by Character Diva
Summer is quickly approaching and I know many of you might be wondering what you’re going to be doing with your kids or grandkids. Yes, there are plenty of camps and activities to be had, playdates and swimming lessons to attend, vacations to take… but if your family is anything like mine, there’s still going to be plenty of downtime. Which is great…. Because, let’s face it… we need a break. But if we want to keep our kids from being bored (and our sanity), it’s always good to include some structured activities too.
As a former teacher, I know the importance of practicing skills throughout the summer… but simple worksheets aren’t going to cut it. (In fact, I’d probably have a mutiny on my hands.) And as a busy mom with four littles, I don’t want to put a ton of effort into planning elaborate activities or spend an arm and a leg to do it. After all… money is finite… when it’s gone it’s gone. And if we’re going to spend it, let’s spend it on doing things we enjoy (like those summer vacations… preferably at Disney.)
So with a low budget and a need for low prep time in mind (something I think we can all appreciate), I decided to make a Finding Nemo themed S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) unit with various ideas of my own (as well as several creative geniuses from around the internet) to help your kiddos learn while having a great time showing off their Disney side!
Finding Nemo (or Dory) Game. Several years ago when I was a student teacher, Finding Nemo was still fairly new… and extremely popular. My mentoring teacher played the Finding Nemo game to teach letters and sounds to our kindergarten students (though this could obviously be applied to vocabulary or sight words, numbers, math facts, and so on.) How the game worked for teaching our kindergartners letters was that there would be a certain number of letters laid out (you can decide how many, but 9-12 may be a good start) and behind one of them was a picture of Nemo (we just attached a sticker of Nemo onto an index card, but you could even just print out an image onto cardstock). The kids then had to point to a letter, identify whether it was capital or lowercase, say the name of the letter and what sound(s) the letter made. Then the child could lift the card up and see if Nemo (or any character you want) was hiding underneath it. If the child was correct, they got a Finding Nemo sticker (though you could always change the prize to something else, even a round of applause) and Nemo was hidden again (without the kids seeing… you could also swap out the letter cards for new ones to practice at this point). If they didn’t find Nemo, then the game continued with the next person until Nemo was found. Obviously you can tweak it to fit your needs, but this is definitely a fun and easy game that fits with ‘our minimal cost and prep time’ goal.
Measuring with Nemo and Friends: There are two ways you can do this: 1. Find coloring pages or clipart of Nemo and his friends and make them into different sizes Then have your kiddos either use them as rulers (Ex. this pencil is two Nemos long) or actually measure them (Ex. Dory is 3 inches long.) 2. If you really want to take it a step further and have a good amount of space (like an empty parking lot, a sidewalk, or even just an easel or chalkboard), you can take some sidewalk chalk and a measuring tape and draw how long clownfish, blue tang, beluga whales, octopi, sea turtles, and any other creatures you can think of are using a quick Google search to provide you with the accurate numbers to measure. Once the characters have been measured, you can expand on the concept by making graphs of the different objects you measured.
Classifying Characters: Another great way to teach with Finding Nemo is to classify characters. The easiest way to do this is to google images of Finding Nemo (and or Dory) characters and print them onto cardstock. Disney Diva Tip: I personally like to print things on cardstock and laminate them to add a little more durability (I’m a big fan of this laminator and these laminating sheets). Then you can sort them into piles based on all kinds of things… (Fish vs. non-fish, Big creatures vs. small creatures, animals that swim vs. animals that don’t, characters from the ocean vs. characters from the fish tank, characters from Finding Nemo vs. Characters from Finding Dory, etc. It’s really up to you! Disney Diva Tip: I recommend putting them in either sand buckets from the Dollar Store or somewhere similar, but even placing them in sandwich bags or on paper plates will do the trick. If you want to take it a step further, once the characters have been sorted, the kids can make Venn Diagrams based on how they sorted them.
Finding Dory Diorama: And speaking of cardstock, I was super excited when I came across this Finding Dory Diorama from NiftyMom.Com. Isn’t this adorable? My daughter had recently read a Fancy Nancy book where Nancy had to make a diorama, and since then, my daughter has become obsessed with wanting to make one. So a diorama that looks super easy and cheap to make and it has a Disney theme? Yes please! I think ours turned out pretty cute.
Sensory Bin: If you’re looking for other fun things to construct or give you some more hands-on fun, you can always try to create a sensory bin (I really love this one from Miniature Master Minds). Seashells, colored rocks, sand, stickers, and even Finding Nemo toys can all be found at your local dollar store, craft store, or places like Target and Walmart. Whether you want to make a touch pool (bonus points if you add Hank and Dory inside) or a simple ocean scene reminiscent of Nemo or Dory’s homes, the possibilities are endless!
Kinetic Sand: Dory loves sand! Sand is squishy! So why not get your hands on some kinetic sand and create something spectacular? Whether you’re just expanding on your sensory bin or want to show off your artsy side, kinetic sand offers you all kinds of possibilities.
Lego Creations: If you want to try something a little more advanced, I recommend creating something with Lego bricks. I have such a love/hate relationship with Legos… While I am not a fan of the pain I feel after stepping on one or the price (those tiny buggers add up!), overall, they are amazing. They keep my kiddos occupied for a good amount of time, plus there are so many STEAM skills involved when playing with Legos! Because our whole family loves Legos, bins and bins of Legos have taken over our house. While they may be perilous to your feet, if your house is like ours and you’re drowning in a sea of colorful bricks, you can try to raid your Lego stash to help cut costs (and repurpose some of those sets which probably have been torn into hundreds of pieces after being built once, never to be recreated to their original purpose ever again). If you are missing specific bricks (or you really just don’t want to spend a ton of time digging through your own stash) you can order whatever pieces you need directly from Lego here.)
You can come up with your own design based on your favorite scene or something that reminds you of one of the movies, or in case you need some inspiration, just browse around online for ideas. We found this great image of Dory on our trip to Legoland California last September, and I found this AMAZING design for Hank here. (If anyone ever finds the building instructions on how to re-create Hank, please let me know in the comments!) If you’re not quite a Master Builder and want to copy someone else’s design, Childhood 101 has some cute Lego mosaic designs for Nemo, Hank and Dory you can try and duplicate, and best of all, they provide the patterns for FREE!
Perler Beads: Speaking of patterns, perler beads are another great hands-on tool to practice coordination and duplicating or designing your own creation. I love this video on how to re-create Dory. Disney Diva Tip: Add a magnet to the back or a couple extra beads with a space to loop a ribbon through and you have an easy gift for someone special, or a fun way to display it somewhere around your house.
Reading: Whether you choose to buy books or download them onto your device, or head to your local library (or your bookshelf at home), reading stories together is a great way to introduce and review vocabulary and help build fluency and comprehension. I really like the Disney audio books (click here for Finding Nemo or here for Finding Dory), but really any book on marine life, clownfish, oceans, aquariums, the Great Barrier Reef, and of course, the classic Disney stories themselves will work. For a list of some of our favorite Finding Nemo and Finding Dory books, scroll down to the bottom of the article.
Take a Field Trip: Now this may be a bit of a stretch, but if you’re lucky to live in driving distance of an aquarium or beach (or if you’re vacationing near one!), I highly recommend immersing your kiddos and showing them the real deal. Depending on where you go, you may actually get to see tide pools or marine life up close! Disney Diva Tip: What do you do if you’re nowhere near an aquarium or a beach? Not to worry! National Geographic, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and even YouTube can all provide you with stunning videos to help you increase your appreciation and understanding about Nemo, Marlin, Dory, and all of their other friends.
Dramatic Play: If your kiddo enjoys dressing up, why not encourage some dramatic play? Whether it’s just pretending to be carries from the movie and acting stuff out, or if you want to go full-force with Dory or Nemo costumes, the choice is up to you. You can even get creative with balloons, party streamers, and whatever else comes to mind to encourage creative play.
Why not take it a step further and play charades? You can act like the school of fish and re-create a designated list of words (or make your own up as you go for an added challenge), or even just move around and get some exercise! While swimming in a pool or another body of water may seem like the obvious choice, if the closest thing you have to a pool is a sprinkler system, use that! Take turns running through the sprinklers while offering fun challenges… How do fish swim? How to jellyfish float? Can you move slowly like a sea turtle or are you fluent in speaking whale? Move around and have fun!
Bubbles’ Bubbles Lessons! Bubbles are a classic (and cheap!) summer activity. And really? What’s not to love about bubbles! They are so much fun! But did you know there are all kinds of STEAM activities related to bubbles? Kidsdiscover.com has all kinds of great information on the science of bubbles for you to explore! We always knew there was a secret behind Bubbles’ obsession with bubbles!
Memory Game: We all know Dory has a horrible memory, but that doesn’t mean your little one needs to be destined to the same fate! Memory is a classic game and comes in all kinds of versions. Whether you design your own or purchase a set, this is a great activity to do as a family.
Saving our Planet: We all know that garbage ending up in our oceans is a huge problem. This could be a great time to look around your house and see what household items you can repurpose for various crafts or projects, and it’ll help defray costs too! If you have kiddos who are a little older, this could also be a great time to learn about some of the endangered species in our oceans and around our coastlines and brainstorm with them on ways we can help protect our planet and its inhabitants for future generations.
Still not had enough? Well, hopefully after all of the money you’ve saved from doing these fun and inexpensive activities, if you really want to embrace your Disney side and want to bond with Nemo and his friends, try the Finding Nemo Submarine ride in Disneyland or stay at the Art of Animation Resort near Disney World! Contact Patricia Payne from All for Dreams Travel for great discounts, tips, and FREE help planning your next trip!
Recommended Reading List: