Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme


The great thing about themes is that any academic subject fits into them.  There’s no need for objectives at this age, because she has such a limited knowledge of most subjects, totally immersing ourselves in a theme results in her knowing a lot more than she did at the beginning.

There are a ton of things out there to do for this theme, but I stuck to things that involve the least amount of prep and work on my part since 2 year old’s (and most kids) are  notorious for not being interested in things we plan for them. 🙂  We did all this in about four weeks.


(what we found at our library or owned*)

  1. Baby Loves Summer-Katz
  2. A Beach Tail-Williams
  3. Bebe Goes to the Beach-Elya (this one is bilingual! We loved it!)
  4. Dora in the Deep Sea-Ricci*
  5. The Friend-Steward (based on a true story — history, I love it!)
  6. In the Ocean-Henley*
  7. Miranda’s Beach Day-Keller
  8. One Seal-Stadler
  9. Sally Goes to the Beach-Huneck
  10. Spot Goes to the Beach-Hill
  11. Wave-Lee
  12. Where’s Baby’s Beach Ball-Katz*

Art Activities

  1. Stamping paper with her sea animal stamps.
  2. Sandy feet art activity (I drew a line 3/4 of the way down the paper and had her use her dots to make a blue and green ocean.  Then she used her sea animal stamps in it.  A little difficult to keep her focused on putting the dots below the line, since she didn’t really get what we were doing.  But once she was done and saw the sand, she loved it!)
  3. She just used dots on this ocean accordion book. I didn’t cut it out or anything, next year. 🙂
  4. My niece drew a few ocean and beach themed pictures on a piece of paper for her to put dots on.
  5. Sand dollars
  6. Sandy Starfish
  7. Big fish (#3-5, I had planned for three different days, but she was really into it, so we did it all one morning.)
  8. We had a couple rocks she’d brought home from the beach a few months back, so she colored them with her crayon (took about 2 seconds 🙂 )

 Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme

Science Activities

  1. Got out the magnifying glass, she looked at the big seashells we bought at a craft store.  (Asked her what she saw, she said, “Whatcha see?” Ha!  So I asked more specific questions.  Do you see lines?  What color do you see?  Which one is bigger? And so on…this was while I cleaned the kitchen, and she was on the floor.  This kept her busy for about 10 min so that’s a success in my book. See picture at the top of the page.) Made this a tray for her to go back to throughout the month.
  2. See bath time questions.

Motor Skills

  1. A “jellyfish” cut from a bath mat with suction cups and marbles to put in the suction cups. (Similar to this activity. Mine was much simpler and less cute 🙂 )
  2. Threw small seashells into a little starfish sand toy we have.
  3. Cutting (I have to hold it while she cuts, with two hands): Blue crepe paper, put in  a small inflatable pool (she did one spool one day and another a few days later.)  After one spool we got her little kickboard and she “surfed”.  (Watched “Surfin Safari“, it’s so terrible, you can’t stop watching!  And she loved it, of course.) She also, throughout the month, “swam” in it, read in it, played with a beach ball in it, watched TV, and threw items in it (some of which were beach themed 🙂 ) (Inspired from an activity by The Mailbox Magazine.)

Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme

Tot School: Beach and Ocean ThemeYes, her hair looks like that a lot. 😉


  1. small seashells
  2. jellyfish marble activity (see under motor skills)
  3. sea animals 
  4. We were given this game called About Face.  There are puzzle-like pieces with pictures of everyday items that represent parts of the face, so kids can put together all kinds of funny faces. She hasn’t been too interested in it. And I think it might have just been too many pieces.  When I took out all the parts that were seashells, lined up the hair, eyes, nose and mouths, she had a great time putting them together.
  5. We have a Go Fish deck of cards with real fish on them, she matched them.
  6. magnifying glass and seashells

Outdoor Activities

  1. Hide large and colorful seashells in the sand (my nine year old niece hid them — she liked planning and participating in a lot of these activities)

Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme

Dramatic Play

  1. Put in her dress up basket: beach hats, sunglasses, leis and wings (she saw the wings and wanted them, so I told her she was a beach butterfly…ha!)

Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme

2. Sat on a blanket outside and pretended to have a picnic at the beach with her fake food

Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme

Bath Fun

  1. Beach Themed Bath — this took about 15 min to set up (blue food coloring, some sea animals, a beach ball, a beach scented candle, a foam sun with a little paint and a bowl of shaving cream “sand” with shells in it-bath salts and yellow food coloring.  I also made a small bit of fettucini and dyed it green for seaweed, she liked it, but they broke apart so be prepared to fish those out…maybe a little fish net would have been good.) The beach ball was pretty much a staple the whole month. And I didn’t have the sea animals yet, next year. (Thank you for the ideas Bath Activities for Kids and Growing a Jeweled Rose.)

Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme

2. She took the sea animals into bath every time (and wanted to put a few of them to bed each night. They were a well worth it!)

        3. Sea animals inspired some conversations: Do they sink or float, as in the toy not the actual  animal? Where do they live? What are their names? Which ones do we eat?

        4. Sea animals and shaving cream

        5. Cut out a starfish and octopus out of an old bath mat that has suction. (Inspired by an activity out of Learning Centers: Preschool by the Mailbox Magazine.)

Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme


  1. Dora the Explorer: Summer Explorer (I got mine at Target for about $12.)
  2. Little Einstein’s Whale Tale ( I’ll link the YouTube video, but I’m pretty sure the link won’t stay functioning if Disney sees it.  So just search for it on YouTube if it’s not here and/or you don’t want to buy it on Amazon Instant Video.)
  3. Little Einstein’s Pirates (Also watched it on YouTube.  Check here.)

Music Videos

  1. The Goldfish (This is a song I liked from our local library storytime.  Pull out a pillow for a rock to “nap” on.  My daughter loves to act out this song, unless the video is playing where she can see it.  Then she just wants to watch the video.  My genius 9 year old niece, scrolled down the page, so the video was no longer on the screen and the dancing could continue. My niece likes this song too.)
  2. By the Beautiful Sea (lyrics below)
  3. The First Sea Animal Words for Toddlers Fun Show
  4. Baby Einstein: Deep Blue Sea (She didn’t like this one as much as I did, but yours might 🙂 )
  5. A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea



By the Beautiful Sea

From the musical “For Me and My Gal” (Harold Atteridge / Harry Carroll) (1914)

Joe and Jane were always together.

Said Joe to Jane, “I love summer weather, So let’s go to that beautiful sea, Follow along, Say you’re with me!”

Anything that Joe would suggest to her Jane would always think it was best for her. So he’d get his Ford, Holler: “ALL ABOARD!

Gosh, I want to be: By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea! You and me, you and me, oh how happy we’ll be! When each wave comes a-rolling in We will duck or swim, And we’ll float and fool around the water. Over and under, and then up for air, Pa is rich, Ma is rich, so now what do we care?

I love to be beside your side, beside the sea, Beside the seaside, by the beautiful sea!


I got this song as a packet in from a preschool theme kit by The Mailbox Company (it is no longer available, but there are other ones still for sale.  I got all of them for a low price.  I’m pretty sure they’re all in clearance still).  It has images of things you’d take to the beach (items like: sunscreen, beach ball, beach chair, flip flops, pail and shovel, sand toys, swimsuit, float, snacks, umbrella, towel, etc.), which I’m sure can be found in magazines or online.  Or actually getting the real items would also work great.  I let her choose a picture, and I sang while she danced around.  Then as she got to know the song, she started singing it herself.

Oh, Let’s Go to the Beach (to the tune of Farmer in the Dell)

Oh, let’s go to the beach, where we can splash and play, I’ll pack my ________, and we’ll be on our way.

Vocabulary  That Came Up








 Free Apps

We have Apple products, so I’m linking to iTunes, but I’m sure many are available with other products.

  1. Ocean Puzzle by Rohn Games
  2. Ocean Puzzles by McPepper Games
  3. Fishes Memory Game for Toddlers and Kids: Explore the Ocean! by Stefano Frassi
  4. Fishes Puzzles for Toddlers and Kids by Stefano Frassi (I’m going to assume English as a second language and not get to annoyed by the “fishes” part of the title.)
  5. Under the Sea by Jochen Heizmann
  6. Adventure Puzzle for Kids and Toddlers: Ocean Edition by Jochen Heizmann
  7. Sea Numbers by Bugland (Daniel Mastracchio)
  8. Toddler Marine Preschool by Antti Lehtinen
  9. Fish and Marine Animals for Kid by Antti Lehtinen

Field Trips

An aquarium — We went to the Long Beach Aquarium.  It was pricey and far, but I had my niece along so the drive wasn’t terrible.  She learned a lot.  And was able to touch so many things.  My sister-in-law reminded me of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium — it’s a donation based place and has tide pools.  We’ll have to try that out next year.

Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme

A pirate themed park near us that has sand and water features — and driftwood apparently.

Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme

The Beach — which we didn’t get to during the time we had this theme.  Her nap times, plus the distance to the beach, plus traffic, were too many factors for me.  She’s been to the beach before, and will be again, so I didn’t push it.  But obviously, if you can get to the beach, that would be the ultimate sensory experience.  And obviously the best way to learn about it.

Lesson Learned: Sand falls off art projects even if it has been glued…put it out of reach of little kid’s hands.

Surprising Teachable Moment: Clothes!  She had a few pieces of clothing that had fish on them — and I happened to be buying her underwear at Target and found beach and ocean themed ones.  Crazy!  She loved them of course. 🙂

P.S. There were a few things I pinned, but never got to, if you want more ideas.  Hopefully next year I’ll get to more of them. 🙂

For more ideas and activities, check out my Pinterest page: Beach Theme (Toddler/Preschool/K)

Part of a series of themes and units.  You can find the whole list here.












3 Replies to “Tot School: Beach and Ocean Theme”

    1. I know! Once I put it all down, I couldn’t believe how much we’d done. But, I bet if you added it all up it was like two hours! Ha!

  1. Great ideas! Even though my youngest is 8, I saw a lot of things she would enjoy. LOVE the bathtub and seaweed. She loves to play in the bath. It can occupy her for hours.

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