A few months ago my husband found a small turtle that we decided to keep as a pet. It has been a wonderful opportunity to learn about caring for an animal. Plus it’s been great for learning what is needed for different habitats. This river small world habitat is a great way to learn about life in and around the rivers.

Explore this river small world habitat with your kids!

Recommended Grade Level:

Materials for the River Small World Habitat

  • Dirt
  • Water
  • Grass
  • Sticks
  • Pretend Nests
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Deep Bin

To create the river small world we first started by creating the river bed from aluminum foil. I did a double layer of the foil to ensure that it was sturdy and wouldn’t leak if it got a small puncture.

I put the “river” in the middle of our plastic tub and then let the kids take total control of the rest of the project.

We did some brainstorming of things that would be needed in a river habitat. This is what they thought of:

  • Water
  • Rocks and small pebbles
  • Dirt
  • Grass
  • Trees
  • Sand
  • Fish (Jaida wanted real ones, I politely declined)
  • Sticks

Then they went out to the backyard to assemble the small world.

Create a river small world with your kids and talk about the habitats of river wildlife.

They ended up digging a hole in the yard (mental note to tell hubby to fill that in…) and gathering some of the weeds from the garden.

Create a river small world with your kids and talk about the habitats of river wildlife.

They also used some leaves from the random small trees that line our yard and picked up some small sticks from the burn pile.

Create a river small world with your kids and talk about the habitats of river wildlife.

After they filled in the sides of the river to create the river banks, they decided that the river needed a dam, so they started building one out of mud only discover that it needed more reinforcement.


They added some sticks to the dam to help hold it together and then filled the upper portion of the river. With some manipulation, they were able to get the dam to hold for a little while.

Create a river small world with your kids and talk about the habitats of river wildlife.

After that they were able to see a great example of erosion!

We didn’t have it on hand today, but you can add this river animal TOOB for more fun. We’ll be playing with this over the next few days and I’m excited to see what they’ll think of next!

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author avatar
Kim Staten Owner and Curriculum Designer
Kim Staten is a mother of four children ages 20, 19, 16, and 12. Kim has taught at the preschool, kindergarten and early elementary levels for 16 years. With extensive experience working with special needs children, including her own children with special needs (Rett Syndrome, autism, anxiety, and ADHD), she creates hands-on curricula and activities that are great for working with children of all abilities in the classroom and at home. Hands-on, accessible activities are her passion. 

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  1. Hello! Love this idea! And the pictures look great! I have featured you in my portion of the A Little Bird Told Me link up. 🙂 I will definitely be on the look out for more great ideas from you!

  2. I think this is such a great idea! I am quite impressed with how well their river habitat turned out! And, how neat that they thought of building a dam and then had the lesson in erosion after! 🙂

    1. Yes, I love how well they showed their knowledge of the river habitat! It was a lot of fun to watch!

    1. I’m so glad! It also proved to be a good way to let our turtle escape! It was a good pet for the summer.

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