Cardboard Box Small World Play

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

Preschool small world play with a cardboard box

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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!

As teachers and parents, we also get excited about the possibilities for using the empty boxes for kids activities, once the contents of the box have been removed.

Related: Farmyard play with a cardboard box

Cardboard box small world play

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.


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 used to make a house. It 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


Here's our house and family.

We used a hodgepodge of small furniture we had on hand.

  • The flower pot by the fireplace is made with a small clipping from a dollar store flower stem set into a small plastic 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 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.

Naturally not all the furniture you have in a doll house, for example, will fit inside a small box. 

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 garage or pet shop


 Empty box for small word play with preschoolers


This is the inside of a different empty box. 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!


 Suggestions for toy cars to purchase  online!


Melissa and Doug                      Hot Wheels                          Disney Pixar




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. We added a green foam pad for outdoor space, and a corrugated cardboard 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.

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


 Pretend Play on Pinterest


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