Conservation small world sensory play

Recently Bear adopted a Hawksbill Sea Turtle through WWF and I couldn’t be more proud of my little conservationist. I think it is so, so important to teach children that we share our planet and that it is our obligation to do everything we can to protect it and the creatures we share it with. Subjects like conservation are tricky to explain to a toddler, so I whipped up a conservation small world sensory play to help me.

Conservation small world sensory play


For this activity you will need:

  • A sensory play tray
  • Play sand
  • Foil
  • Water
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Flour
  • Animals
  • Grass
  • Plant cuttings (I used ferns)


As with all my sensory play activities, I split the tray into different sections. For this activity I separated the small world into four different parts; savannah, ocean, forest and wetlands.


How to create a conservation small world sensory play:

  • To create the savannah section I covered half of the tray with play sand.

Conservation small world sensory play


  • I then used a piece of foil to create the ocean. I used a length of foil that was slightly longer than the length of the tray. I then rolled up the four sides, placed it so it ran through the middle of the tray and filled with water.

Conservation small world sensory play


  • For the forest, I used some grass cuttings from one of our raised flower beds.


  • To create the wetlands I took some plant cuttings (I used ferns) from my garden and taped them to the side of the sensory play tray. I then filled a quarter of the tray surrounding the ferns with my own sticky mud.


  • I then placed plastic animals in the different areas and let the boys dig in.



Sticky mud recipe:

I actually have two sticky mud recipes, but decided to use this one for this activity because I wanted it to dry and crack in the sun to help me explain about global warming and the effects that has on animals habitats. If you want to have a look at my other sticky mud recipe it features in my dinosaur small world sensory play.

Conservation small world sensory play


For this sticky mud recipe you will need:

– 250g Cocoa Powder

– 750g Plain Flour

– Water


I sieved the cocoa powder and plain flour into a bowl and mixed together. I then added water gradually as I continued to stir the mixture. Continue to add water until you get the consistency you want.



Ways to interact with this conservation small world sensory play:

  • Name the animals, mimic the animals sounds and include actions. This is a really good way of encouraging language and speech development. For example we practised roaring like a lion, clapping our hands to snap like a crocodile and stomping our feet like a rhino.


  • Talk about the differences between the animals. We talked about how elephants are grey, with long trunks, rhinos have horns, the zebras are stripy and male lions had big manes.


  • Create homes for the animals. We modelled the sand to create a cave for the lions and then used the rhino to push sand aside creating a path to their ‘cave house’. We also discussed the different textures such as, sand is rough, the grass is smooth and the mud being sticky.


  • Discuss how the animals need their habitats and environments in order to hunt for their food and have somewhere to live.


  • I explained to Bear that humans cut down trees to build their houses and dig up fossil fuels to create electricity, which we use to light and heat out homes. I then explained that this takes away animal’s homes and food, causing them to disappear. I then continued to explain that we can help the animals but recycling, walking instead of using the car and turning down our heating.



I then left the conservation small world sensory play out for the boys to continue to go back to throughout the day.


What do you think of this small world sensory play? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also follow me on Pinterest.

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42 thoughts on “Conservation small world sensory play

  1. Oh my word well done Bear! There is nothing more rewarding than looking after our wildlife. That sensory play tray looks amazing, so much in fact that I think we will have to ‘attempt’ (note the word attempt) this ourselves. We too have a little one who is animal obsessed! Brilliant work guys!

  2. That’s absolutely wonderful. It’s great that you’re teaching him so young about conservation. It’s a subject both me and my husband are really passionate about. I love how you jade the different habitats too.. so creative!

    Emmy – Misadventurous Mummy

  3. Tyler is still too young for this sort of thing but this is such an amazing idea and I can’t wait to try it! I have actually been looking in to Tyler adopting an animal and I can’t wait to do it for him!

    1. Thank you for your comment. WWF is such an amazing charity and they send a lovely welcome pack which had a toy turtle in. Bear was so excited to get the post the day it arrived bless him.

    1. Oh amazing! The Trays are so handy for sensory and messy play. Definitely let me know if you do this activity and be sure to tweet me a picture!

  4. What a fantastic idea! I love how you incorporated mud into this I might do this tomorrow with my little seeing as tomorrow is going to be raining all day we will need something to keep us busy!

  5. I adore this idea! My little one is too small for the conservation aspect but the sticky mud and all the sensory aspects would be perfect for her. Now just wishing for some dry weather to give it a go outside.

    1. My 18 month old also love it. He loved making the animals noises and feeling all of the different textures. Let me know if you do set up your own animal scene and be sure to tweet me a picture.

  6. You are right, it really is so important to teach them things like this. I have a ten year old and a twelve year old who would still love this, but it’s something I will definitely be coming back to (LOVE your sticky mud recipe!) as I have a nearly two year old who is more and more into sensory play things like this. Thank you! 🙂

  7. I absolutely love this idea! Although my little boy is too young to understand the conservation side of this, he would love the play aspect with the various textures.

  8. This is such a wonderful idea and a fun way to educate children about how important it is to look after our planet and all the creatures we share it with.

  9. I love this! It’s absolutely brilliant. T loves doing our study sessions and particularly likes the conservation ones I’ve done with him. Love that you adopted a turtle, such amazing animals xx

  10. What a lovely play set and how amazing you are to create such a gorgeous setting! We love small world play, and sensory play too, but I’ve never really thought to combine the two! I need one of those sand trays!

  11. That’s absolutely beautiful ! I love how it is sensory paly too. Sensory play is so important for all kiddies. I’m admiring your garden now ,knowing how well you got on with the “plant” stuff at Netflix ,it all makes sense ! You’re great with the ol green fingers ,you can tell I’m not with my use of “plant stuff “😋
    He’s a lucky little lad 😘

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