Tot School: Ostrich Week

by Melanie on July 9, 2013

20 Months Old

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Thanks to tot school, Rocket picked up many new words for O week. Of course, one of them was “ostrich.” What sound does an ostrich make, by the way? I’ve been trying to figure that one out all week for “Old MacDonald: The African Farm Rendition.”

Many other African animals made their way into our musical playtime too. And we topped it all off with a visit to the zoo, the closest we’ll be getting to Africa any time soon!

There were a couple of things that were different about tot school this week.

First, we had three beautiful girls as guests in the schoolroom. You’ll see them pictured in some of the sections below.

And secondly, my sister was in town from New York. I’ve mentioned before that we live in a small house and the schoolroom doubles as a guest room. Instead of foregoing tot school, we decided to make it happen even without our normal space. So in the photos below, you can see that we were all over the place- doing tot trays on the air mattress and putting together our craft on the living room ottoman. We were roaming around the house like lions in the Sahara, just keeping with the theme. ROAR!

Letter: Oo

Object: Ostrich

Vocabulary Development Theme: African Animals

Shape: Oval

What’s on the tot trays?


trays all

Top to bottom, left to right: 1. Water Transfer, 2. Animal Matching (bowl of animals and party platter tray), 3. Playskool Busy Gears, 4. Letter Oo Printables, 5. Magnetic Shapes, 6. Marble Transfer, & 7. Lacing Ostrich

The tray activities and the skills they’re designed to expose are:

  1. Water Transfer (transferring/pouring)
  2. Animal Matching (matching/animal recognition)
  3. Playskool Busy Gears (fine motor skills/motion play)
  4. Letter Oo Printables (Oo recognition/vocabulary exposure/using writing utensils)
  5. Magnetic Shapes (shape recognition)
  6. Lacing Ostrich (stringing)

The base of the animal matching activity was a party platter tray with each section labeled by different African animal stickers. And with it came a large bowl of plastic animals to match with the appropriate sections.

Our eldest guest, a bright and well-mannered young lady, did a fantastic job at finding the right “home” for each animal!

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Rocket concentrated deeply to match the animals as well.

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Matching the elephants.

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Matching the giraffes.

The magnetic shapes are a new learning material I snagged at the dollar store. They introduce a new set of shapes that I hadn’t yet exposed to Rocket, including a rhombus and a pentagon.

After talking about the shapes for a while, they lost their “new” charm. To keep it interesting, we built walls around plastic animals with them, constructing our very own zoo while still naming the shapes!

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I brought out our wild animal sticker book for the printables, but encouraged Rocket to only use animals from Africa. At first, I prompted him on which animals to choose. By the end of the week, he knew that the giraffes, hippos, rhinos, and lions are all found in Africa and asked for those stickers specifically. Yay!

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He also chose to scribble with an ordinary ink pen.

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The tray of marbles, as always, was a big hit for everyone- Rocket, Dad, and the two older sisters who were guests in our schoolroom.

The tray consisted of a giant plastic container with a lid, a measuring cup full of marbles, and a measuring spoon for scooping.

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We added the big green bowl and swirled all the marbles around inside as fast as we could!

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The big green bowl also turned into a car at one point.

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Rocket and his friend grabbed as many marbles as they could while her older sister swayed the tray back and forth.

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Got one!

And of course, the water transfer tray is ALWAYS a favorite.

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The tray included a cup full of water, an empty cup, and a bowl full of transfer tools- an eyedropper, a syringe (without a needle), and a measuring spoon.

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On top of always being a favorite, the water transfer tray ALWAYS gets messy… but EVERY single misplaced drop is worth it!

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Rocket shares his favorite tray with the ladies…

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…and then he joins them!

The Playskool Busy Gears toy still gets a lot of attention, so I decided to keep it on the shelf another week.

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What’s in the sensory tub?


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  • Stones
  • Plastic grass, bushes, and rocks
  • Plastic African animals

I used a different storage bin this time and it was WAY bigger than his usual sensory tub! This is supposed to represent Africa, after all.

I included the tools for exploring this tub in a metal Curious George container to the side.

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    • Tongs
    • Jumbo tweezers
    • Metal container

It was helpful having an older child around to show Rocket how to use the tools to grab each animal and transfer them to the other container.

sensory tub

Rocket still preferred transferring the animals with his bare hands…

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Or with his bare hands through the tools!

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What other toys were in the schoolroom?


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Toys were abundant this week, especially since we had so many friends with whom to share them at our house. When Rocket wasn’t working on a tray, he had a variety of puzzles, stuffed animals, and books to keep him occupied.

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He loves this Melissa and Doug Alphabet Peg Puzzle. He repeats after me as he places each letter down and I name the object.

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The bigger puzzle is a lot more advanced. He likes to work on it together, and by that I mean he likes to hand me the pieces as I put them down!

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We mostly used this puzzle for vocabulary review!

At one point, Rocket made a special request to play with balls. How can I deny a little boy some ball time? We kept the balls out all week and returned to them frequently.

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And he also got creative by combining his cars with his electric drum. He was banging the drums, making music with his vehicles!

other toys


The Reading List


reading list

We had so many new books to read that centered around African animals, and a few old favorites too. Our schoolroom bookshelf was stocked with:

  1. Roar! A Noisy Counting Book by Pamela Duncan Edwards
  2. Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert
  3. I’m A Tiger, Too! by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
  4. My First Animal Board Book by DK Publishing
  5. Busy Elephants by John Schindel and Martin Harvey
  6. The Alphabet With Wild Animals by Melanie Watt
  7. Spot It! by Delphine Chedru
  8. Curious George Learns The Alphabet by H. A. Rey
  9. Bumble Bugs and Elephants by Margaret Wise Brown
  10. Hello Baby! by Mem Fox
  11. Who’s Hiding? by Satoru Onishi
  12. One More River by Joan Paley
  13. Jorge El Curioso y El Conejito translated by Yanitzia Canetti
  14. World of Animals – Big And Little by Jane Brierly
  15. World of Animals – Water Adventures by Jane Brierly
  16. World of Animals – Big Cats by Jane Brierly

I also want to mention the bedroom books that Rocket can’t get enough of lately.

His current FAVORITE BOOK IN THE WHOLE WORLD is a silly one called Daddy’s Scratchy Face, a book all about beards. He likes running his fingers through Dad’s shaggy beard as they read it together. He also feels how soft Mom’s face is in comparison… and his own!

Below are his current favorite books with affiliate links to Amazon for your convenience. I only post affiliate links for our absolute favorite and Rocket-approved materials.

  1. Daddy’s Scratchy Face by Edith Kunhardt
  2. Noodle Loves The Zoo by Marion Billet
  3. Noodle Loves The Farm by Marion Billet
  4. Please and Thank You by Little Scholastic
  5. Peek-A-Who? by Nina Laden
  6. Things That Go by Sterling Children’s Books
  7. Splash! by Roberta Grobel Intrater


Arts & Crafts



Is this not the most colorful ostrich you’ve ever seen?

The invitation began like this:


I freehand cut out the shape of an ostrich, covered it in double-sided tape, and set a bowl of craft feathers next to it. Then I walked Rocket to it and told him to give the ostrich some feathers!


He was very particular about which color went where.


When he was done placing all the feathers, he took them off and put them on all over again! It’s the process that counts, not the product.


At times, he gently ran his fingers through the feathers just to feel their softness. A wonderful sensory experience!



And at other times, he threw them wildly into the air to make it rain feathers!



As a secondary craft, I printed out maps of Africa and let the kids decorate them with stickers of African animals. They also cut and pasted pictures of African animals from the free printables on 1+1+1=1.

arts and crafts


What else did we do?


1. Field Trip To The Zoo.

We saw a myriad of African animals at the zoo this week. Elephants, camels, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, bongos, East African crowned cranes, addax antelopes, and gazelles! All the animals from Africa are tucked together on one side of the zoo, making it conveniently easy for us to focus on them durring our visit.

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This exhibit included one elephant from Africa and another from Asia.

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Entranced by the camel.

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Admiring the neat addax horns.

We’ve passed these viewing binocular machines numerous times in our former visits to the zoo, but haven’t ever tried them before. This time, Rocket saw an older child using one and his curiosity peaked, so I let him take a close-up look at the giraffes. He loved it!

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He wanted to look again after we were done.

When the giraffes decided to go inside, we followed them!

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A bit of a height difference between these two, eh?

And how many little boys get to ride a rhino for African animal week? This one did. A pretend rhino, anyway!

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2. Train Ride At The Zoo.

The train is finally open at the zoo!

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Part of the fun was waiting in line, where Rocket met a very friendly kid who was showing him his new animal train toy he’d just gotten at the gift shop.

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The kid was also super impressed with Rocket’s robot shirt!

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After spending some time with his line neighbor, the choo-choo train came around for us to board!

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Riding through the painted tunnel.

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Rocket pointing at the different sites as the train took us around the zoo.

3. Tot Notebook.

Rocket asked for his binder a few times throughout the week. I love the concept of a tot notebook because the sheets can be reused over and over again. That means I only have to print the pages once!

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3. Friends In The Schoolroom.

It was such a special treat having three delightful girls to share in with some of our activities this week. I already posted a few pictures above of them participating, but I also want to share some of my other favorite moments from their visit!

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Playing with the phones together. (We use the remote control as a pretend phone and it actually doesn’t have a coordinating appliance!)

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Rocket sharing toys with the baby.

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I guess Rocket decided the baby needed to be cooled down. Here he was fanning her!

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Costume time! Rocket wasn’t as into this as the girls were. Go figure!

4. Independence Day.

On the 4th of July, we had our own miniature fireworks show.

The highlight for Rocket was definitely the sparklers!

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Sparklers in the day time.

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Sparklers at night.

5. Naming African Animals.

We used stuffed animals to review our African animal vocabulary words.

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Seeing how many animals he could hug at the same time!

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Hippos and ostriches and lions, oh my!

6. Walking The Pillow Plank.

This was a sporadic idea that kept my little man entertained for a loooong time.

I lined up pillows from our couch onto the floor and we played an old childhood game: DON’T FALL INTO THE LAVA!

We walked back and forth on the pillows, the goal being not to touch the floor. At first, I held his hand and we went across together. When I got tired, he kept going on his own. When he got tired, he started crawling back and forth instead of running! It successfully wore him out.

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And when he got tired of crawling back and forth, he sat his butt down on a cushion and started singing the ABCs. Ha!

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8. Vocabulary Magnet Play.

Week after week, I post photos of our magnet sets before Rocket discovers them. This time, I want to give you a more realistic look at what our refrigerator looks like all week.

He likes to throw them onto the floor and then put them back onto the fridge one by one as I name the pieces for him. He recites the ones he already knows.

Many weeks, a piece or two wind up missing and being found later on in random places!


7. Oval Shape Play.

Our shape of the week was an oval, so his learning materials were presented in this oval-shaped bowl.


For the shapes he knows, I asked him where they were. He eagerly picked them up to show me.

For the shapes he doesn’t know yet, I picked them up and told him what they’re called. He grabbed them from me and repeated the names.


A star!

And then he started pretending that each shape was a phone. Silly boy!

0278. Exploring Maps.

I mentioned above that one of our arts and crafts projects involved a map of Africa that was decorated with animal stickers. However, a map standing on its own can be a difficult concept to grasp. So I pulled up a world map to show Rocket where we are in the world relative to where Africa is.


And since Auntie Michelle is visiting from New York, I took out a United States puzzle to show him where she lives in relation to where we live.


I’d like to get a world map poster for the schoolroom soon!




Our song of the week was this cute National Geographic African Animal Alphabet I found on YouTube:

But the most memorable musical moment of the week was definitely when our schoolroom exploded with the creative gusto of a four-member band!

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Even the baby had an instrument!


Videos & Technology


When Auntie Michelle is in town, Rocket gets to spend more time with technology than usual.

Not only did we watch about every version of “The Wheels On The Bus” we could find on YouTube, but Auntie Michelle has some apps on her phone she’d downloaded just for Rocket.

With all that plus electronic drums, phones, and remote control cars, it was quite the tech-savvy week for Rocket!


Mom’s Favorite Moments


Dad & Rocket dealt with the summer heat the best way they know how: by splashing around in the water!

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We swung by the university for my sister to fill out paperwork to complete her degree. Rocket took it upon himself to do his own important paperwork!


Rocket got a very special gift this week from two very special people in his life: Auntie Michelle & Uncle Jon. They bought him his very own Bubble Mower, a toy that combines two things that he absolutely adores!

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I feel honored that my Net Week post was featured on 1+1+1=1. Be sure to check out that fantastic website and the following link-ups for other fabulous tot school ideas:


See Vanessa Craft

Rainy Day Mum

Mom To 2 Posh Lil Divas (link-up will resume in August)

No Time For Flash Cards

Living Montessori Now

The Jenny Evolution

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth July 23, 2013 at 10:49 pm



AIMEE MACK September 21, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Looking forward to reading more. Great blog post.Really thank you! Great.


Liana November 20, 2013 at 9:51 am

The Tale of Two Homeschool Rooms Not Consumed This family had a tdairtional school like classroom in their old house and transitioned to a more inclusive style in their new house. a0She shares excellent organizational tools and ideas for both room styles. a0I love her idea for magazine files.


Clarissa Chan December 27, 2013 at 6:19 am

I absolutely love your blog and all your posts! Keep up the great work!


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