Anyone who thinks that sensory play is just for toddlers needs to see this post. Since making the swamp sensory tub last year my kids have asked to do another one just like it. I didn’t mean for so long to go by but we finally go around to it and this time made it into an ocean sensory tub with blue gelatin. Play like this is fun and simple and perfect for summer . We leave ours out covered in our yard for a few days and observe how the gelatin changes throughout the day.
- Gather your materials. You will need a container to make the gelatin in, a large container to play in ( we use our … ) , some fun sea animals and glass pebbles, plain gelatin ( I used 5 boxes) and some blue food coloring. You will also need a little bow, scissors, many cups of water and a pot or kettle for the boiling water.
- Start by pouring all the gelatin into a little bowl – 5boxes = 20 packets of gelatin.
- Boil 5 cups of water . Add a few drops of blue coloring to the water.
- Pour 15 cups of cool water into your container.
- Sprinkle the gelatin on top and let rest for one minute.
- Pour the boiling water in and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
- Hide in your fridge behind yogurt. Well that’s what I did because the last thing I wanted was blue gelatin all over my kitchen . When I made the rainbow gelatin sensory tub I spilled some blue and it it forever to get that stuff off.
- When the gelatin is set about 3 hours ( ours was a little under done but the kids were eager) grab the sea animals and get the table prepared.
- They explored the gelatin before putting it in the table. Touching and tasting it. ” It tastes like zero, nada, nothing .”
- Then we added the gelatin.
- Play!! Clearly the 6 yer old was into it. Literally.
- Because ours was a little under done it was stickier than normal and required more washing off – so they ran to the water in our yard and cleaned themselves off.
We usually rush off to t-ball after school but the practice was rained out and I was determined not to fill the time with TV although I really wanted to just chill and read too. So we went up to our messy playroom and while my son set up his playdough battleground again and my daughter played with her doll house I set up this ocean mural. We’ve been reading a lot of ocean books lately and this ties in to them perfectly while sneaking in some shape learning and writing practice too! Vertical surfaces like walls are fantastic for developing proper wrist muscles and form for writing so find ways to get your kids writing on the walls…or easels…or white boards… you get my point.
- Gather your materials. You will need some bright printer paper. You can use construction paper too but this peels on and off the contact paper easier. Contact paper, some good quality painter’s tape or cheap stuff and some thumb tacks, scissors and markers.
- Start by putting the contact paper sticky side out on your wall. I used painter’s tape which as long as you have good quality tape will work great. If you have the cheap stuff you may like me need to use some thumb tacks too.
- Cut out all sorts of shapes from the multicolored paper. This is great scissor practice for kids so have them cut some out too. My wee man was busy and playing well and I wasn’t going to interrupt so I cut them all out but there is no reason an adult has to do this step solo.
- When they are up to it invite the kids to play and create an under sea world.Immediately he started adding happy faces.
- He discovered that the blue marker made cool water when he colored the contact paper.
- My daughter wasn’t as interested as her brother but she did add a purple starfish and color it.
- I love seeing them work together even if it’s only for a few minutes.
- Now our playroom is brighter !
Barry the Fish with Fingers by Sue Hendra is a goofy fun book that had me wrapped around it’s fingers with the title, I mean a fish named Barry? And he has fingers?! I love it. Thankfully my judgment was smack dab on because the inside of the book was as funny as the cover. Barry isn’t just a fish with fingers he is a hero when his fingers save the day. The illustrations are so fun, the text is zippy and both my kids ( 4 and 10 months) loved it from start to finish.
The Seaside Switch by Kathleen V. Kudlinski is a book packed with information about tides and creatures in the sea. As a child I found nothing more fascinating than a tide pool and all the scurrying crabs and this book captures that. It’s main story is how the tide changes throughout the day and brings with it different animals. The book is too long for most toddlers but my son enjoyed pointing out the animals in the book.
Swimmy by Leo Lionni has been a favorite of mine for many years. I love Lionni and how he can weave multiple layers of meaning into a simple story for children. Swimmy is a story about a little fish who lost his family to a giant tuna fish and after grieving he was reminded of all the wonderful things there were to see and experience in the ocean. When he came across a school of fish just like his former one hiding afraid of the big fish he knew he couldn’t let them miss out on all the wonders of the ocean and he rallied them to work as a team. This is a great book for teaching children about the power of working as a group to combat challenges as well as conquering fears.
As our archive of kids crafts and art project ideas continues to grow I like to take a day each week (or so) to do a round up. They help you find what you need fast! Here are 15 sea animal crafts and activities for you to try with your kids.
Paper Bag Octopus
Bubble Wrap School Of Fish
Sticky Fish Sun Catcher
Walnut Shell Turtles
Paper Plate Jelly Fish
Alphabet Fishing Game
Finger Print Fish
Puffy Paint Fish
Paper Plate Crab
Ocean Sensory Tub
Bubble Wrap Starfish
Cupcake Liner Jelly Fish
My daughter loves fish and I have been wanting to make another batch of homemade puffy paint so I decided to combine the two. We love this paint because it dries puffy even the big globs! I was planning on doing this just with my daughter but when my son heard we were making puffy paint he put away his Lego and ran to the play room. Making your own puffy paint is so simple and this time we mixed in some colored glue which added a lesson in color mixing into the fun. If you are making a big fish like we did make sure you have a place for it to dry away from little hands for a good 48 hours. Smaller puffy paint creations will dry faster.
- Gather your materials. You will need some craft paper ( paper grocery bags cut open work great), shaving cream ( plain jane variety), plain white glue, colored glue , a marker, tape, a bowl and some spoons. If you are adding a face you will also need some googly eyes and a pipe cleaner for the mouth.
- Start by taping down your paper and draw a big fish.
- Now spray some shaving cream into the bowl. The official recipe I like calls for 1/2 cup of glue and 1 1/2 cups of shaving cream. I just eye ball it now we do it so much. My son loves spraying it.
- Add glue.
- Pop it on the fish. She hated getting her hands dirty – I had an old towel and baby wipes handy.
- Add colored glue. I was very impressed she didn’t try to eat it.
- Explore. Both my kids opted for the spoons. They take after their dad, I was eager to mix it with my hands.
- We popped it in my master bath that is never used. It was a perfect place to be out of my daughter’s reach for the two days. But first we added two eyes and a pipe cleaner mouth.
- Let dry. Ours dried for 2 days then I cut it out.
Over at my other blog I have a fun fish themed idea for children just starting to recognize their colors. Check it out.
Books About Sea Animals
Secret Seahorse by Stella Blackstone is a fascinating and beautiful board book. The story follows a little seahorse that hides on each page as it makes it’s way along the ocean back to it’s family. The illustrations are felt, fabric, sequins and other fun and very beautiful hand stitched creations. I am never ready for the next page because the previous has so much to look and marvel at. Kids like finding the seahorse on each page too! My son and I re read this tonight to my daughter and she liked it but he was still loving it, which is pretty impressive for a board book. It’s just so pretty!
O Is for Orca: An Alphabet Book by Andrea Helman is a book about the nature of the North West packaged in an alphabet book. Each page is dedicated to one large photo and a animal, plant or other part of North West nature. My son was reluctant at first wanting to read a Star Wars chapter book but only a page or two in he was asking not to skip any of the text and we were discussing the information about the sea animals and he was eager to make a nest in our apple trees for the spotted owls who we read were endangered. Many of the letters represent sea animals like sea stars, urchins and of course orcas. There are a lot of facts in this book and if I were reading it to my toddler I’d skip the paragraphs and go through the alphabet and each photo only. That is what I love about books like this you can adapt them so easily to your audience.
Baby Beluga by Raffi is a classic children’s song cleverly illustrated into a beautiful book. I grew up on Raffi in Canada and am still shocked when moms don’t know who he is, if he is new to you go to your library and check out one of his cds. My son loves this book, there are so many sea creatures to point out, it’s great for toddlers. I must say that I am unable to read this without singing the song. It might be a good thing to read it before listening to the song .
A great way to get children interested in science is to go on field trips to learn first hand. I like to take my children somewhere exciting every Friday then use our trip as a launching pad for more learning with books and of course a creative craft. Last week we went to our local aquarium and checked out a new octopus, some jelly fish , crabs and of course starfish! For the craft when we came home we used both bubble wrap for my preschooler and a easier to manipulate tool for my toddler. I am always happy when we can find crafts that work with both kids at the same time.
- Take a trip to your local aquarium, beach or even a pet store and check out some sea life!
- Gather your materials. You will need some paper ( we love using grocery bags), self stick bubble wrap ( regular works too but man was the self stick awesome), paint, a plate for the paint, marker, toilet paper roll and scissors. If you are doing this with toddlers you may also want a dish scrubber with a handle.
- Start by drawing a starfish on your paper. I taped the paper bag right down to the table with painters tape to use it as a drop cloth and project all in one. I had one kid at each end of the table.
- Cut your bubble wrap so it wraps around your toilet paper roll. The self stick stayed on like magic , I am in love. I swear this post isn’t sponsored by the bubble wrap company .
- Choose your paint colors and pour into a plate. Not too much or the bubble wrap won’t show. Roll the bubble wrap in.
- Roll it on your starfish.
- We never get sick of how awesome bubble wrap prints are, and we’ve made a few over the years!
- Now for the wee ones. I gave her the same plate and let her smack her star with the scrubber. As you can see it did go to her lips but because it’s harder plastic all she could do was lick it. This is why I don’t sponge paint with her yet, she could bite off a piece and choke. Another tip for babies and toddlers, keep some stained clothes for art time, many will refuse a smock and it’s easier to get a good fit with clothes.
- Let dry and cut out.
Books About The Ocean
A House for Hermit Crab is a book I have owned for many years. It offers so many learning opportunities for young readers and doesn’t loose any of the entertainment in trying to hard to teach. The hermit crab feels drab and each month he asks different sea creatures to help decorate his shell . As the shell is getting more and more beautiful it’s also getting more and more snug and almost time for the hermit crab to leave it behind and find a bigger one. The book teaches about sea creatures, months of the year and moving. More than moving it teaches about change . Change is difficult for all of us but a little trickier for most preschoolers which makes this book so valuable
Hooray for Fish!: Candlewick Storybook Animations by Lucy Cousins gets are huge “Hooray” from our house. I thought my son would think this book was a little young for him. He’s started saying board books are for babies, and he’s a big boy and even though this isn’t a board book it’s simple, big and bright like one. Nope, he loved it. Little Fish takes the readers on a tour of all the different kinds of fish , the bright fun illustrations are so interesting to look at , and choose your favorite fish on each page. The rhymes are fun and when we finished reading my son immediately asked to read it again! Edited for 2011 – now that he is almost 5 he flatly refused to read this with me but his sister who is 14 months liked it!
Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea by Jan Peck is about a little boy swimming in the “deep” looking for treasure. Along the way he encounters different sea animals and greets and says good bye to each before swimming away on his treasure hunt. The cute kicker is that all along the little boy is really in his bath tub and the animals are just toys. I liked the twist and so did my son who then requested a laundry basket to play bath, funny how he didn’t actually want a bath… a mom can dream! Edited for 2011 – my son re discovered this book as we were setting up the playroom in our new house. It’s still a hit with him after 2 years.