I make no secret of the fact that we are not a screen-free family, although we were until Frida was around two years old. Her screen time is very much limited, and we do not have a television, but occasionally she will watch a short programme on the laptop. At the moment, the thing she loves to watch is The Octonauts, which we tried on the recommendation of a few friends. We were pretty sceptical at first, as until recently the only things Frida had watched were songs from old films like Mary Poppins, some Beatrix Potter videos, and the Julia Donaldson films; venturing the world of modern children’s shows felt like a step neither of us wanted to take!

However, I am prepared to be led by Frida, and my goodness she loves it. It has led to an almighty burst of interest in all things sea life, an interest I have wholeheartedly embraced! I only recently updated her shelves, but I felt like I needed to meet this interest by providing some opportunities for related work as well as books and conversation.

I decided to make her a simple activity to explore the different zones of the ocean and the animals which live there. I painted, labelled and laminated a piece of paper with the different oceanic zones, then cut out and laminated pictures of sea life for her to place in the right area.

Some of these – perhaps half? – Frida is currently able to do without checking, but the others she can check on the ocean poster we have put up in her work space (you can see it in the last photo I’ve included in this post). It’s a great activity not only for memory work, but to spark discussion about what the different zones of the ocean are like, and how each animal is adapted to their habitat.

I also added a basket of sea animals. Frida can use these alongside books to get a better sense of how these animals really look, and as language objects as she learns the correct names for their body parts such as dorsal fin, gills etc, but also for free play. These are mostly Schleich, but a couple are Papo. I prefer the Schleich quality, but where there is a big price difference or the Schleich is unavailable then Papo is definitely my next choice.

Sperm whale / shark set / dolphin / orca / hammerhead shark / loggerhead sea turtle / emperor penguin with chick / emperor penguin / seal.

We have also been reading the sea life pages in Animalium and learning about sharks, fish, corals, whales, skates, rays, and much more.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Animalium I thoroughly recommend it, it’s just so beautiful and full of wonderfully detailed information. I have Botanicum on my wish list too…

It’s been great having a basket of animals out so we can compare them to illustrations in the book, too! Some other sea life themed books we have been enjoying include:

I would love to hear any recommendations you have for other beautiful sea life books; if there are any you love please let me know in the comments!

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Finally, despite me thinking that Frida had well and truly grown out of this simple magnetic fishing game, she has shown a renewed interest in it and loves to play with it, so it is back on the shelves for now. Follow the child!

Above you can see to the right a brilliant OU poster which we have spent a lot of time looking at together. If you live in the UK you can order a poster for free here (not sponsored, I just love it and think you should all make the most of this brilliant free resource!). It’s not the most attractive location for it, but Frida can easily see all of it and it’s close to her work shelves, so it it working well for us at the moment. I have also added an algae poster to her shelves for colour and interest.

I am also planning an aquarium trip, and will be showing her more clips of Blue Planet II which is just wonderful for young minds.

PS. I wondered if I should start this blog post honestly, explaining where Frida’s current passion for all things sea life had come from, or skirt around the fact that she has been hooked by The Octonauts. I actually feel quite embarrassed to share that she watches a bit of television; it feels like it is so taboo in Montessori, slow parenting, alternative education circles. But I also feel that it is important to be honest on this blog.I didn’t want to lie by omission. This is our real life, and real life Frida sometimes has screen time. Eloise x 

Posted by:Eloise R

17 replies on “Exploring sea life

  1. Please don’t be embarrassed that Frida watches a bit of TV! I tend to feel the same about my 26-month old, but the reality is I’m expat living across the ocean from family and sometimes mama needs a sick day, 30 minutes to get dinner ready without little hands, or just to sit down for a sec. We need to be kind with ourselves and afford ourselves some grace. Right now my daughter is limited to Puffin Rock (on Netflix–a lovely, calming show that I even enjoy watching and talking about with her–I really recommend it!) and a few other toddler-friendly short films and programs. You provide Frida with an incredible array of enriching experiences, toys, and materials in and outside your home, and she seems like a very inquisitive child! She will likely always connect whatever she watches back to the real world and want to explore even more. Definitely not the recipe for a TV zombie. Cheers to the Octonauts!

  2. As you know my boy Ripley who is the same age bar one week is very different to Frida. He has autism and has a severe language delay. Television really helps him calm down and focus for short periods when he’s getting too hyperactive. I love montessori and alternative parenting but I have to be realistic about what we can manage as a family. I think encouraging their interests means sometimes doing things that may not be strictly preferable. My son loves diggers, helicopters, planes so we let him watch some YouTube videos of real airplanes or transport vehicles etc as he loves to see them. Then in real life, he can name them when he sees them. It’s the same with animals. For us, it has encouraged language and it isn’t a negative at all. x

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience Carla. You are so right about being realistic. What a wonderful example of being truly child-led and following the individual child’s needs. ❤️ He is so lucky to have such a thoughtful mama xxx

  3. Thank you for these lovely ideas. I’ve just ordered my children a poster. We have watched a few clips of Blue Planet 2 so I think they will be very excited to get it.

  4. Hi Eloise, What a great space your create here, so warm and full of insights.

    We have very limited screen time as well. Usually just educational short clips that lead to the discussions and ordering even more books from a library. Lately the main topic are bacteria and viruses and how the body reacts to them.
    I wonder; do you use computer/phone while Frida is playing/painting etc.? Does she see you ‘having screen time’? If yes, does she wants to use it as well?
    I try not to use phone/ipad in front of my children as I noticed that the more they see me, the more my older son will ask to watch something. As if he was reminded about this possibility. But this is so difficult!
    Also, how to ‘protect’ a younger sibling? The older one was screen free for a very long time, but the younger..is a different story..
    Love your ‘lives’ on IG.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Sounds like you have a great balance. The virus and bacteria research sounds fascinating. I do use my phone a bit around Frida but I try to do it less often, she doesn’t ask for it though when I do need to use it. The younger sibling issue isn’t one we’ve had to deal with but I can see how it could be difficult to navigate, especially with a bigger age gap. Xx

      1. Thank you for answering. I guess we all have to find the best balance for our families. Warm regards from Norway!

  5. Thank you for being transparent about screen time. I too feel like it’s such taboo, especially on Instagram when you can easily crop it out of those little squares. Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m failing for allowing movies and shows. But it’s nice to know we’re not alone! My little girl enjoys Kipper and the magic school bus, as well as nature clips and films.

    1. Yep, I really know how you feel! We were at our (lovely) Waldorf playgroup yesterday and the issue came up, and I must say I left feeling pretty rubbish about our choice to allow limited screen time. The Frida woke up really poorly today and I am so thankful for our decision as she’s taken a lot of comfort from snuggling on the sofa with us and watching something. Xx

  6. I have battled with the TV guilt but decided to stop beating myself up every time I let my two watch the box. We all need a break sometimes and it’s so easy to pick and choose what they are actually watching I can control what and how much they see. There is also quite a lot of what I would consider ‘Montessori friendly’ TV out there – good old Cbeebies! (I can Cook, My Pet and Me, My Family, Melody, Do you Know?, Where in the World? off the top of my head!) If they are still on iplayer the My Pet and Me Galapagos Specials were quite special especially for a little marine enthusiast!
    Book wise 199 things… is a favourite in this house. My youngest (born same week as Frida!) loves the Whales book from My First Discoveries. We also have Under the Sea (Anna Milbourne & Cathy Shimmen- Usborne) which has simple language and nice colourful illustrations, the Usborne Children’s encyclopedia has a great oceans section (I think it’s available as a separate book too), we have also spent a long time looking at the under sea page in Oliver Jeffers’ Here We Are – only one page but such gorgeous book if you haven’t got it! Sharing a shell (Julia Donaldson) is also one of my favourite story books (not Exactly Montessori friendly but a sparkly, rhyming, picture book that teaches small children about symbiotic relationships? What’s not to love?!) If polar animals are also to be included Polar Bear Night/Morning by Lauren Thompson have really grown on me very simple but lovely pictures but with some lovely poetic language which Erin has really latched on to.

    1. What an absolutely brilliant, information packed comment – thank you so much! Off to google some of those now… Thanks so much for taking the time xx

      1. I have benefitted so much from your blog- books, activities, general reassurance – glad I can give a little back! x

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