Small world aquarium in a box

Turn an old cardboard box into a mini aquarium for small world play for your toddler…

Small world aquarium in a box

After the success of our spring garden in a box last year, I decided to try out another small world idea for ToddlerGirl. I came up with an aquarium in a box as we were reading a lot of books about the sea at the time, so I thought this would tie in nicely!

This was very simple to make one evening in front of the television:

  • I took an old nappy box and cut the top and the sides to open this up for easy access for playing
  • I then stuck coloured paper to this – yellow on the base for the sand and blue on the back and sides for the sea
  • A few wavy strips, cut from green craft foam, glued onto the blue paper were added to give an underwater, seaweed effect
  • I also stuck a couple of bits of green curling ribbon, dangling from the top to suggest more seaweed
  • All other decorations were left loose in the box for ToddlerGirl to explore: more green curling ribbon, a couple of green pipecleaners twisted into seaweed/underwater plants, some scrunched up paper for ‘rocks’ and a small cardboard food box cut down to make a sea cave

Next, I needed some sea creatures, so added a few different bath toys we have, including fish, octopus and starfish.

ToddlerGirl has played with this many times over the last twelve months. I keep it out for a few days at a time, then put it away for a while so that it will have a novelty factor.

It’s been interesting to see how the way she plays with the aquarium has changed during that time. She needed a little more input on the pretend play element to begin with but this year has really ‘got’ the small world idea, making up characters and conversations. I always love to hear her narrating as she plays, it’s just lovely to listen to!

Aquarium in a box for under sea themed play

When we I brought this out recently, I created a whole under sea play corner in our living room as a backdrop. A big cardboard box acted as a cave, with a piece of shimmering blue/green chiffon draped over the top and an under sea theme towel laid out in front. I dotted more sea creatures onto this, plus a wooden fishing puzzle and a couple of related books. This really extended the play and ToddlerGirl returned to the whole set up several times over the week.

Our small world aquarium box also goes really well with our under the sea book nook, or simply paired with some fishy/ocean themed books (see Little Bookclub: Under the sea for some suggestions).

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3 Comments on “Small world aquarium in a box”

  1. liquoriceuk says:

    That looks fabulous – what a brilliant idea. Must try this for my eldest – she would love it :-)

  2. Love this idea! So fun for pretend play!


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