I have been waiting several weeks for room in my freezer to be able to try this arctic small world play idea that I saw on Pintrest in December! It lasted a really long time and it was great to explore a new texture – ice.

arctic small world play

You will need:

  • A plastic tray – I used our messy tray which is a cat litter tray (unused of course!)
  • A smaller plastic tray – I used one from a pack of cherry tomatoes
  • Something to weigh it down like a pack of frozen sausages
  • Plastic animals
  • Ice cube tray

arctic small world play

How to make an arctic small world:

1. Place the smaller tray inside the big tray and weigh it down.

2. Fill the large tray with water to a level just below the smaller tray and freeze overnight. I also added a tree and an iceberg at this point.


3. Freeze a tray of ice cubes

4. Remove from the freezer when it’s ready and remove the smaller plastic tray and fill the hole with water

5. Add ice cubes and animals and let them explore and play with this icy play scene.


arctic small world play

This was a great new sensory tray for the Little Tots to explore, one of them took awhile longer to get stuck in as they weren’t sure about the coldness of the water or ice, but we had this out for around an hour. The first thing they did was put all the animals in the water along with the ice cubes, later more animals were added along with a wooden spoon to mix them all round.

arctic small world play

This is a great activity to do if you have mixed ages as they can all get something out of it. Best of all its free. If you don’t have arctic animals you could use other animals and smaller versions could be made in tupperware containers or deep baking dishes.

arctic small world play


Early Years Outcomes

So far I have only done this once with a 14m, 17m and 22m old but will definitely be doing this again. I observed the following EYO whilst they played with this:

  • Physical development: picking up small objects, balancing blocks (ice cubes), pouring water.
  • Personal, social and emotional development: playing alongside others, copying and joining in with others, selecting resources, starting to engage in pretend play.
  • Maths: counting how many animals of certain types, using language of size.
  • Expressive arts and design: beginning to make-believe by pretending.

The Early Years Outcomes document is a non-statutory guide to support practitioners. It can be used by childminders, nurseries and others, such as Ofsted, throughout the early years as a guide to making best-fit judgements about whether a child is showing typical development for their age, may be at risk of delay or is ahead for their age. 

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