How to create an Arctic Small World

arctic small world

This Arctic Small World proved to be a big hit with Rosalie, and with me because it was so simple to set up! It gave her opportunities for sensory play as well as imaginary play, and the instant snow is amazing!

How to create an arctic small world

Setting up the Arctic Small World

Here’s what I used to set up Rosalie’s arctic small world:

Our trusty tray

Water beads in blue and white



Polar animals

arctic small world

If you’re not familiar with water beads then you have to get some! The ones I got were so cheap, and you get loads as well as a variety of colours. When they arrive they are tiny, about the size of a pin head, but you soak them in water and they grow over the course of about five hours to be around the size of a marble. Just watching the growing process is fun – Rosalie enjoyed coming back throughout the day to see how much they had grown and to feel them. I chose to grow blue and white water beads for the arctic tray.

At the same time I froze water in a plastic bowl with a plastic cup filled with more water set inside, to create an icy pool.

Once the water beads had grown and the water was frozen, it was time to do the snow – this is seriously fun and amazing to watch! The Insta-Snow comes in a small tub and is a fine powder which you simply add water to. I used three small scoops of powder and 180ml of water to make the quantity for our tray. When you add the water to the powder it literally is instant! The powder puffs up and is lovely and fluffy but also maintains a cool feel. I have filmed the snow ‘growing’ and I’ll put the video up on my Facebook page.

To put the arctic small world together I simply placed the ice pool and block into the tray, sprinkled the snow around, tipped in the water beads and set up the animals.

arctic small world

Rosalie had a good 45 minutes worth of play out of the tray before saying her hands were cold. I was sat beside her but not playing with her as I wanted to see what she’d do, and her imagination took off, sliding the seals on their tummies, assembling the penguins and making fierce noises with the polar bear.

We have been reading lots of wintry stories, several of which contain polar animals such as the arctic fox, polar bear and seals, so I think she was drawing on some of these to enhance her play.

arctic small world

After an hour of playing the ice was melting and the snow was going quite mushy with the extra water, so if you were concerned about your little ones getting cold hands, or wanted the snow/tray to be used again another day, you could omit the ice – the snow and water beads would provide a lovely sensory experience on their own.

Do leave me a comment if you give this a go, or tag me on social media, as I’d love to see your toddler enjoying themselves!

Just a brief side note about water beads and Insta-Snow, make sure you supervise, especially with little ones who still put things in their mouth.

Rosalie – 36 months

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