Yoko Small World: Book-inspired Sensory Play

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One of my favourite things to do after reading a new book with the children is invite them to do a book-inspired activity, like a craft or pretend play invitation.

This small world sensory bin was inspired by the children’s book, Yoko, and invited the children to explore themes of multiculturalism and acceptance.

(By the way, I had Oh Yoko by John Lennon stuck in my head the entire time we read the book, did the activity, and even when writing this post – if you haven’t heard it before, here you go, now it can be stuck in your head, too!)

Book-inspired Sensory Play - inspired by Yoko by Rosemary Wells, this sweet small world set-up teaches about acceptance and diversity, and can be used to introduce children to learning about Japanese culture

I presented this small world after reading Yoko by Rosemary Wells with the kids. It’s a sweet children’s story about a little (Japanese) cat named Yoko who is made fun of at school for her sushi lunch and red bean ice cream snack.

The teacher, Mrs. Jenkins, sees the opportunity to learn about cultural acceptance and invites all of the children to bring a dish representing their nationality to school, which leads to Yoko making friends with a little raccoon named Timothy.

Yoko is the first in a series about the little cat, and based on how much the kids loved this book (and our Yoko-inspired activity) I think we’ll be checking out a few of the other books in the series.

Yoko Small World Sensory Play - a fun sensory bin inspired by Yoko the book

Materials for our Yoko Small World:

Book-inspired Sensory Play - inspired by Yoko by Rosemary Wells, this sweet small world set-up teaches about acceptance and diversity, & Japanese culture

Benefits of Small Worlds

This book-inspired sensory bin allowed the children to remember details from the story and really encouraged them to become part of the narrative – retelling the bits of the story that were important to them, or adding parts that they felt should have been included.

Sensory play can help increase children’s memory and capacity to process the information they are receiving during sensory stimulation, while involving a book into pretend play can encourage bonds between children and literature. Small worlds effectively combine the best of both of sensory play and pretend play!

Our Yoko Small World quickly turned into a sushi sensory bin - with cat figures. A sushi sensory bin would be great for teaching about Japanese culture and developing fine motor skills - with chopsticks!

How They Played

The children loved scooping the rice and letting it flow through their fingers. They used the chopsticks to swirl the rice in the bin, and try to pick up grains of rice.

One child immediately decided that the bamboo mat and cherry tree stem should be removed, and the others did not object to her removing it. (I did interject to encourage her to ask her friends, as it was a shared sensory experience.)

Learning how to pick up items with chopsticks, using a fun sensory bin invitation

This sort of transformed the small world into a sushi-themed sensory bin with a cat and a bunny thrown into the mix, but the kids loved it and had fun exploring, which is all that matters to me.

The Little Critters are always a favourite, and I think I’m going to buy more of the sets after seeing how all of the children really do enjoy them, and they work as characters in so many of their imaginative play scenarios.

Book-inspired Sensory Play - inspired by Yoko by Rosemary Wells, this sweet small world set-up teaches about acceptance and diversity, and can be used to introduce children to learning about Japanese culture

Which book-inspired sensory bin or small world would your children enjoy?

To check out the whole Small World A-Z series, check out the collection on Still Playing School:

Small World Pretend Play Ideas from A-Z

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