The term "small world play" refers to the activity of constructing little pretend settings using everyday household items, existing toys from play sets, and possibly even some scavenged items from the great outdoors. This activity is analogous to playing with Playmobil blocks. Here are some suggestions to get you thinking in the right direction.
Give the universe you're creating a giant Tupperware container to store it in so you can easily put it away and take it back out again. And include elements like stones in their composition. (Alternative: Use a divided container to encourage another form of play, such as rooms or beds. These are intended to be used for lunchboxes, but they would be useful for a Zoo!
Fabrics can be used to construct the base, and you and your child can work together to develop the blueprints. Washcloths can represent a body of water, or they can serve as rafts for vehicles that need to cross a river, or they can represent anything else. Alternatively, you can use actual water.
Find fresh items by rummaging through Christmas decorations and tchotchkes, and use painter's tape to mark off an area for a parking lot. Suggest a theme, such as Dinosaur World or Fairy Land, and then add layers of detail and texture.
You can use coffee beans (wow, that's expensive! ), aquarium gravel, and craft store items like glass pebbles as bases for tub environments, but I think black-eyed peas or regular old beans would be the cheapest option. Adding some dried beans, lentils, or rice will add some sensory play and texture. In addition, you should encourage your child to play and discover the new world that they have made.
If you are interested in more articles like this, here’s one about some rewards of parenting.