We love tractors. Tractor toys, activities, books, we love it all. Grandpa is a heavy machine operator (a.k.a. tractor driver) and his love for tractors had been passed on to my boys. Our Construction Zone Sensory Bin and Tractor Buffet have been big hits. Today we put a simple spin on those and just used beans and some green play dough (and tractors, of course!) to make this small world/sensory bin activity!
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I wanted our small world construction zone to have some literacy elements, so I made these simple construction signs to encourage recognition of environmental print (words and signs that kids recognize and “read” because of familiarity in the environment). All that was needed were old Jenga blocks and Sharpie markers!
I set up the materials and was barely able to snap a picture before my boys dug right in!
We added play dough to hold the signs down and as another nice sensory element in the box. A word of caution though- it will inevitably get mixed with the beans and not be reusable. If you make your own play dough, this would be a good time to use old dough that has neared its end.
My kids actually liked mixing in the beans with the play dough. They squished it all around like adding gravel to a roadbed! Tractors carried signs around the box and directed the little blue truck around road diversions (this would be a great extension activity to the book Little Blue Truck! Check out our activity based on the book here!)
My favorite part of pretend play opportunities like this is hearing all the dialogue that takes place! Dump trucks asking the bulldozer where the gravel goes, the little blue truck asking for directions, an imaginary foreman telling where the signs go, etc. Small worlds are great for solitary play because there are so many “characters” involved in the scenes, it’s like more people are actually there playing with him! It’s also a great opportunity for cooperative play when little brother joins in because they have to negotiate play space/materials and agree on play scenarios. Sometimes that can lead to disagreement and conflict, but that’s also an opportunity to learn how to get along with others (a lesson that can only be taught through experience!)