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Friday, February 14, 2020

Jelly Boy Bookish Play: Environmental Ocean Small World Sensory Tray

I've always been passionate about the environment and like to think that I do my bit to reduce our waste and footprint on our planet. I'm not a full on eco-warrior by any means, but I do make sure we recycle everything possible. Not to mention the four hundred and twenty two art projects we've made from hoarding rubbish and recyclables to reuse {not even joking, my garage is full of bubble wrap, boxes, toilet paper rolls, bottle lids, magazines, newspapers etc}. 

I'm hoping that my efforts rub off on my girls and they become environmentally conscious too. Now that they're getting older I'm finding more obvious ways of teaching them about the environment and my favourite way to do this is through play. We recently received a copy of Jelly-Boy and set up some small world bookish play after reading the story.

jelly boy small world tray.

Jelly-Boy is a brand new Australian picture book which aims to inspire the next generation of readers to protect our oceans. An inquisitive Jelly-Girl falls in love with Jelly-Boy and follows him everywhere. But who is Jelly-Boy? He's not a boy at all. In fact he's not even a real jelly fish! Jelly-Girl doesn't believe the truth about her beloved Jelly-Boy, until she finds out just how dangerous he really is. Is it too late? You'll have to read the book to find out {no spoilers here}.

Jelly Boy picture book.

I love how Jelly-Boy uses simple text and vivid illustrations to teach children how dangerous plastic and other rubbish can be for animals in the ocean. Being written from the perspective of a jellyfish gives children a different insight into environmental issues. By developing empathy for Jelly-Girl it's easy for children to understand her struggles and realise how important it is that we keep our oceans clean. 

I love, love, love {did I say it enough?} using picture books to explain complex concepts to children and Nicole Godwin and Christopher Nielsen have done an amazing job with this book to take a somewhat abstract concept for kids {because they're not really swimming out in the ocean with rubbish often themselves} and explain it in a story they can really connect with.


Jelly-Boy is the type of book that is literally begging to be turned into a bookish play activity. Bookish play is a general term for any play based activity that is centered around a particular book. Its a great way to extend the story or main theme of a book beyond the pages and onto the craft table or into the playroom. There are many jellyfish crafts that could be made about Jelly-Boy, however I decided to get hands on and use some small world play to act out the scenarios featured in the book.
jelly-boy small world play idea

<<< Please note this activity may pose a choking risk to children under 3yrs of age due to small parts. This activity is intended for children aged 3+ and to be done under strict adult supervision >>>

Supplies needed for Jelly-Boy small world

I used one of our Kmart play trays for this small world because I wanted it to be portable so I could easily take it away if the girls started to get too messy with it. I used real water {with a dash of blue food colouring} to make the ocean as realistic as possible and then added in some aquarium plants and rocks {both can be found quite cheap at a dollar shop}. If you don't want to use water, you could always use a blue playsilk as the water instead. 

For the rubbish I used some small pieces of real rubbish as well as some of our Coles Little Shop minis. The 5 Surprise mini brands items are similar if you're not in Australia.

Jelly-Boy is a mini shopping bag {made from a real one, see instructions further down}. I also made Jelly-Girl myself as I didn't have a jellyfish figurine {instructions are also further down}. I then added in some other sea animals that appear in the book.

jelly boy small world play tray

ocean themed play tray with plastic bag and jellyfish


You will need:

  • An egg carton
  • A plastic bag
  • Sticky tape
  • Black pen
  • Scissors

how to make a jellyfish from an egg carton

1. Cut out one section of an egg carton and trim the edges so it's in a circular shape.

2. Put part of a plastic bag over the egg carton piece and twist it tight underneath the egg carton. Use sticky tape to hold the twisted part together.

3. Use scissors to cut slits into the long part of the plastic bag to form tentacles.

4. Use a permanent marker to draw eyes and a mouth onto the jellyfish.


You will need:

  • A plastic bag
  • Sticky tape
  • Black pen
  • Scissors
how to make a mini plastic bag

1. Cut a rectangle approximately 15cm long across the bottom seam of a plastic bag. Ensure the seam is in the centre of the rectangle.

2. Fold the rectangle over at the seam. Cut out 2 slits about 1cm in from each edge {these will become the handles}. Also cut straight edges to make the bag symmetrical if the outside of your rectangle doesn't already match up properly.

3. Cut a straight line across between the two slits to make the bag shape.

4. Sticky tape the 2 outside edges of the bag and the top of the 2 handle sections.

close up photo of plastic bag in ocean play tray

shark toy in ocean play tray

After we read the story and talked about what happened and why it's bad to throw rubbish into the ocean, we reinforced it through play. Both girls picked up on how the plastic bag looks kind of like a jellyfish and how it could be dangerous for sea animals to get trapped in it. They both tried putting animal figurines into it to see how they'd get stuck.

They also found all the pieces of rubbish and took them out of the water because as my youngest said "eww yuck that's naughty rubbish goes in da bin not water". Judging from their reaction it was a pretty successful play tray. We then spent another 40 minutes engaging in loads of imaginary play.

child pointing to shark in play tray

jelly-boy small world bookish play


Disclosure ~ We were kindly gifted a copy of Jelly-Boy from Walker Books Australia for the purpose of review. I did not receive compensation for this post, however this post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.

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