I was looking out for an Oceans themed book for my son to read, and came across this wonderful 3D Pop Up book named 3D Wild Ocean. My son loved it, he loses his mind when he sees the book, literally! There are small information snippets which he likes for me to read and then he points to the fish I read about. I introduced him to 10 types of different fish with pictures and facts, thanks to this beautiful book!

My husband always lends a helping hand for all the activities that I do with my son. And field trip is completely his department. This time he took our son Shaunak to a local aquarium shop is Hyderabad. Shaunak was stunned to look at hundreds of Gold fish. The shopkeeper showed him bottles of fish food and different types of fish, some of them were Gold fish, Angel fish, catfish etc. We are vegetarians and know very little (Or rather, we don't know anything at all!) about the fish types. Such study related field trips helps children connect better with the topic. They are great learning experiences.

Open-ended play = play with no rules = child-driven play!

Examples of closed-ended materials would be single-use toys like cars or puzzles, where a finished product is expected or an outcome is per-determined.  All I did was choose and provide Shaunak with some open-ended materials for play. We had played a lot with sand and a lot with play dough, so I made some sand play dough for him using material at hand. First day he designed make-believe island with sand-dough, shells and marbles. Next day he rolled out flat breads out of sand-dough, and served us for lunch along with marbles curry and shells as spoons. Third day, made castle out of it and used shells as flags. Just imagine the power of these open-ended materials!

An open-ended play can give child a powerful learning experience. No rules to follow, no expectations and no problems to solve. Open-ended play materials possess limitless possibilities and have multiple uses. See your child design make-believe things or pretend play or just cook up stories around these materials!
Open ended play encourages creativity. It is important for a child to communicate through the senses using touch and texture.

Open-ended play encourages a child to use his imagination. Though adults should not control the play, supervision is must!

Ideal for ages: 1 year +

All you need is:

1. Sand-dough (for recipe scroll down)
2. Shells
3. Glass marbles
4. Laminated ocean-themed pictures
5. Blue or green play dough (optional)
7. Various creative bits like popsicle sticks, tiny fish toys, etc.

I made a simple setup for my son, by arranging materials in plates and recycled cardboard to place his creation (if he wants to). He was little amused to see all the material. When I asked him what he wants to make today, he said- 'Island'!

He first took the sand-dough and placed it onto the cardboard piece in shape of round island. Then he said I want to decorate it. He then placed glass marbles onto the sand-dough, almost pierced them inside. Then placed the laminated pictures, little toys and shells onto the island and used the blue play dough to create beach waves crashing onto the island shore.

Recipe for home made sand dough:

1. 1 cup of fine beach sand
2. 1 and 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
3. 1/4 cup of salt
4. 1 tablespoon oil (coconut or cooking oil)
5. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
6. 1/2 cup boiling water

Except water, mix all the above ingredients in a large pan or bowl.  Add the boiling water and mix well.  Let it cool and be warm. Knead it to play dough consistency, add more boiling water if required. Let it cool completely. Store it in an airtight container.

I tried engaging him as he created the island, by asking “What is it that you're making?" or "Where is the star fish?" or "Is the Octopus smiling?". I tried to encourage him to be more creative and insightful!

Learning Opportunities:

1. Child can use his creativity and develop imagination

2. Learning without pressure

3. Sensorial activity

4. Understanding new objects and textures

5. Language development

6. Fun!

Children like to move at their own pace and so this kind of play allows them to be calm and take no pressure.

I have a pretty good collection of Seashells which I used to create an Ocean themed matching activity for Shaunak and enhance the sensory experience. This activity involves color, texture and pattern matching and has great cognitive benefits. If this kind of activity is done repeatedly, it helps sharpen concentration, fine motor control and coordination. Quick and easy setup too! Download free printable (link below).

This activity can help develop memory skills and understand basic concepts, such as, matching, discrimination and same/different. Use common objects, like the shells I used, to develop object identification. Interact with children about the names and types of the shells.

Ideal age: 1 year +

All you need is:

1. Shells of various types
2. Printable for matching the shells

I arranged the printable and shells in a tray. Made him sit comfortably and gave him a brief of how it is to be done. He surprised me by completing the activity in a minute's time. I thought either he wouldn't be able to do it or will not be able to match about 2-3 shells. But he did it! So quickly! I realized I need to increase the level of difficulty henceforth. He kind of threw an open challenge to me!

Shaunak liked the activity so very much that he did it repeatedly. It also helped me adding new words to his vocabulary- the names and types of the shells.

Watch the video below to see Shaunak in action.

Download free printable here: Seashells Matching Activity Printable

Learning opportunities:

1. Concentration and problem solving

2. Matching, sorting and classifying

3. Vocabulary development

4. Fine motor skills

5. Hand-eye co-ordination

6. Colors, textures and patterns

7. Cognitive development

Shaunak is gravitated towards water and so 'Oceans' was the perfect theme for us to start with! I believe in sensory play for brain development and so want Shaunak to experience different kinds of materials and textures. Here is a bizzaro sensorial play activity- Ocean Explore in Sticky Soapy Foam! It will leave your kids curious and interested and most importantly, constructively busy for a good one hour! Making the ocean foam is easy and material we have on hand! That sounds like a win-win!

Ideal for age: 18 months +

Not recommended for children with sensitive skin.

All you need is:

1. A plastic or fiber tray
2. Ocean creatures, shells, glass marbles
3. 2 tbsp Cornflour
4. 4 tbsp Dish washing soap
5. Blue and Green Watercolor tubes
6. Water
7. Hand blender
8. A plastic mat to save the floor (if you're doing it inside the house)

Take the tray and add water (I added around 2 ltrs, you can add more too). To this, add cornflour, dish washing soap and watercolors and create a a cloud of bubbles with hand blender. It creates soapy sticky foam. Put the tray on the plastic mat. In a plate arrange ocean themed creatures, shells and marbles and then invite your child to have a time of his life!

Shaunak was super excited to see me myself giving him what he ultimately wants in his life, water, bubbles and play! I asked him to first hide all the shells and creatures inside the foam and then start exploring it. I love when he smiles from the heart! He started pretending to be diving into the ocean and said yaay after finding every little bit.

He scooped and swirled the foam and cooked up stories about fishes and mermaids. This activity offered a great playtime plus learning!

Learning opportunities:

1. Sensory skills

2. Hand-eye coordination

3. Language development

4. Fine motor skills

Here is a quick DIY activity for developing fine motor skills. I promise your kids will fall in love with it! Water play + fishing= FUN! It needs minimal preparation.

Ideal work for ages: 18 mo+

All you need is:

1. Stick to make the fishing pole

2. Colorful Pipecleaners

3. A large bucket or a tub filled with water.


1. To make the fish, take one pipe cleaner and bend it at around one third length, form an oval like shape and twist it. They need to be big enough for the hook to go through. Now hold the longer end and bend it in half and now twist the two ends together to lock it like a fish tail. Ta-Da! Your fish is ready! Make 6-7 fish in various color.

2. To make the fishing pole, go around your house and find a wooden or plastic stick. Take a pipe cleaner and tie one end to the stick by twisting it. At the other end, bend it to approx two inches to make it work like a hook.

3. To do the activity, let your child put the pipe cleaner fish in the bucket with water. Let him hold the stick with the pipe cleaner hook and go fishingggg!

As we did this activity, we talked about the colors of the fish in the bucket and names of different types of fish. There was also a lot of water splashing and smiles, because water play rocks!

Learning opportunities:

1. Fine motor skills development

2. Sensorial development

3. Practical life skills

4. Scope for communication

As always, the possibilities are endless!

During this month- June 2016, we are following Oceans and Sea Life theme and doing all our activities around this theme.

This is the very first month I have set up activities around a theme. I started with Oceans because my son was born in Goa (Goa is a small and a beautiful state in India) and it is known for its beautiful beaches. Moreover, my son is gravitated towards water and water related activities. So thought this would be the perfect theme to start with!

This is a very simple Montessori- inspired Practical Life Activity. My 3 year old had fun during this activity as he got to play with the soapy water, little did he know he was actually strengthening his palm muscles. This is a fine motor activity as well as sensorial activity.

The washing and cleaning activities help making kids to be hygiene-ready. It instills a thought in their mind to keep things clean and neat.

Ideal work for ages: 18 mo+

All you need is:

1. Plastic tub or tray, one for soapy water and one for clean water

2. Seashells

3. Shaving cream

4. A small toothbrush

5. Towel

6. Water

I poured some water in the bigger tray and immersed the shells into it. Handed over the brush to him and put a big dollop of shaving foam. He used the foam to clean the shells. Later he dipped them into the plastic tray which had clean water and scrubbed them. Last step is to pat the shells dry on a towel.

I made sure he feels that he is doing an important work. I told him that the shells are dirty and need a wash. And he did the activity over and over again until I called the day.

Learning opportunities:

1. Fine motor skills development

2. Sensorial development

3. Practical life skills

4. Hygiene knowledge

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