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Tips to setting up a suitcase in under 5 minutes for small world and story centered play.

Updated: May 26, 2023

I have few a suitcases but my favourite doesn’t take up too much space and has sentimental value. It is the perfect size for small world and story centered play, it measures 340 by 430 by 130cm in case you want to add this idea to you early childhood setting.

A suitcase gives a small world a new perspective or different dimension. It offers layers that a table or tray may not and it is perhaps more portable. A suitcase could be considered a large basket for a story and it has the BONUS of being able to can prop up or frame a book.

Let’s start with story centered play or a large story basket. A suitcase lid offers a perfect frame and spot to hold the book you want to use.

Here you can see a variety of books from things in the sea are touching me to the day the crayons quit. They can be set up under 5 minutes although the pipe clears on the crayons did take me a wee while to figure out. The first tip is to store a runner and material in the suitcase that way you do not need to go searching for them! I also keep a 'water' scarf in the suitcase.

We have also really enjoyed open ended suitcase provocations that invite story telling. The key to these is having a variety of loose parts and textures. I have added a bag of items for the children to select from but I find they often will source other items for their play. The second tip and time saver is this bag of loose parts!

Key items I always have in my bag:

· Wood cookies

· Pine cones

· Bracelets

· Bead necklaces

· Bowls

· Corks

· Shells

· Stones

· Wooden pegs

· Wooden disks

· Napkin rings

· Craft sticks

· Pompoms

In typing this out I just realised this is almost the same as my story basket foundation box items in the e-booklet.

We have whakapapa narratives all year round and I try to create a story basket or play based invitation for one to share in Maaori language week. This year I am creating an e-pattern for Tangaroa’s gift, keep an eye out for this in the next few weeks.

Two of our favourite whakapapa narratives are Rona and the moon and How Maui slowed the sun. Both whakapapa narratives use our ‘spoon hoods’ which are felt pieces that slip on and off a wooden spoon. We love these as it means you can reuse a spoon for many ‘hoods’ and stories. The ‘spoon hoods’ take less than 30 minutes to make (if gluing longer to sew) initially following an e-pattern but are well worth it.

A suitcase can offer more space than a basket and certainly more freedom than a table. Here is the same book used in all 3 ways

You may notice the fake green grass which is a table runner from Kmart. This year we added a brown jute one for a different colour and texture. I also found a Kmart sticker scene activity book with scenes and stickers for $5.50 which led to much more play and hands on story telling.

The four scenes in the Kmart sticker scene activity book I got where a volcano (they had dinosaur stickers for this), a savannah, space and town. There is another book with a castle, under the sea, forest and in a bedroom which I might get next.

Here you will see I also used black and brown material over the table runners. I love using bowls and I have metal, wooden, jute and palm leaves. They are great the right way up to fill or for craters and make perfect hills or mountains upside down. You will see I use peg dolls in most invitations and I love my natural ones or rainbow ones. If you want other DIY or hack peg doll ideas then you can read about 6 of them in my blog.

The play and conversations were rich and full. The suitcase lent itself to quiet individual play, to groups of up to five.

Until next time.


P.S. there are affiliate links in this post and if you buy anything with them I may get a small amount to buy and share more items with you.

P.S.S. I have a storytelling suitcase mini-course that goes into more depth on my TIPS and TRICKS + teaches my full process in making and sharing them

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