Tot School: Ocean Extravaganza!

Age: Twins- 18 months actual, 16 months corrected; Tex- 18 months

Last week’s tot school play date was the perfect way to beat our Texas summer heat.  Tex and his mama joined us for some wet and wild ocean-themed activities, and boy did we have fun.  I know you are anxious to see what we did, so let’s get started!

We began the session with our customary welcome song, weather check, book, and music time.  This week’s book was Sea Creatures from the Snapshot Picture Library.  We love this book because it is full of large, colorful photographs of various sea animals, perfect for introducing new vocabulary to the little ones.  Our song of the week was “Three Little Fishies.

Activity #1: Discovery

Our first activity was designed to help introduce ocean vocabulary by allowing the little ones to discover ocean animals and objects in interesting ways.  Right now, all the babies (especially Tex) are fascinated with opening and closing different types of containers, so I simply took a variety of plastic containers that I had in my cabinets and placed ocean objects inside them for the little ones to discover and talk about.  This type of activity is good for fine motor development as well as practicing desirable communication behavior…I am always using opportunities like these to encourage my children to ask me for help by signing and/or speaking instead of getting frustrated.

A few of our ocean containers

Another discovery activity for smaller objects was inspired by a “Muffin Tin Treasure Hunt” I saw over at Dirt and Boogers.  I filled muffin tins with small ocean animals, shells, and pretty ocean pebbles and covered them with scraps of construction paper, foil, etc., secured with scotch tape.  All of the children had a great time looking under the different materials to find the small treasures.  Lots of language stimulation opportunities going on here!

Notice we are all dressed in our bathing suits for later…

As the babies discovered different ocean animals, we encouraged them to match the animals up with pictures from the book of the day.  This helps with language development by creating richer vocabulary conceptualization.  It is also a good opportunity to start talking about “same” and “different,” as in,”Look, this is a dolphin just like we saw in our book! See? All the dolphins are blue, but this one is small, and these are big!”

Activity #2: Hungry Sharks

After our discovery play, we had a pile of small sea creatures that served as a perfect segue into our next activity…Hungry Sharks! Remember our “Very Hungry Caterpillars” from our butterfly unit? I took those little guys and recycled them into hungry sharks using some construction paper, hot glue, and a few empty cereal boxes.  The babies happily fed our small sea creatures to the sharks, along with a hefty dose of furry pom poms.  The speech pathologist in me can’t help but think how fun and versatile this would be as a reinforcement activity with a small group of kiddos!

Activity #3: Styrofoam Octopus

Our next activity was another simple one…I took two large styrofoam balls, cut them in half, poked holes in them with scissors, and used giant furry pipe cleaners for legs and pegs from one of my therapy pegboards for eyes.  Will especially enjoyed assembling and taking apart the octopus, and is still playing with it this week.  Yet another great fine motor exercise!  I found that circling the holes with a black marker helped the children see where to put the legs and eyes.

Activity #4: Contact Paper Aquarium

Our last indoor activity was super fun and is still up in our playroom this week.  I have a roll of Contact Paper left over from our sense of touch collage and decided to use it to make an “aquarium” for the little ones to add fish to.  To do this, I simply took a sheet of butcher paper, covered it with blue construction paper, cut out a few seaweed fronds, fish, and a piece of coral from construction paper as well, and taped them all down. Then I covered all of it with a large piece of Contact Paper, adhesive side out. After that, I taped it to the wall and went to work creating some fun sea creatures for the babies to add to the “water.”

Here is the tray of creatures and scraps that I provided for the kids to play with.

Here are some of the creatures I created for this activity.  As you can see, many are made from fabric scraps, which I simply “sandwiched” around medium-wieght fusible interfacing, ironed, and then cut out. This gave them some body and strength and made them easier to manipulate.  I made a few felt fish that were designed to match the construction paper fish that were under the Contact Paper.  The “jellyfish” is made of a scrap of grippy shelf paper and some ultra-thin ribbon that I was able to weave in and tie on.

Tex looooved the jellyfish and alternated putting it on and off of the aquarium and then on each of our heads 😉

There are lots of ways to extend this activity for older children and/or use it in a classroom or therapy session.  We just had fun talking about the creatures, sticking them on, and taking them back off, but more mature kids could use this to practice prepositions, follow simple or complex directions (i.e. “Put the jellyfish above something yellow”) or just about any other language target.  It would be another fun reinforcement activity for those working on articulation, as well.  When I worked in the schools, I was always on the lookout for activities that could be adapted to all my groups throughout the day without too many changes.

Activity #5: Giant Sensory Lagoon

For our “grand finale” we moved outside to the back patio, which was transformed into a fun giant “sensory lagoon” using inspiration from other child activity blogs as well as my own crazy ideas.  This activity was so much fun that I wrote an entire separate post on it that you can find here…it includes ideas for making ocean ice, ping-pong jelly fish, and more!

Activity #6: Gone Fishin’ Snack

After swimming in our own personal lagoon, we had worked up quite an appetite, so we dried off and headed inside for a snack. I found this idea at Kid, and it was super easy and fun!  We simply gave each child a handful of goldfish crackers and pretzel sticks and a big spoonful of natural peanut butter.  The little ones were supposed to dip the sticks (“fishing rods”) into the peanut butter and then go “fishing” for the goldfish crackers. My kiddos had fun trying for about 10 seconds, and then bypassed the fishing step in favor of just eating the peanut butter off the pretzels.  Gotta love toddlers!

Ready for a snack and a nap!

That’s all for now! Remember to stop back by for a look at our “Giant Sensory Lagoon.”  You don’t wanna miss it!


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  1. These are all really great! Thanks for the ideas for the up coming school year. Stopping by from Tuesday Tots. Hope to see you at True Aim.

  2. oh your contact paper aquarium is a brilliant idea

  3. Love this little shark sorting game! I just featured it in my Fun Summer Activities for Kids post on Ducks ‘n a Row!


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