Under the Sea Unit Study: Getting Started

Assalamu’alaikum & Marhaba!

Happy Fourth of July to my fellow American readers!  We enjoyed watching everyone’s snaps and seeing all the pictures of the firework displays around the country.

On the other side of the world, we are trying to get back into a homeschool routine post-Ramadan and moving to KL.  To get the ball rolling, we are starting a themed unit, Under the Sea.  The idea was sparked by a visit to an aquarium in Monte Carlo on our last vacation.  Layaan could not contain her excitement when she found “Nemo” and “Dory.”  As we walked along, Muhammad was wide-eyed and repeating, “Wooooow,” the entire time.  So it only felt appropriate to learn more about ocean animals.

Getting Started

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I prefer to organize all of my ideas and plan activities in advance to give myself enough time to gather materials, books, and supplies.  Rather than placing a limit on the amount of time we spend on each unit, I am beginning with introductory activities and allowing the children’s interest to carry us through the unit study.  Furthermore, Layaan’s Arabic tutor is working on the unit during their lesson time.



I try to get a variety of different types of books.  Eric Carle’s Mister Seahorse was a perfect fit for this unit.  Layaan and Muhammad love his books as much as I do.  It introduces the child to various types of fish, their names, the life cycle of fish, and other sea animal facts all in an engaging picture book format.

There are many beautiful nonfiction children’s books about ocean animals.  My criteria for their age were simple facts and attractive photographs.


What Lives in the Sea? is an easy to read informational text for young learners.  It introduces basic concepts about different sea animal habits such as feeding and protection.  And then, it goes on to describe a few facts about each animal stated simply for young children.


The Magnificent Book of Ocean Creatures is a giant book that I got for a steal at the bookstore Popular here in Malaysia.  I love it because not only is it hard cover, the illustrations in the book are beautiful and giant for each animal.  It provides more information than the previous book, but is still not too overwhelming.  The format is a nice introduction to an encyclopedia-style layout for elementary readers.


Fuzzy Ocean was another awesome find at Popular.  I knew Layaan would enjoy this book, but I was thinking of Muhammad, twenty-three months old, in particular when I spotted it.  Felt pieces and play scenes are perfect for little toddler hands, especially ones who have a hard time handling things gently.  I plan to use them in matching activities to help build his vocabulary.


Seashell Transfer (2-3 years)


This activity is for Muhammad, but Layaan enjoyed practicing it too.  At the local discount store, Mr. D.I.Y., I found bags of little seashells.  I introduced him to the word “seashell” in Arabic, صدف (sadaf).  I showed him how to place the seashells in the tiny basket.  We observed the different colors and textures.  Surprisingly, he came back to the activity with a set of tongs to transfer the seashells with instead.  It was a little challenging at first, but he was determined.  Eventually, he was able to get the hang of it in one sitting.

Clownfish Craft (3-6 years)

As I mentioned earlier, Layaan loves “Finding Nemo”, so it was a no brainer when I found this clownfish texture craft at Mr. D.I.Y.  This one is a bit challenging, and one we did together.  The kit did not include kid-friendly instructions, so she needed my guidance throughout.  I provided her with verbal instructions, and she did the rest. It was a great way to learn the simple parts of a fish such as fin, tail, scales, gills, mouth, eyes, etc while she glued each piece on.  We plan to do extension activities to further reinforce the parts, and read more about clownfish using our informational texts.

Ocean Themed Cutting and Gluing Practice (3-6 years)

Layaan wants to cut everything recently.  She even managed to sneak away the scissors and chopped a small bit of her hair.  Thankfully, it was not anything noticeable.  Thus, cutting practice is at the top of the list.  Learning how and when to use scissors and allowing her plenty of time to practice is helping her become more responsible with them.  After she finished cutting each piece, I extended the activity to include gluing practice.  I found this free printable over at Welcome to Mommyhood where there are plenty of ideas for ocean themed montessori activities.

Stay tuned as we continue our explorations under the sea!


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