Family Travel Friday
Book: Swimmy by Leo Lionni (1963)
By Jennifer Close
The mystery of the ocean never ceases to amaze children and adults alike. There is lots of information about the ocean, but there is still so much exploring to be done. I have been fascinated with the ocean, its inhabitants and geography, since I was a little girl. My children are just as fascinated with the ocean as I am. We make regular visits to the beach where we almost always spy crabs, fish, and jellyfish. If the sun is bright and high in the sky, we wander down the pier so that we can walk over the ocean while watching the water to spy the occasional stingray or turtle.
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans
Visiting an aquarium is a good way to get an up close look at sharks, turtles, fish, seahorses and more without having to get your dive certification!We have visited aquariums in Baltimore, Virginia Beach, Atlanta, and Myrtle Beach just to name a few.
One of our favorite aquariums (and one we return to year after year) is the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas overlooks the Mississippi River and is just a walk away from the famous Steamboat Natchez, Café du Monde and the French Quarter. There are many exhibits including a walk-through tunnel that immerses you in a Caribbean reef complete with colorful fish. The Gulf of Mexico exhibit brings you face to face with sharks, turtles, sting rays and schools of fish. My youngest child could stand in front of the Jelly Gallery for hours watching the jellyfish float through the water.
If there is an aquarium nearby, we always add it to our travel itinerary. Before each aquarium visit, we like to read Swimmy
by Leo Lionni. The book is beautifully illustrated and is a Caldecott Honor winner
. One of the morals of the story is to work together, which always an important skill to reinforce with children!
Swimmy is a little fish that lives with a family of red fish. Unfortunately, a tuna eats his fish friends and he decides to journey the ocean. Now that my son is old enough, we have an abbreviated talk about the life cycle when we read this book. Swimmy realizes that the ocean world is full of magical, beautiful creatures. He begins his journey where he meets a Medusa jellyfish, a lobster, an eel, sea anemones, a school of fish just like his own, and more. After reading about Swimmy and the sea life that he meets, my children are always excited to head to the aquarium to look for Swimmy and his friends.
RipleysAquarium Myrtle Beach
When we are wandering through the exhibits of an aquarium, my children are always trying to spot the sea creatures that Swimmy meets on his journey through the ocean. They are quick to point out the red fish, the gigantic tuna (or a fish just as big) and jellyfish.
One of our favorite parts of the book is the beautiful illustrations. Sometimes, we just look at the illustrations and make up our own story about Swimmy with the turn of each page. When we get home from an aquarium visit, we like to create our own underwater scenes using a technique that certainly doesn’t replicate Leo Lionni’s beautiful art work
but both of my children like to think it is close!
Aquarium underwater picture with wax resist technique
This wax resist technique is fun and easy for the kids. We color our own underwater scenes of the creatures that we met at the aquarium on white paper. Once our drawings are finished, we use a blue water color or a blue acrylic and water combination to paint over the whole drawing. The areas colored with crayon will resist the paint and you will have a pretty reminder of your family trip to the aquarium!
Jennifer Close, of Two Kids and a Map, is a regular Contributor to A Traveler’s Library, bringing us cultural inspirations for travel. As a policy of A Traveler’s Library, we tell you about affiliate links. The links to books included here make it possible for you to go directly to Amazon if you wish to buy a book. They are affiliate links, and if you buy anything through the affiliate links in this post, you will be supporting A Traveler’s Library. Thank you.
As much as I love New Orleans, I’ve never been to the aquarium there, so am glad to have Jennifer’s introduction. I did love the one in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Where is your favorite aquarium?