The Learning Resources® Jumbo Pets set has been such a staple in our play over the past year. The larger size of the animals, combined with their excellent quality and durability, has meant that we have enjoyed lots of creative adventures with the dog, cat, fish, rabbit, guinea pig, and bird. In this series of blogs, we share some fun and unusual ways to use your Jumbo Pets to keep the play creative and engaging. First up, we will be enjoying a novel fish scoop and sort!

The Set-Up

Sometimes setting up an activity with ‘real world’ props is the most magical way to open a whole world of creative play. I headed to the local pet store for this activity and invested in a $5 plastic fishbowl. I know that this will be a worthwhile investment, not only for this activity but for lots of water play throughout the summer. I also purchased a $2 mini fishnet from the pet store. I half-filled the fishbowl with water and added our two jumbo goldfish, as well as a selection of other smaller tropical fish. The final stage was to set up a sorting tray to the side of the bowl. For this, I used one of our Dollar Tree lunch trays, some small plastic bowls, and a giant bowl for those bigger fish. I also recommend having a small towel to hand!

Let’s Go Fishing!

As soon as my four and 7-year-olds saw this setup, they were so excited! There was something about seeing the fish in a real fishbowl that ignited their imagination. My seven-year-old played first, and he loved scooping up the large Learning Resources goldfishes and placing them in the bigger bowl on the tray. He then carefully scooped out all of the other fish and sorted them into the bowls on the sorting tray.

This was great for his fine and gross motor skills and helped him work on his sorting skills. That aspect was pretty easy for him, so I added a few questions, asking him to analyze the similarities and differences between the various types of fish. We also speculated which ones would be better as pets and which ones would usually be found in the ocean. He finished off by embracing the empty fishbowl by getting his whole hands in there for sensory exploration.

Next up, it was my four-year-old’s turn to play, and she was just as excited. She took a different approach and started with some water play. She chose to use the sorting bowls to scoop and pour the water. I never like to direct the play too much, so if my preschooler is happily scooping water and not fishing, that’s fine by me. She worked her fine and gross motor skills hard and was having a blast transferring the water.

After a while, she was ready to use the fishing net, and then there was no stopping her! She loved trying to scoop up as many fish as possible in one splash and swoop. She used the sorting tray in a different way to her big brother. Instead of sorting the fish by type and color, she sorted them by size. As soon as one bowl was full, she moved onto the next. She enjoyed trying to catch all of the fish and then carefully counted her findings.

Ways to Extend the Play

Both my kids happily played with this setup for a considerable amount of time, but there are ways to extend the setup to allow for more play in the future. You could add foam letters or numbers into the fishbowl for some fun literacy and numeracy work. You could add dice and turn it into a fishing game with a friend. Roll the dice to see how many fish you are allowed to collect, and the person with the most fish at the end is the winner. Or why not turn it into a habitat activity and provide your kids with some shells, pretend plants, and pebbles. Can they make a habitat for the fish to live in?

This was a great water-based sensory activity, with significant grouping and sorting opportunities for my preschooler and 2nd grader. Most of all, it was fun!

You can also print an adoption certificate for your not-so-furry friend!