Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Under the Sea for my in-home childcare


When the children have talked about the ocean, ocean animals, going to the beach, etc. each year around the same time I have brought out our under-the-sea manipulatives, filled the sensory bin with seashells, sea glass, rocks, and pretend ocean animals, get the hand and finger puppets out, etc. But after seeing some very creative ideas on Pinterest, that other people had done for their Vacation Bible School at their Church as well as my daughter and son-in-law building and painting some very awesome wooden props for a child's mermaid birthday party, I just knew I wanted to bring that creativity to life for the children here in my child care. 

Little by little I saved each idea that I was in love with and felt that I could accomplish. I went through my hoards of supplies to find any items that I could use to help me create this under-the-sea adventure. I was shocked at how many items I was able to refurbish and use. But then the longer I worked on making the props, and picturing how I wanted it to be, the deeper and deeper I went into how it had to turn out so that the children could not just enjoy the look of it, but to interact with it. 

I chose to order sea animal pool floats so that they would withstand the children wanting to sit, bounce, and pretend on them. And I knew that SAYING under the sea was not going to be as meaningful unless it FELT like UNDER the sea. So that is where making and hanging pretend jellyfish and strings of "bubbles" comes in. The bubbles were made using clear plastic ornaments that open up so you are able to fill them and tie them to fishing lines, the jellyfish was made from semi-clear huge commercial trash bags.  I was able to get him to hang them from the cable line which gave the depth needed to present the feeling of UNDER. Then I set up my photo backdrop stand and hung more strands of "bubbles" as well as the "seaweed" I had made from dollar tree tablecloths. I also had purchased plastic corrugated board seagulls from Oriental Trading Company that I hung on the lower branches of the tree and they hung higher than the bubbles, seaweed, and jellyfish. There are videos on YouTube that go step by step explaining how to make the jellyfish from trash bags and the seaweed from thin plastic tablecloths like the Dollar Tree ones. 

I watched every video and step-by-step tutorial I could on how to make a colorful coral reef using cans of insulating foam sealant and large wooden plant stakes, both purchased on Amazon. It took 3 cans of the sealant to make 18 different pieces and of course different colors of spray paint. I had a large arch I had made from pool noodles and used each year for St. Patrick's Day for the children to enter through, which I was ready to reuse for something else. So I took it apart and used the noodles to make different types of coral I had found on Pinterest with the wooden plant stakes. I literally did these whenever I was sitting and watching TV until I had used them all up. Then I saw an idea for using floral mesh to make sea plants that are colorful and beautiful. I found the best pricing at Michael's online, I already had floral wire, and medium wooden skewers for staking them into the ground. I needed all of my materials to be weatherproof due to my setup being in the backyard. This is why I did not make the ideas that used tissue paper and many more materials that would have been ruined with the first sprinkle of rain.

 I loved how so many people used clear balloons to make bubbles for their setups, but I knew that they would be a danger to the toddlers/preschoolers as they love to interact and touch the setups I do for them. So I lucked out and found inflatable small clear balls that came 12 to a set and they were perfect. They even withstood the children kicking them all over the yard. And I have already thought of several ways I can use these in other projects. (Right now I am in the process of wrapping them with foil wrapping paper to make them look like balls of candy for our Candyland theme.)

I used foam balls and toothpicks to make sea urchins then spray-painted them in bright colors. I cut foam balls in half and used cut-up pipe cleaners to make sea anemones. Because of the materials used, I was able to have a lot of these outside in the coral reef areas. Both of those ideas were from Pinterest. I also made jellyfish from paper lanterns, beaded necklaces from Oriental Trading Company, and these springy long strands of decorative stuff that I purchased in many colors from Dollar Tree. I saw versions of these on Pinterest but chose to go with my own design. And obviously, because of the paper lanterns, I could only use these for the interior decorating.

I have tons and tons of seashells from our beach trips, as well as the fact that he and I LOVE seafood and for years I soaked and scrubbed all of our stuffed scallops and stuffed clam shells and saved them. So these were used in several different areas for the children to explore. I also added seashells, rubber crabs, and sea turtles to both of our sandboxes. 

I set up a treasure hunt that took the children to 2 different treasures they were allowed to take home. They loved their big colorful plastic jewels and the metal doubloons I purchased on Amazon, as well as the tools I purchased to help with the hunt which were treasure maps, toy compasses, and monoculars/spy glasses. 

I purchased a set of large plastic sea creatures from Oriental Trading Company that consisted of 3 of each lobster, crab, sea horse, and starfish, and I had a couple fish nets that I laid out near the two large anchors he made for me from corrugated plastic boards and vinyl as well as some blue rope that I attached to the anchors. 

We had a lot of manipulatives inside that the children had full access to when and if they wanted, and sometimes they used them as they were intended, but mostly they used them in their way igniting their imaginations and taking them away to wherever they wanted.

A fun activity that I had been wanting to do with the children that I had seen many other child cares do online was making a pretend plastic mason jar fish aquarium. So we had to do it! The children chose their pretend plant and their pretend fish or turtle and I hot glued their plant to the inside bottom of their jars. Then the children poured their rocks into their jars and added their fish or turtle, then they poured in their light blue colored water and since the lids leaked even though I hot glued them, I had my guy take care of it for me, which he said he used a rubber ring and hot glue. 

I had to include these guys...I love to provide more realistic type manipulatives when I can for the children. When I saw these on Amazon, I absolutely had to have them. The funniest part was I had to keep them put away unless we were out in the backyard playing because I had a couple of birds try to attack them!

I generally send books home with the children about once a month, and when I can, I try to have some of them be on point with things they have been talking about, asking about, or showing curiosity in any way about. I love helping them to build their home libraries.

I spent a lot of time saving links, videos, etc. in my Pinterest board to help me create this setup and I hope it can help you as well: Under the Sea

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