaside scenes; however, we have no money, so I do the best I can with our fairly limited resources). I used water beads for the sea, yellow rice for the sand, and separated the two using some stones that we had found at the park a few weeks earlier (though I needn’t have bothered as they became one big mixture almost instantly, but nevermind)!

saeside front

As soon as it was ready I let them explore. We talked about the seaside, and what we do there, what animals you might find there, what else you might find there. They then went and found a few bits and pieces to put in to play “seaside” with, but in the end they weren’t really interested in using it for small world play; they just wanted to get in!


I love that they love to play with different materials. I love how they play, and the way they explore with their whole bodies; they get so much enjoyment from the different textures. We discussed the hard, sharp rice, and the soft, smooth, slippery, wet, cold beads, and the way the beads reflect the light, making them shimmer so beautifully. They played for a long time, and repeatedly came back to it throughout the day!

This is not a scene that can be kept for a significant amount of time. It is good for a day’s play, but should then be discarded as the wet water beads turn the rice mouldy fairly rapidly. This makes me feel very wasteful (though I am glad we had so many days of playing with the rice before adding the water beads) and so is probably not a mixture we will try again! But it was good fun!



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