Using Books to Create Small World Play Scenes

Using Books to Create Small World Play Scenes_ My Little Bookcase

Creating imaginative small worlds is a favourite activity for most kids, and we’ve recently discovered that the pages and illustrations in our favourite picture books can really help to add character and setting to our small world play.

Last year we created our own worry dolls, and when we saw this ‘Little Ballet School’ on At Home with Ali, we decided to turn our worry dolls into ballerinas during a play session prompted by Nurturestore’s #simpleplay challenge.

We poked holes in the lid of a shoe box to act as a stage, at which point Cammy ran to find her newest book from Santa, A Dictionary of Dance. Initially, she just wanted to find the page with the stage, but after a little conversation we discovered that the book would make a fabulous backdrop and add colour and activity to the little stage we had already created.

Using Books to Create Small World Ballerina Scenes_ My Little Bookcase


We have since found some other books that lend themselves beautifully to backdrops for small world play. Our worry dolls have become all sorts of characters too:

The City:

Along with some wooden toys from our train set, Last Tree in the City by Peter Carnavas helped us to create a beautiful city play scene.

Using Books to Create Small World City Scene_ My Little Bookcase

The Circus:

We used I’ve an Uncle Ivan by Ben Sanders as a backdrop for our circus scene. Our worry dolls walked a tightrope of string and used bangles as hula hoops.

Using Books to Create Small World Circus Scene_ My Little Bookcase

The Jungle:

The Frog Who Lost his Underpants by Juliette MacIver and Cat Chapman is a really funny story. The illustrations inspired our play scene. We found some jumping frogs and attached some string to the book to act as Tarzan vine.

Using Books to Create Small World Jungle Scene_ My Little Bookcase


Cammy is at kinder for 15 hours per week this year and she loves to re-enact what happens there, even in her small world play. I Don’t Believe in Dragons by Anna Walker provided the perfect backdrop, while Cammy’s worry dolls enjoyed books, playdough and lego.

Using Books to Create Small World Kindergarten/School Scenes_ My Little Bookcase

The Aquarium:

We actually don’t have a lot of small world play pieces. Luckily with the use of books, they are not always necessary. Here the worry dolls were visiting the aquarium using pages from Hooray for Fish by Lucy Cousins.

Using Books to Create Small World Underwater Scene_ My Little Bookcase

The Zoo:

Similarly, this scene was also fairly simple. Cammy’s worry dolls took part in the story of In the Lion by James Foley.

Using Books to Create Small World Zoo Scene_ My Little Bookcase

Which books could you use as backdrops in your small world scenes?


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My Little Bookcase Pinterest Board_ Playing with Books

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About Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase

Using Books to Create Small World Play Scenes


  1. What a brilliant idea! And how much joyful, creative time you shared with each other.

  2. what a great idea & something everyone can do easily

  3. LOVE this idea!!!

    What an awesome way to include out favourite stories in our play!! So clever!

  4. What a wonderful idea and a great way to include books in play-based learning.

  5. Absolutely BRILLIANT! Off to share and pin!

  6. What a clever idea! Endless possibilities here

  7. We love to do small world play like this too, so fun and adds a literacy element. Pop up books would give a 3d effect too!

  8. What a brilliant idea, Jackie! Love it, love it, love it! :)

  9. What a clever idea!

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