The Awesome Ocean

The beach has always been one of my favorite places to be! The soothing sound of the waves, playing in the water, reading on the beach, building sand castles with my kids, collecting shells- there’s just so much to do! Since it’s summer I thought this would be a perfect learning theme! We kicked off beach week last Friday with a (socially distanced!) visit to our local beach which is about 15 minutes away for a little bit of sun and sand and shell gathering. Then we dived into learning about our awesome ocean and all the cool critters that call it home! Don’t forget to swim on over to my Sand and Sun toddler post for more art and sensory play ideas, like Caribbean sea foam sensory play and sea shell ornament making!


-Beach ball ABC toss: Write capital and lower case letters on a beach ball. Toss it back and forth with your little and identify the letter(s) your thumbs land on!

-ABC hunt in sand: Fill a plastic shoe box with play sand or craft sand and letters. (I just used the wooden letters off of an ABC puzzle we have, but if you write or print some on cardstock that would work too!) Have your little find and identify the letters! This is a great indoor sand box for play too! Just make sure you throw a towel down first for easy clean up (shake it outside and you’re good to go!)

-Sand name practice: Have your little write or trace their first and last name with glue on a piece of cardstock (we had blue on hand but you could have them color a white sheet first if you want it to look more “ocean-y”). Then have them sprinkle sand on top of the glue. Shake off the excess sand and glue a few shells around their name for decoration if you want.

-Name tracing with shells: Write your little’s name on a piece of paper and have them trace the letters with shells! You can also do the letter “S” for seashore or “B” for beach!

-S is for Seashore: Make an “S” practice page by writing capital and lowercase S’s with dots (you can also do “B” is for beach!). Tuck it in a page protector and have your little use a dry erase maker to practice writing the letter.

-Book list: Here’s a list of books we read for fun this week! The “Poke-a-Dot” book is fantastic for fine motor practice and counting! And the Bethany Hamilton surfing book “Be Unstoppable” is full of fantastic pictures and inspiring quotes- my little became interested in her story after I told him about it when we saw a surfboard with a shark bite taken out of it in our “Sharks” book we read for science!


-Ocean animal count and clip: My little loved this one and it’s a great activity to use again! Not only does it build number recognition and counting skills, but also works on fine motor skills! Cut 3 cardstock sheets into 4ths. Place ocean animal stickers at the top so that you have cards with 1-10 stickers on them. Write the corresponding number on the bottom with two other choices (you can block them off with lines but you don’t have to). Have your little count the critters then clip the correct number! I got this idea from Life Over Cs!

-Jellyfish bead stringing: Make a jellyfish out of cardstock. Write the numbers 1-10 along the bottom and punch a hole under each number. Tie strings in all the holes, then have your little identify each number and string that many beads under it! I got this idea on Pinterest!

-Adding with beachy erasers: So you know those mini erasers that don’t really erase and just end up falling apart if you try to use them but they’re really cute? Guess what!? They’re perfect for adding practice! I printed out a fish adding page I found on Google, had my little identify each number and show it with the erasers (I got them in the dollar spot at Target) and then count them all up to get his answer!

-Beach ball toss counting: See how many times you and your little can throw and catch a beach ball with each other! This is great gross motor practice and a really fun way to practice counting!


-Oil spill clean up: We’ve done this activity before, but when my little heard it was in my lesson plans he asked to do it again first thing Monday morning! Fill your sink (or a large Tupperware storage bin) with water. Add some ocean animal figures and let your little play in the nice clean water. Take a sample of the water and set it aside. Next, describe how when ocean water gets polluted by things like trash and oil spills it effects the animals and is very hard to clean up. Add some coffee grounds, a cut up grocery bag and some cooking oil to the water. Have your little describe what they notice while playing in the “polluted” water. Take another water sample and set it aside. Then tell them that scientists sometimes try to clean up pollution. Give them a sieve to get out the trash and some dish soap and a tooth brush to clean off the animals. Take a third water sample after the pollution has been cleaned. Ask your little to compare the three water samples and describe what they see. We also dipped a feather in the polluted water and talked about what happened to the feather and what would happen to birds if they were in an oil spill. Then we cleaned the feather with soap and talked about how scientists sometimes have to clean ocean animals and birds after a spill so they don’t die. This activity came from Little Bins for Little Hands.

-Sea shell sorting: We read the book “Seashells by the Seashore” and learned that shells are either bivalves (two pieces) or monovalves (one piece). Then I gave my little a bunch of shells and told him he was going to be a scientist and sort them into two groups- bivalves and monovalves- which he did with great accuracy! LoL As an extension, you can also have your little sort the shells by color, texture, or size!

-Ocean zones demonstration: We read “Cat in the Hat: Wish for a Fish” which talks about the ocean zones and the animals who live there. Then we made ocean zones in a jar by layering liquids- I tried 3 times and could not for the life of me get the corn syrup and dish soap to appear separate, but it still turned out pretty cool! I found I was more successful creating a layered look by pouring the liquids slowly down the side of the glass rather than straight into the middle like the instructions said (we didn’t have a funnel though so that may have been the issue!) Also, I used baby oil for the top layer instead of rubbing alcohol, but that should work too! I got this idea from I Can Teach My Child. We also sang a simple rendition of Mr. Ray’s “Zones” song from “Finding Nemo” that I made up:

Let’s learn the zones, the zones, the zones!

Let’s learn the zones of the open sea!

There’s sunlight, twilight, midnight, abyss

And the trench where it’s too dark for you and me to see!

-Ocean creature read and compare: We read two books about different ocean animals- loggerhead turtles and sharks- then used a Venn Diagram to compare them. I made the diagram by tracing two plates to make overlapping circles on our chart paper. The part where they overlap is where you write how the animals are alike, the parts where they don’t overlap is where you write how they’re different. My little gave me all of the information on the diagram and I wrote it down for him. You can also find a Venn Diagram printable here if you don’t have chart paper!


-Rainbow fish: I got this amaaaaazing “spangle mix” at Walmart (but really, any sequins or even pieces of torn up tissue or construction paper would work!) and we used it to make our own “Rainbow Fish” after reading the book! I did do this with my toddler too, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless yours is two or very close to it- and even then I had him sit on my lap so I could closely monitor any attempted spangle eating… I got the fish craft idea from Dine, Dream Discover!

-Dory aqua beads: These little things are fun- but a bit tricky to work with! You place tiny colored plastic beads on a tray with a pattern behind it, then spray them with water and let them dry to make a little character. They’re fantastic for building fine motor skills (including my own!) and we usually work on the project by placing the beads on the pattern together, then my little does the water spraying part. We got a Finding Nemo set on Amazon awhile back, but they have just about every Disney character you could want! My little asked Alexa to play “whale music” while we worked because he said it kept him from getting frustrated with the little beads! I also place them by color in a muffin tin while we work so they don’t go all over the place!

-Supply/Shopping list:

  • 2+ ocean or beach books
  • beach ball
  • sand
  • shells
  • small beach erasers
  • pony beads
  • string
  • fish stickers
  • clothespins
  • coffee grounds
  • plastic grocery bags
  • oil
  • ocean animal toys
  • 3 plastic water bottles (or clear cups/jars)
  • sieve
  • toothbrush
  • confetti/plastic jewels
  • dish soap
  • corn syrup
  • food coloring
  • rubbing alcohol
  • funnel
  • clear glass
  • Finding Nemo Aquabeads

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