Cardboard Box Small World Play

Small world play is easy to set up with a cardboard box and a few mini toys from the toy box. The simple ideas in this post will help spark imagination and creativity for some awesome pretend play.

small world play with a cardboard packing box

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Special delivery!

There's always a bit of excitement when a package arrives in the mail box or at your door. You can hardly wait to see what's inside!

The arrival of a package isn't the only thing that sparks interest. As teachers and parents, we also get excited about the possibilities for using the empty boxes for kids activities.

Sometimes boxes come with packaging inside that divides the box into separate compartments. These are perfect for imagining rooms or other areas for a small world inside the box. 

Here are a few examples of ways we've used boxes for creating small world scenes.

Fine motor, language, and creative skills will be supported with this activity.

Related: Farmyard play with a cardboard box

Cardboard box small world play

I have ideas for a small world house, a garage, and a pet shop.

Use materials you have on hand to create your own small world options for your preschooler.

How to set up a small world house


Cardboard box house or pet shop small world play


Here's a look at the empty box we used to make a miniature house.

The box has a firmly molded cardboard insert which is ideal for imagining rooms in a house.


small world house in a box for kids pretend play


We used a hodgepodge of small doll house furniture and odds and ends from the craft box.

  • The flower pot by the fireplace is made with a small clipping from a dollar store flower stem set into a small plastic pot. A thimble would make an excellent flower pot.
  • The larger bed is from a modern doll house. It had to be squeezed into the space to fit. Fortunately the cardboard mold was flexible.
  • The smaller children's bed is quite old, hand painted by a family member.
  • The fridge and stove are also quite old, passed down from an earlier play set.

Furnishings and 'people' can be selected, arranged, and rearranged in many different ways.

Choosing and placing the pieces is part of the fun and learning. 

The taller items can be laid down in order to close the box for storing, transporting to a play area, or taking along when traveling.

Related: Mini felt board for traveling with kids.


How to set up a small world car garage


 Empty box for small word play with preschoolers


This is the inside of a different empty box. We used this box for a parking garage, and for the pet shop that follows.

The corrugated cardboard forms two levels, suggesting the possibility of a staircase or a ramp.

What can you imagine for the different sections?

Here are a couple ways we used the box.


preschool small world play with recycled boxes


A ramp, parking spaces, and even a landing pad for a helicopter are all included in this small world parking garage.

  • You can also make a simple cardboard parking garage for a color sorting activity like this one at My Bored Toddler.

There are lots of creative ways to play with toy cars. Provide the toys and simple props and watch imaginations soar!


How to set up a small world pet shop


Pet shop or kennel small world play for preschoolers

A dog kennel or pet shop is fun to set up with animals from the dollar store. This is the same box we used for the previous parking garage. 

We added a green foam pad for a 'grassy' outdoor space.

A piece of corrugated cardboard makes a ramp for the pets to access the upper level.

Toy dogs can be purchased online or at a dollar store.


Small world pretend play opens up a world of imagination and creativity for preschoolers.

Extend the excitement of your next door delivery by using the packing box for small world play!



Preschool small world play with a cardboard box


 Pretend Play on Pinterest


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