Back to School Time: Ocean Unit

When all the neighborhood kids went back to school last week, S and A got a little jealous. I get it. Even though I’m not teaching right now and don’t have school age kids, it’s hard not to get excited about new school supplies, packed lunches and all the cute backpacks I see the neighborhood kids toting as they walk to and from school. We were at the park the other day, waving to all S and A’s friends returning from school, when the girls asked me why they couldn’t go to elementary school too. 
You aren’t potty trained. 
You cling to my legs and beg to come with me, even when I’m not going anywhere.  
You have the attention span of a goldfish. 
You take a non-negotiable three hour nap everyday. 
We haven’t figured out if you’re left-handed or right-handed. 
You still throw your food on the floor. 
I don’t think I could part with you just yet!
I asked S and A if they were in school, what they would most like to learn about. “SEA CREATURES!” they shouted unanimously. 
They asked. I answered. Introducing tot school! 
Starting last week, we did one activity per day (usually in the afternoon) that involved something marginally related to sea animals and the ocean. Some of the activities didn’t end up working out as planned, while others we repeated because we were having so much fun. Thank you, friends, family and Pinterest for the ideas!
Here are a few of the activities we did as part of our Ocean Unit.
First up: Fizzing Hidden Sea Creatures.

 I think I had more fun setting up this activity than the girls did playing with it, but it was worth the two seconds it took to make! Just mix half a box of baking soda with a few teaspoons of water until the baking soda becomes crumbly. Then, take a plastic sea creature and pat baking soda around it until the toy is hidden in the baking soda ball. Fill a few squeeze bottles with vinegar and add food coloring.

When the girls squeezed the vinegar onto the baking soda balls, the baking soda fizzed, bubbled and hissed. I thought the fizzing was awesome, while the girls were more interested in squeezing the bottles for fun. The baking soda/colored vinegar mixture created some pretty colors as they fizzed. At the end, the sea creatures emerged!

I found a sting ray!
 S takes a tomato break and lets sister do the work. Can we count this as science class? I’m thinking yes. 
 We talked about each creature as they were revealed. Within a few days, the girls knew the names of most of the sea creatures and could bring the correct one to me if I asked. Because they are geniuses like that 🙂

Hi little friend!
Our new favorite discovery: water beads! Bought these babies for $10 off Amazon and still have enough to last the rest of the year. One tablespoon of these beads mixed with ten cups of water yields twenty cups of really cool, squishy, jello-like beads. I put them in a bin overnight and by morning, they were fully hydrated. 

I put some toy sea creatures in with the beads and placed some scoops nearby for S and A to have at it.

S and A were really fascinated with the texture of the water beads. They’d put both hands in the bin and squish to their heart’s content. Even I loved to feel them. I think I might make a water bead bin for myself and massage my feet with them sometime.

I did have to keep a close eye on the girls as the water beads were too irresistible for them to not put in their mouths. The beads are supposedly non-toxic, but I definitely wouldn’t want the girls to swallow any. 
Scooping the beads into other bins. 
One afternoon, the girls’ friend, Maliyah, joined us for some more water bead play and she loved it even more than S and A did. Maliyah sat on the patio squishing the beads in her hands for the entire playdate while S and A ran around splashing water. 
Scooping took up at least thirty minutes. Winner. 
Samantha loved dumping out Amelia’s hard work. Good thing the beads are biodegradable. I just hosed the patio down afterwards and the beads shrank, disappearing within a day or so. 
Thanks, Grandma Jolene, for the following ice cube idea!
S and A had fun placing their sea creatures in an ice cube tray and then carefully filling it with water we had dyed bright blue. A few hours later, we took our captive creatures out of the freezer and tried to set them free. Not a hard task when it’s 90+ degrees outside. 
S and A loved hearing the crackle and plop of the ice cubes as they hit the water. 
Samantha just HAD to take a lick.
We had fun naming all the sea creatures as they escaped their icy prison. 
I saved you, Mr. Crab!

After learning the names of the sea animals, I would ask the girls, “Who can find the fish?” or “Who can find the octopus?” S and A raced to be the first one to bring the correct creature to me and they got pretty good at distinguishing between the animals. We didn’t quite master the difference between a whale and a shark…

Our most successful activity was pure genius. Almost every afternoon, we brought out the water table, filled it with water and– wait for it– played with it!

Throw in some buckets, scoops, a sprinkler, sea creatures and BOOM. A no-hassle afternoon of entertainment!

Amelia was our champion filler and pourer. That girl has fine motor skills!

Samantha’s impatience often gets in the way of learning skills like scooping, but after practicing for a few days, she got the hang of it.
Splashing and dumping water on Amelia are still her activities of choice, however.

I brought out a big bin of seashells which the girls explored and scattered in the water. I was happy to finally prove to Jake that carting around all my random craft supplies (including these shells) for the past eight years we’ve been married, was worth it. I TOLD YOU I’D NEED THESE SOMEDAY.
Sorting shells into the bins. 

Mr. Starfish was the favorite by far. 
I’m not sure what my obsession with using cooked spaghetti for various activities is, but I decided to make “seaweed” by dumping some spaghetti in the girls’ pool. The idea was to let them feel the “seaweed” sliding beneath their feat and squish it with their fingers. The spaghetti ended up looking like worms in the water and grossed me out!
The girls enjoyed trying to pick it all up. 

I enjoyed laughing at them until they started flinging it at each other or eating it. So that ended quickly. 

The girls and I had fun with our ocean theme and it proved to be a nice way to kill a few afternoons.  We will post the ocean-related books, songs, and crafts we did as part of our ocean unit in another post!

Lots of love,

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