When planning an aquarium trip with both kids under 3 we wanted to make sure that V, at least, had some idea of what kinds of things she might see and what she could look out for well before the actual trip so we did a week of related activities to help her wrap her head around what she was going to experience.
We set up her toy shelf with a set of activities (the bottom shelf has M’s early activities, which were mostly not themed). This included books, a fish puzzle by Hape from Mastermind, some fish counters that we used for a few activities, and a fish themed art activity with crayons. As usual we let her pick what she was interested in and then helped her to learn about the material she selected. The book in the back is Commotion in the Ocean which was a cute rhyming introduction to a bunch of different aquatic life. Not my favourite book ever but it was cute and we definitely read through it a few times every time she brought it over.
The first activity we used the fish counters for was a simple sorting/counting activity, letting her sort the fish by type and then counting how many there were, talking about the colours and type of fish as we went.
The art activity was a simple crayon resist technique and while she was super excited to get it out she wasn’t too into the actual execution so I helped draw some simple coral designs while talking to her about how the wax in the crayons would allow us to paint over it and still show through but she LOVED painting the wash of blue paint over it and adding the fish stickers and she was really happy with the end result.
To keep M occupied while V and I were working on our art project I had prepped a Ziplock bag with some scraps of green cellophane (seaweed) blue cellophane (waves), hair gel to simulate water and a hint of shampoo for some bubbles along with fish counters for M to paw at and try to find. This didn’t work as I had expected and it definitely didn’t look like water. So while I probably wouldn’t try this one again it did keep him interested for a little while.
I also prepared a few more involved activities on top of the shelf set up. The first one was a sensory activity using aquatic animals from a Safari Toob. I took the animals and trace them on a piece of paper with labels and then mixed them all into a bin of water beads for a cool sensory experience. V was super excited to dive in and loved pulling out the various animals, she also was really engrossed in figuring out which shapes they matched up with so this went even better than anticipated. We talked about each animal as she pulled them out, what noises they made, what they eat, where in the ocean they live.
I also did an outside activity that I don’t have pictures of where we used some foam fish shapes that I picked up at the Dollar Store. I dumped the set into V’s kiddie pool – I had originally planned to use it for a fishing game using a magnet pool and gluing coins to the foam shapes but I ended up going even simpler. She was just as happy to wade in and follow my requests for all the crab shapes, or all the red shapes, or three fish of any colour. Lots of great sorting, counting and colour matching opportunities.