Tot School: Jellyfish Week

by Melanie on May 24, 2013

18 Months Old


Before jellyfish week, Rocket had no clue what a jellyfish was. Or a starfish. Or a sea shell. Now, he can easily point out any of these things! Our theme-specific units are proving to build his vocabulary by the week and giving us endless new activities to explore!

Letter: Jj

Object: Jellyfish                                                  

Vocabulary Development Theme: Sea Life

Color: Pink

What’s on the tot trays?



Left to right, top to bottom: 1. Grow-A-Fish Aquarium, 2. Pegboard, 3. Lacing Jellyfish, 4. Cutting With Scissors, 5. Letter Jj Printables, & 6. Sea Shell Sorting

The tray activities and the skills intended to be learned from them are:

  1. Grow-A-Fish Aquarium (fine motor skills)
  2. Pegboard (small spaces/fine motor skills/sorting)
  3. Lacing Jellyfish (stringing)
  4. Cutting With Scissors (cutting)
  5. Letter Jj Printables (Jj recognition/vocabulary exposure/using writing utensils)
  6. Seashell Sorting (sorting)

The Grow-A-Fish Aquarium was a dollar store find. Once the aquarium is filled with water and the fish on the inside get wet, they grow by 400%. I put a syringe pump (no needle, of course) on the tray for dispensing water and Rocket loved the new tool. He concentrated deeply on how to work the pump and transfer the water as I’d shown him.

tray fish grow 2 (1)

After he filled it up, we let it soak in the water for a few hours and came back to see how large the fish had grown.

tray fish grow

He also spent some time on the seashell tray, transferring each shell from the bowl to the egg carton.

tray seashell sorting 3

tray seashell sorting

But his favorite thing to do with the seashells was to combine them with his pegboard. He found out that the pointier shells can fit on top of the pegboard pieces and he worked long and hard to fill each one. I was very impressed with his outside-the-box thinking!

Note: Seashells are pointy and breakable, so they are a supervised schoolroom material only and never a free-play toy.

trays pegboard 3

trays pegboard

He worked on the lacing jellyfish a bit, but this was the tray that got the least amount of his attention this week.

tray lacing jellyfish

Printables, on the other hand, were a huge hit! He was in the mood to write, color, draw, and use stickers all week long, giving us lots of time to work on our vocabulary words.

tray printables 7

We also have fish stampers that I brought out for the occasion.

tray printables (3)

tray printables (2)

“Look what I did, Mom!”

tray printables (5)

Admiring his work.

What’s in the sensory tub?


sensory tub

  • Blue gems & marbles (to represent water)
  • Sea shells
  • Fish toys & figurines

The tools that went with this tub were:

  • A pink plate
  • Blue tongs

He loved this tub! I knew he would because it had marbles in it and where there are marbles, I have a happy toddler.

First, he examined the gems, marbles, seashells, and fish toys.

sensory tub 5

sensory tub 3546

This fish winds up and flaps its tail fin, much to this little man’s amusement!

sensory tub 2

He knew exactly what motions were needed to wind the fish up and wanted desperately to do it, but his fine motor skills just aren’t there yet.

He also sorted marbles in the clam shells.

sensory tub 4

I don’t have any pictures of him practicing with scissors because it was a very mom-required kind of task. He has shown great interest in watching me cut, so I got him a pair of child-friendly scissors so he could give it a try. At his age, he is NOT ready to do this by himself yet. The purpose of the tray was more to introduce him to the concept and expose him to the basics than it was to let him go wild with cutting! In fact, he sat in my lap and had his hand over mine as I showed him how it was done. He was amazed and asked to do this often.


What other toys were in the schoolroom?


other toys

There was a slight renovation in the schoolroom. Last week, we skipped school because Dad was busy building shelves in the closet as a gift for me for Mother’s Day! With his toy & school supply storage finally in tip top order, I was able to move around several other things in the schoolroom as well.

Adding this table and chair (which were in the living room before) has been wonderful for him. The Turn-A-Tile Alphabet toy and the bead maze above will be regular toys in his schoolroom for now.

On the floor beside the table is one of his most loved toys, the Cloud B Sea Turtle Night Light. When turned on in the dark, the constellations shine onto the ceiling! The sea turtle is usually his wind-down toy for the bedroom as we transition from lights on to lights off. With its endangered sea animals pictured on the sea turtle’s shell, it was perfect for jellyfish week.

others toys 2

The dinosaur piggy bank we had in previous weeks of tot school is no longer! It broke and I replaced it with this alphabet block bank we have instead.

other toys 45

It was refreshing for Rocket to play with his sea turtle in a different room.

other toys 464

The blue whale is one of the endangered sea animals that illuminate on the turtle’s shell.

Rocket also continued to play with his two favorite cars, the white vehicles which remind him of what his father drives!

other toys trucks

other toys trucks 3543

I also brought the pet puzzle out again, but it wasn’t nearly as popular as his cars and sea turtle.

reading list 456


The Reading List


reading list

We did so much reading for jellyfish week! In the schoolroom, we read:

  1. The Birthday Fish by Yan Yaccarino
  2. Boats by Byron Barton
  3. Eyes by Daniel Nunn
  4. Flashy Fish by Elizabeth Salzmann, Diane Craig, and C. A. Nobens
  5. I’m A Shark by Bob Shea
  6. Ocean World by Orme, David, and Helen Bird
  7. Stanly Goes Fishing by Craig Fraizer
  8. Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage
  9. Dr. Seuss’ ABC by Dr. Seuss
  10. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  11. Listen To Your Fish by Sarah Albee and Tom Brannon
  12. How About A Kiss For Me? by Todd Tarpley and Liza Woodruff

Outside of school, he’s been choosing:

  1. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury
  2. We Are In A Book! (An Elephant And Piggie Book) by Mo Williams
  3. Is It Rough? Is It Smooth? Is It Shiny? by Tana Hoban

reading list 2

reading list 57

Arts & Crafts


jellyfish craft (11)

I would have to say that this piece is my personal favorite on our art wall. Why? Because I saw how much creative energy Rocket put into it. He was really absorbed and spent a long time on it- painting, coloring, and carefully choosing the placement of his stickers.

I cut out a jellyfish shape from some pink bubble wrap we had lying around and put it with paint and paintbrushes in the schoolroom like this:

jellyfish craft (1)

He went straight for it and started painting away. When he decided the jellyfish was done, he clearly wasn’t ready to put down the paintbrush. So I brought out the art pad for him to keep on going.

jellyfish craft (4)

After the paint dried, I let him choose which sea animal stickers he wanted to add. He took the decision very seriously!

jellyfish craft (8)

Choosing the jellyfish.

He put one of the jellyfish stickers right in the middle of it all!

jellyfish craft (9)

What else did we do?


 1) Pink Hunt & Play.

We didn’t have a whole lot of pink items around the house, but we found just enough things to bring back to the schoolroom with us.

what else color hunt (2)

He went straight for the ball and the highlighter!

what else color hunt (1)

2) Conch Listenin’.

My mom has a collection of conches and coral in her garden that we borrowed for jellyfish week.

What Else Conch Listening (2)

Rocket was drawn to it right away.

What Else Conch Listening (1)

I showed him how to hold them up to his ear to “listen to the ocean” and he was pretty fascinated by the sound!

What Else Conch Listening (4)

He chose one of the smaller conches, one that’s an ideal size for his tiny hands, and carried it around with him. Sometimes he put it to his ear and pretended it was a phone!

What Else Conch Listening (5)

What Else Conch Listening (8)

3) Vocabulary Magnet Play.

what else magnet play 78

Last week, Rocket played with his magnet set very little, but this week he was all about it again. He was very eager to show me all the sea animals that he knows and ask me about the ones he didn’t.

what else magnet play 467

He also kept the kitchen musical with the Leapfrog letter song!

4) O Pho’s Water Pond.

What Else Pond

My mom’s water pond is in bloom with water lilies! Rocket adored the flowers and the lily pads.

5) Sea Turtle Water Table.

What Else Water Table (1)

I brought sea shells and sea turtles out to the water table in honor of our theme.

What Else Water Table (7)

He decided his police car needed a dip in the water too!

What Else Water Table (6)

Finding a new home for the sea turtle.

6) Wild Fish Watching.

There’s a creek not too far from our house that is so clear and shallow that we can always see wild fish swimming around in the water. It’s always so relaxing to visit the fish and observe them in their natural environment. We walked to the creek a couple of times this week.

What Else Wild Fish (1)

What Else Wild Fish (4)

Looking back on this picture, I’m grateful Thomas The Train made it back home safely!

7) Field Trip To The HerpAquarium.

We visited the zoo especially for the aquarium this week.

what else zoo

What Else Zoo Aquarium (5)

What Else Zoo Aquarium (4)

The snakes were pretty awesome too!

After we were done with the HerpAquarium, he walked around the zoo with his wheelbarrow.

What Else Zoo Aquarium (3)

And stopped to admire the fountain!

What Else Zoo Aquarium (2)




Our song of the week was not actually about sea animals, but the water theme was there!

“Row, Row, Row Your Boat” has always been one of this guy’s favorites and I’ve loved singing it all week just to hear him sing along.

We also have a DVD called “Sea Tunes For Kids” which we watched a little bit, but mostly had playing in the background for the music.


  Videos & Technology


I mentioned last week that Sesame Street’s official website has some age-appropriate educational games for toddlers. Rocket has so much fun learning from Elmo.


From the Signing Time series, we are still learning all kinds of new signs on Volume 4- Family, Feelings, & Fun.

And we also watched a lot of Rocket’s favorite Vietnamese artist, Xuân Mai. At the 56:00 mark in this video, there’s a fish-themed song called Cá Vàng Bơi that we listened to several times! He loves to dance around and sing along in his own way as we watch.


 Mom’s Favorite Moments


This week was a week of LOTS OF PLAYING…

mom's faves (1)

mom's faves (10)

…and hanging out with friends.

mom's faves (2)

mom's faves (8)

mom's faves (9)

mom's faves (12)

mom's faves (6)

We also had good times at home.

mom's faves (3)

mom's faves (11)

Walking in Dad’s shoes.

And my absolute favorite… my boys jammin’!

mom's faves (5)

Be sure to visit 1+1+1=1 to see what other tots were doing this week. On 1+1+1=1, you will also find the printables that we use for tot school and lots of other inspiration for your little ones!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley June 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Very creative ideas, thank you!


Gloria Weergo June 24, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I love the craft!


Heather November 20, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Am I the only one NOT switching from Five in a Row? I have five cherildn (ages 8, 6, 4, 2, and 10 months) and think that Five in a Row will be the perfect “un”structured curriculum for us. Of course, I am using TONS of supplements for my 8 year old and am even using some supplements for my 6 and 4 year olds. I am a terribly disorganized woman (sigh) and have heard that Five in a Row requires a bit more structure and discipline on the mom’s part…. I guess that the moms who told me that were serious!!! (Uh, oh!) Hmmm… It’s 11:00 A.M. on Saturday…. That gives me a lot of planning time before Monday. I better hit the books!!! Sounds like you got off to a great start with homeschooling!! And… What a wonderful curriculum! Can’t wait to read about your year! I have the entire Sonlight preschool curriculum. I was planning to use it five years ago, with my oldest, then opted to send him to the public preschool. I didn’t take the homeschool plunge until the middle of last year. Hmmm…. Maybe, if ya’all love Sonlight I will try it with my 2 year old next year.Blessings! ~Beckie


Melanie January 9, 2014 at 6:49 am

Heather, my son is only 2 so I haven’t yet looked into curriculums such as Sonlight. We do plan I starting Before Five In A Row soon! I’ll update our experiences with it on here.


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