Since discovering how good our Step2 water table is as a centre for Small World play, I've been keen to come up with different scenarios to stimulate his imaginative play. Using Happyland style toys has always been difficult for him, as it is for many other children. Contrary to popular belief children don't always know how to play, especially with imaginative toys promoting role-play; they do need guidance to show how they can re-enact situations they encounter. And likewise the benefits of Small World play are massive as it allows them to work through stories from books, real-life events or the concepts on a television programme for example.
When I set out a Small World scene, I usually have the characters doing something which prompts The Boy to continue their actions and provides a play opportunity straight away. I allow him to play freely for a short amount of time first of all before stepping in and (teacher talk now) 'facilitating his play', gently guiding the direction and providing him with scenarios to process. We play together for another five-ten minutes and then I step back and let him play freely.
He's still not great at engaging to be honest, and that might just be because he isn't geared towards imaginative play at the moment. However, I'm not going to stop providing him with the opportunities and encouraging him.
Small World: Building Site
I have used the Happyland construction site we've had for some time, along with a few other diggers that we have, and placed the crane on the lower level. I poured sand all around the bottom to hide the plastic base, then put sand on the upper level and a pile of gravel (this is actually spare fishtank gravel) in a corner to be moved by the diggers. I placed the various play figures and vehicles around the table, engaging each on in an action.
He had great fun with this and spent ages scooping up the gravel, pouring it into the back of a vehicle and then transferring this down to the crane.
In total this activity took ten minutes to set up, and provided hours of fun.