Tot School: Volcano Theme

by Melanie on December 13, 2013

25 Months Old

Volcano Activites

We had a BLAST for our volcano theme… harharhar!

This past week, Rocket learned so much about volcanoes, other natural landforms, and bodies of water on our planet. I used books and videos to introduce him to the ones that he hasn’t seen in person.

The highlight of our schoolroom activities was definitely the one pictured above, where we made our own volcano out of clay. More details on what we did below.

Outside the schoolroom was just as fun-filled. We had our first real snow, the kind that leaves the ground a white shimmery blanket. This means we got to explore hills… from a sled! The cold weather didn’t stop us from outdoor play… in fact, it did just the opposite and pulled us out of our comfortable, cozy house to explore. The week was filled with snowmen, snowball fights, and sledding. My Montana-born son sure does love cold weather!

Letter: Vv

Object: Volcano

Vocabulary Development Theme: Landforms


Volcano Theme Tot Trays


Volcano Theme

From left to right, top to bottom: 1. Don’t Break The Ice Game, 2. Rocks & Gems Examination, 3. Crystals & Shells Tonging, 4. Letter Vv Printables, 5. Shapes Puzzle, 6. Melissa & Doug Primary Lacing Beads, & 7. Pond Water Transfer

These trays were designed to expose the following skills:

  1. Don’t Break The Ice Game (hand-eye coordination)
  2. Rocks & Gems Examination (spooning/using a magnifying glass/rocks & gems examination)
  3. Crystals & Shells Tonging (tonging/crystals & shells examination)
  4. Letter Vv Printables (Vv recognition/vocabulary exposure/using writing utensils)
  5. Shapes Puzzle (matching/shape recognition)
  6. Melissa & Doug Primary Lacing Beads (stringing)
  7. Pond Water Transfer (transferring)

Our Crystals & Shells Tonging tray was a simple activity designed to incorporate natural elements found in some of the landforms we were studying. It included a container with various crystals, large rocks, and seashells, a pair of tongs, and a plate on which to transfer them.

Volcano Theme

We talked about these natural objects- and where they could be found- as he tonged them from point A to point B.

Volcano Theme

Happily transferring a crystal onto the plate.

I have a collection of small rocks and gems that I wanted to use somehow for this theme. I gathered them together is a green bowl and added a measuring spoon and a plate for transferring. I topped this Rocks & Gems Examination tray off with a magnifying glass for him to take a closer look once they were spread out on the plate.

Volcano Theme

Spooning rocks & gems.

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A closer look.

We’ve been skipping the 1+1+1=1 printables for our last couple of themes, but I decided to print them out again for this one. The Letter Vv Printables engaged him some, but overall he still seems to prefer writing and drawing on blank sheets with ordinary ink pens right now. I think it makes him feel more grown-up because he sees me jotting on blank paper all the time!

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Scribbling on the volcanoes.

Volcano Theme

We talked about volcanoes as he worked on these sheets.

Volcano Theme

He did wind up using all of the printables throughout the week!

Our theme included bodies of water too, so I set up a mock pond with the Pond Water Transfer tray. The “pond” was a brown bowl with grass, rubber duckies, plastic frogs, and water. I included a separate container in which he could transfer the water.

I set everything into a large bin to catch fallen water and let him try a new transfer tool: a turkey baster! He was quick to learn how it works.

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Transferring water with the turkey baster.

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Pouring the water back into the pond.

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When he filled the cup, he transferred it back into the bowl with the turkey baster again.

  The Melissa & Doug Primary Lacing Beads were a gift for Rocket’s 2nd birthday. I always ask for skill-building toys and open-ended manipulatives that can be used in various ways, and through a wide range of ages. He enjoyed using the shoestrings to lace the large beads and he named the colors as he worked on it.

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Lacing a yellow bead.

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Lacing a green bead.

The Don’t Break The Ice Board Game has been a major favorite in this house lately! I put it on a tray for this theme and it was probably his most requested tray all week. I highly, highly recommend this board game for toddlers! It is inexpensive, durable, engaging, and teaches them how to play structured games with simple rules at a very young age.

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He loved banging on the ice!

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He had to concentrate on being gentle and careful in order to get one piece out without knocking off entire rows.

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Trying to decide which hammer to use and which one to give Mom. Important decisions!


Volcano Theme Sensory Tub


Volcano Theme Sensory Tub

Sensory Tub Filler Material:

  • Homemade Play Dough (we added water in these pictures to turn it into “mud”, but it was dry at first)

Sensory Tub Featured Items:

  • Plastic grass
  • A large crystal

Sensory Tub Exploratory Tools:

  • Hands

The idea of this sensory tub was not to play with already existing constructs so much as to create our own landforms with our hands. I only got one picture of him in action on this tub… then I was in there with him, getting my hands dirty as we built geysers, mountains, volcanoes, and more!

Volcano Theme Sensory Tub

Homemade play dough is very cheap and simple to make. Learn the recipe in the volcano activity below!


Tot School Toys


Tot School Toys

We got one of those basketball hoops that hang on doors and I found that it fits perfectly in our school supply drawer, where he can reach it. He’s been playing ball throughout the week!


Volcano Books & Current Reading List


Volcano Books

We flipped through our volcano books throughout the week and talked about different landforms and bodies of water found on this planet.

Volcano Books:

      1. Volcanoes & Earthquakes by Ken Rubin
      2. Mountains- The Tops Of The World by Daniel L. Hanson
      3. Landforms by Dana Meachen Rau
      4. Volcanoes by Jennifer Nault
      5. The Wonders Of A Waterfall by Allan Fowler
      6. Louisville From A To Z by Liz Pumbaugh Martin & Monte Edward Martin
      7. Oceans by Johnna Rizzo
      8. Everything Goes By Sea by Brian Biggs
      9. Beach Day by Patricia Lakin


Volcano Craft


Volcano Craft

I love the way our volcano craft turned out! Doing crafts and other art projects with Rocket is one of my favorite things about tot school. There is something so special about encouraging creativity in toddlers and honing that imaginative side of their brains.

The invitation was set up like this:

Volcano Craft

It included yellow construction paper, a brown cut-out of a volcano shape (I ran out of brown construction paper, so I just colored this shape brown with a crayon), paste, a red marker, an orange dotter marker, and red glitter.

First, Rocket slathered the back of the volcano with paste so that it would stick to the yellow background paper.

Volcano Craft

Pasting the back of the volcano. I had originally tried to color it brown with marker before deciding to turn it around and use a crayon instead!

Next, he used a red marker to draw some lava spilling out of the top.

Volcano Craft

Drawing lava. You can see one of our volcano books next to him, which he was using as a reference for drawing the lava.

The dotter marker added more to the fiery lava look.

Volcano Craft

Adding orange to the lava with a Bingo dotter.

He then smeared paste onto the volcano so that his last touch, the glitter, would stick.

Volcano Craft

Using paste.

And finally, he sprinkled the red glitter over the entire portrait the give the lava some shine.

Volcano Craft

Finishing up his volcano picture with a dash of glitter.


  Volcano Activities & Other Fun Things


1. Vocabulary Magnet Play.

We haven’t been using the printables, so it’s been a while since we had a vocabulary-based magnet set on our refrigerator.

I made a set of magnets this week and while we did go over them, it didn’t hold his interest much. I haven’t decided for sure yet, but I may skip out on the printables for the rest of this alphabet unit since it isn’t appealing to him as much as it once was. It’s possible that it’s the subject matter though. He’s just not as excited about a theme on scenery as he might be on a theme about toys!

Volcano Activites

2. Making A Volcano.

And now, presenting our major volcano activity of the week!

I started by making homemade play dough to mold our volcano. The play dough is a recipe passed down from my mom. It’s a mixture of:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 4 teaspoons cream of tartar

I mixed the ingredients together with some red food coloring to give it an earthy tone and let it dry out for about 24 hours before making the volcano.

Then, I molded the volcano around a raisin tin we had lying around. An aluminum can would work just as well.

I added some plastic trees, grass, and a snake to give it a more realistic feel.

Volcano Activites

Everything we need for the eruption!

To make the volcano erupt, we poured in a cup with a mixture of vinegar, red food coloring, and soap, followed by baking soda wrapped in toilet paper.

Then we waited!

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Rocket pouring the first mixture for the eruption.

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Peering into the volcano and waiting for the reaction after dropping in the baking soda.

Then, BOOM!

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Here comes the lava!

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As you can see, Rocket was quite mesmerized by this process.

Volcano Activites

I’m glad I built the volcano on a large serving plate. Look at that lava!

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Taken aback by the explosion.

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Then, he wanted to touch it!

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Good thing this wasn’t real lava.

3. Tent Play.

My sister gave Rocket a fantastic gift: a tent. We set it up in the schoolroom and he played in it all week!

Volcano Activites

Happy in his tent.

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Some of our trays wound up in the tent too!

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Working on printables in his cozy environment.

4. Sledding Down Hills. 

The snow came just in time to explore the landform of hills for our theme.

This year was Rocket’s first time going sledding… and in one week, we managed to go 5 times!

Volcano Activites

Bundled up and ready to sled!

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Sledding with Dad.

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And of course, I had to get in on the action!

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He was laughing as Dad pulled him through the snow.

  Volcano Activites

“Ready, GO!” He hollered, tightly holding on to the rope.

5. Magnet Fishing (Guest Tot School Activity).

My good friend Carole invited us to her tot school this week. I just have to share this clever activity she had set up… Magnet Fishing!

Volcano Activites

It entailed a bin full of items that were either magnetic or weren’t. The tots fished around the bin using a magnetic pickup tool to learn about how magnetism works.

6. Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Board Game.

Another fun gift from my sister: The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game!

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I am all about board games for families, regardless of age. Adding a game night to the weekly routine is such a fantastic way to promote bonding between family members while building the brain and learning good sportsmanship. I’ll be writing a post on this blog about toddler-friendly board games that we love.

This one in particular is great for building many early developmental skills such as sorting, hand-eye coordination, matching, and fine motor skills.

Volcano Activites

Trying to find the right color acorn for his tree.

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Got one!

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Spinning the wheel.

7. Landforms On Maps.

We also studied our schoolroom wall map and map placemats as we talked about the locations of the world’s most well-known landforms. I didn’t get any photos of this activity, but we returned to it frequently throughout the week.

Rocket is really into maps right now, so this was a great opportunity to discuss our subject in line with his current interests. If your child is turned off from maps or any particular style of learning, I highly discourage you to push it on them- especially at this age. At this age, learning should always be fun! When they’re this young, we as educators are doing so much more than teaching facts. In fact, teaching facts is a secondary goal and not nearly as important as the primary goal.

The focus of “tot school” should be to develop a positive association with learning. Teach them to love learning by following their lead and interests, never by drilling information if they are frustrated. Once you’ve established that important foundation, the retention of facts and other knowledge will follow!

I want to point this out because not every child will be interested in writing or maps or whatever appeals to another child. It is important to pay attention to the specific needs of the individual child in order to create a learning environment that works best for them.


Song Of The Week & Music Time


Before I get into our song of the week, I want to share a musical moment we had together.

One day out of the blue, Rocket asked me if he could play a green drum.

“We don’t have a green drum.” I told him. He was so disappointed that I went on a hunt throughout the house until I found something that would work as a green drum! Then, he asked for a red drum and a cymbal. What a high maintenance musician, right?

Our red party platter tray became the drum and the pink plate became the cymbal.

I grabbed the hammers from the Don’t Break The Ice board game and voila! We had our makeshift drumset.

Volcano Activites

Playing his colorful drums.

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Playing FAST!

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And quietly now.

Our song of the week was this catchy jingle I found on YouTube called “The Volcano Song.”

The “Best of the Laurie Berkner Band” CD is also still played almost daily in this house. Rocket has most of the words memorized… and so does Dad!


Technology Time


I rented a couple of videos from the library. One was a collection of animated book stories called “Goodnight, Gorilla & More Great Sleepytime Stories”.  He loves the book Goodnight, Gorilla, so it was real special for him to see it on video!

I also rented “Reading Rainbow: Music, Music Everywhere”.  Watching the episodes on this DVD was a flashback for me! Of course with it being all about music, he loved it too.


Mom’s Favorite Moments


One day, Rocket and I woke up from our nap and Dad said he had a surprise for us. He brought us to the window and what did we see? A cute little snowman!

Volcano Activites

Good work, Dad!

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We ventured outside to take a closer look.

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Packing on some snow.

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The eyes were cranberries! They were eaten by a wild animal the next day, just like in our book Sadie And The Snowman.

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We built a snowman all together after this!

Rocket is usually pretty resistant to wearing coats and hoodies. He is such a cold-natured boy! But he was willing to get covered from head to toe if it meant we could go sledding.

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All decked out and ready to sled!


More Tot School Resources


Find more tot school inspiration at these fantastic link-ups:


No Time For Flash Cards

Living Montessori Now

True Aim Education

The Educators’ Spin On It

A Mama’s Story

Hip Homeschool Moms

Mama To 5 Blessings

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

NATALIE FRANCISCO January 15, 2014 at 10:24 am

I found so many interesting stuff in your blog. From the comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work.


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