Tot School: Star Theme

by Melanie on October 9, 2013

23 Months Old

Star Craft

It was so nice to finally implement our long-awaited star theme!

Since moving into the new house, our schedule had been terribly off as we were busy getting accustomed to the new environment (and as we worked on putting it all in order). The storage system in the new schoolroom is still not ideal yet, but everything is in place enough to put it to use. So we finally got to reestablish our tot school routine, much to the pleasure of both Rocket and me. Life just goes so much more smoothly with tot school to engage him.

The star theme has been a fun one and has involved a lot of sky gazing and night walks. It came just in time- we live much further out now and have a noticeably clearer view of the sky than before. Some nights were cloudy and we didn’t get much of a view of anything except for the moon, but other nights we counted stars until we lost track… and then we started all over again.

Letter: Ss

Object: Star

Vocabulary Development Theme: Solar System & Space

Shape: Star

Star Theme Tot Trays


Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

From left to right, top to bottom: 1. Letter Ss Printables, 2. Foam Stars Push-In, 3. Solar System Mystery Bag, 4. Star Balloons, 5. Sight & Sound Discovery Bottles, & 6. Sparkly Pom-Pom Sorting

We are aiming at exposing the following skills with these trays:

  1. Letter Ss Printables (Ss recognition/vocabulary exposure/using writing utensils)
  2. Foam Stars Push-In (fine motor skills/color recognition)
  3. Solar System Mystery Bag (sensory exploration/planet recognition)
  4. Star Balloons (learning how things work)
  5. Sight & Sound Discovery Bottles (letter recognition/sensory exploration/musical play)
  6. Sparkly Pom-Pom Sorting (sorting/color recognition/counting)

Discovery bottles are an awesome idea that have been circulating in the Internet community of early learning blogs for as long as I’ve been reading them. They allow for exciting sensory play for toddlers and babies and I’ve been creating them for Rocket since he was just a wee one. However, as he’s grown into toddler-hood, I totally forgot about them until we went to the Kentucky Science Center last month and their discovery bottle collection reminded me of what great entertainment they are.

I was inspired to make a tray of Sight & Sound Discovery Bottles, one for each sense. Rocket enjoyed playing with them, and I’ve included photos in the Star Activities & Other Fun Things section below of something new he had fun doing with discovery bottles- creating them!

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

Discovery bottle full of jingle bells. The one was the little musician’s favorite!

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

The sight discovery bottle included alphabet beads, glitter, star confetti, and water.

I had an ulterior motive in making the tray of Star Balloons. Rocket will be having his 2nd birthday soon and I knew I’d be able to recycle these balloons for his party. As always, he loved watching the process of blowing up- and especially- releasing the balloons!

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

Holding the balloon.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

Counting stars.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

He gave blowing balloons a try himself, but doesn’t have the lung strength for it yet!

I could really tell he missed the writing portion of tot school by how often he requested the Letter Ss Printables. He worked on numbers, colors, and several other sheets. He has improved greatly in his recognition of these objects since our rainforest theme and is also gaining impressive control to color within the lines of small spaces.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

He colored the numbers as I called them.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

He swiped each star with the matching color crayon.

This will be the third theme in a row that we’ve done some form of a push-in tray. It began with the Deck of Cards Push-In for our queen theme, moved on to the Rainforest Frogs Push-In for our rainforest theme, and this time we did a Foam Stars Push-In. He worked on the tray some. The joy in recycling ideas with new materials is that it’s still different, even though the skill being honed is the same.

He did lose enough interest for me to decide to take a break from this tray idea for our next theme, just to keep things fresh.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

We worked on colors as he pushed the stars into the container.

I’ve been wanting to get some kind of model of the solar system for the schoolroom since Rocket shows interest in the sky and its celestial bodies, so I treated ourselves to this set for our star theme: Glow In The Dark Planet And Stars.

Before hanging it from the ceiling, I decided to use it for our trays by making a Solar System Mystery Bag. I put all the planets into a cloth sun & moon bag we already had and let him explore them one at a time, explaining to him some of the characteristics of each planet as he pulled them out.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

Exploring the mystery bag.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

Adding Earth and the sun to his bucket.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

After talking about each planet or the sun, he reached in for something new.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

We also brought our solar system bucket out to the hallway on a different day.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

Learning about the spectacular rings of Saturn.

For the Sparkly Pom-Pom Sorting, he filled a vitamin container up with pom-poms while naming their colors as he put them in.

Rainforest Theme Tot Trays

Naming the colors as he filled the container.


Star Theme Sensory Tub


Rainforest Theme Sensory Tub

Sensory Tub Filler Material:

  • Black beans, to represent the black sky

Sensory Tub Featured Items:

  • Sparkly pom-poms, to represent planets
  • Sparkly foam stars

Sensory Tub Exploratory Tools:

Rainforest Theme Sensory Tub

  • Brown bowl
  • Soup spoon
  • Dinosaur grabber
  • Black tongs

I kept this sensory tub fairly simple. But simple works wonders for kids!

With our big move as a temporary block to our routine, he missed the sensory tub play and gravitated right to it as soon as I opened the schoolroom door on our first day. I could see a definite improvement in his fine motor skills as he used the tools; he has grown up a lot since our first sensory tub, and even some since our last one!

Rainforest Theme Sensory Tub

Transferring black beans with the tongs.

Rainforest Theme Sensory Tub

Transferring black beans with the soup spoon.

Rainforest Theme Sensory Tub

Hard at work transferring beans and stars.


Tot School Toys


We had cousins in town for our uncle’s funeral, so there were plenty of toys out in addition to the normal tot school materials. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take many photos of Rocket playing with his sweet 3 year old cousin or giving the 7 month old baby kisses!

They had a blast playing with cars, balls, and of course, books.


Star Books & Current Reading List


Star Books

Most of the books on the shelf for our star theme were too advanced for his age to read straight through, but I used them to teach him about the planets with photos. One of his favorite Spin-A-Books, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, was also on our reading list, although that one isn’t pictured above.

Star Books:

    1. Moon by Steve Tomecek
    2. Asteroids, Comets, And Meteors by Robin Kerrod
    3. Star Climbing by Lou Fancher
    4. The Planets by Gail Gibbons
    5. Moon by Melanie Mitchell
    6. Mouse And The Moon by M. Christina Butler & Tina Macnaughton
    7. Planets by Penelope Arlon & Tony Gordon-Harris
    8. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Playmore, Inc.


Star Craft


Star Craft 2

The first craft was a simple one: Rocket made a black sky filled with stars.

The invitation he walked in on looked like this:

Star Craft 2

It included black construction paper, two different types of star stickers, and white crayons.

He chose to start by coloring on the black paper with the white crayon.

Star Craft 2

He thought it was neat to color with white for a change.

I set the stars up on the edge of the tray so that he could choose which one to place on the paper himself. You can see them lined on the edge of the tray in the photo below.

Star Craft 2

He also named the color of the star as he selected it to place on the paper.

Secondary Craft:

Our secondary craft involved decorating a lovely wooden star-shaped photo frame that I found at Wal-Mart for $1!

Star Craft 1  (1)

The invitation was set up like this:

Star Craft

It included a card that pictured several babies which we’d received when Rocket was born, a tube of paste, a bowl of golden star confetti, and a container of colorful glitter shakers.

I started by asking Rocket to choose any of the babies on the card for me to cut out and put in the frame.

Star Craft

After he made his choice, he waited as I cut out the picture and secured it into the frame.

Next, I asked him to put paste on the entire front of the wooden frame (other than where the screen and picture were).

Star Craft

He loves to paste! I helped him with this part to make sure it was coated liberally.

Then, I let him choose the colors of glitter he wanted and opened the shakers for him to sprinkle over the photo frame.

Star Craft

He started with green, but chose every single tube at least once!

The last step involved putting golden star confetti on the frame where ever he wanted.

Star Craft

Adding the final touches to the photo frame.

When he was done, I secured a magnet to the back of the frame and let him put it on the refrigerator next to the star themed magnet set. It’s still on our fridge right now!

Star Activities

Rocket’s star magnet.


Star Activities & Other Fun Things


1. Making Discovery Bottles.

You already know that we had discovery bottles on a tray for our star theme. I’ve enjoyed making sensory tools like this for Rocket since he was a baby, but it was so cool making them for him now that he’s old enough to… well, make them himself!

We started with the sound discovery bottle.

Star Activities (2)

He carefully placed each jingle bell in the bag inside of the bottle.

 Star Activities

He thoroughly enjoyed testing the bottle after I closed the cap. It works!

Later on, we worked on the sight bottle.

Star Activities

He started by putting the alphabet beads in the bottle one at a time. As I handed them to him, I named the letter and he repeated it.

Star Activities

Then, he added gold star confetti until he decided it was enough.

Star Activities

Lastly, he chose the glitter colors to add to the bottle. I helped him shake them in due to how narrow to lid was.

I filled the bottle up with water, closed the lid, and we were done!

2. Water Sensory Play.

We also enjoyed some good water play for the first time at the new house. I’m not sure how much more we will get a chance to do this before the winter weather rolls in.

Star Activities

Playing with water.

3. Lacing Star.

It had been so long since he worked on lacing that he was immediately drawn to it.

Star Activities

We also worked on letter Ss recognition using the star lacing card from the 1+1+1=1 printables.

4. Star Shape Play.

We have had a star as our shape of the week before, but how could we do anything different for a STAR theme? So our shape was the star again!

Of course, we continued working on all the shapes that he found within the cardboard star container. His recognition of shapes has improved tremendously through these shape play activities, also created using the 1+1+1=1 tot school printables. I highly recommend them!

Star Activities (10)

Digging into the shapes.

Star Activities (11)

He names the shapes he knows as he pulls them out of the box.

5. Car Book Track.

These photos are actually from our old house, where I had begun our star theme before deciding to postpone it until after the move. Dad & Rocket discovered an alternative use of the solar system books I’d put on the shelf!

Star Activities (13)

They lined all the books up in a row to make a track for the cars.

Star Activities (12)

You know those cars that go forward after being wound backwards first? Those are the ones these boys used to test out their book track!

Star Activities (14)

There goes the blur of a car! The object was to keep it on the track all the way to the end without going off the edge. Scott actually got real into this game and so did Rocket. His big job was to guide Dad with a “Ready? Go!” and to bring the car back once it reached the end.

6. Spinning Tops.

And yet another use for books… SPINNING TOPS!

Star Activities

Getting his finger as close to the top as possible without touching it as it spun.

Star Activities

Watching the top spin from a different angle.

Star Activities

He could do this forever!

7. Finding Bugs.

There was a lot of bug identification happening last week in tot school!

First, we found this grasshopper:

Star Activities

Star Activities

Rocket was not afraid to get close.

Then, we spotted this big, yellow, fuzzy caterpillar at a friend’s birthday party.

Star Activities (25)

Star Activities

Again, he got right up on it!

We also played with some worms that surfaced after it rained, though I didn’t getting any pictures of that.

8. Building Shelves With Dad.

With all this recent moving, Dad has been doing some serious handyman stuff around the house to make things more livable for us. Rocket was his right-hand man when he built shelves in the bedroom closet!

Star Activities

“What are you doing, Daddy?” He asked. This is one of his favorite questions!

Star Activities

Dad showed him how the leveler works.

Star Activities

He sat quietly next to Dad as he worked… briefly. Haha!

Star Activities

They admired the finished shelves when Dad was done.

9. Vocabulary Magnet Play.

It was nice to have some vocabulary magnets back on the fridge again! We work on these words throughout the day, as I do the cleaning and cooking in the kitchen.

Star Activities

Looking at the solar system magnet.

10. Star Gazing.

As I mentioned already, we did plenty of star gazing. I didn’t get any pictures of this, as it was too dark, but I did snap this cloudy one of the moon:

Mom's Favorite Moments

We also talked about the different phases of the moon and had ample time to watch it change since the star theme technically began over a month ago, when we were still living at the old house!


Song Of The Week & Music Time


What other song of the week could we have but “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”?

Rocket also got tons of music time with his instruments at home… and had the time of his life when our church drummer let him pound on the big boy set!

Music (1)

Rocket has developed good rhythm in all his music practice with Dad.


His love for the drum set made me wish we could get him one of his own. One day!


Technology Time


We didn’t do anything star-specific for the theme, but Rocket did get a tour of Grandma’s phone pictures while she was in town.

Technology (1)

Happy to share this tech moment with Grandma.


Grandma pointing at the screen.


Rocket pointing.


Mom’s Favorite Moments


 Mom's Favorite Moments (1)

He made a friend at the mall!

Mom's Favorite Moments

Basking in a sink bath with his toys.

Mom's Favorite Moments

Checking out his friend’s new birthday gift.

Mom's Favorite Moments

Learning how to play tee ball at his friend’s birthday party.

Mom's Favorite Moments

Lounging on the big boy chair.

Mom's Favorite Moments

Oooh faces with Dad!

Mom's Favorite Moments

Sleeping with Dad.

Mom's Favorite Moments

Reading the new signing book Grandma gave him.

Mom's Favorite Moments

Signing “ball.”

Mom's Favorite Moments

Signing “hat.”

Mom's Favorite Moments

After the funeral, he fell asleep before we could change him.


More Tot School Resources


Check out these link-ups for more tot school inspiration:


Rainy Day Mum

Mom To 2 Posh Lil Divas

No Time For Flash Cards

Living Montessori Now

True Aim Education

The Educators’ Spin On It

A Mama’s Story

Hip Homeschool Moms

Crystal & Co.

Mama To 5 Blessings

Deep Roots At Home

Adventures In Mommydom

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kirstylee October 10, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I love that you put those star stickers on the edge of the tray so your son could do the tray all by himself. I’ll definitely have to try that next time we use stickers on a tot tray.


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