Yoko Small World: Book-inspired Sensory Play
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!)
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.
Materials for our Yoko Small World:
- Two Calico Critters
- Bamboo mat (I couldn’t find our sushi mats – I think I may have thrown them out in a minimalist urge)
- Cherry Blossom silk flower stem
- Felt sushi pretend food
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!
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.)
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.
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:
My sushi loving kiddos will love this book & small world!