Yes, friends, I am still teaching, well actually this week I have a sub while I head off to Chicago for a conference, but my students are diving into a new theme, can you guess what it is? Yep Under The Sea! I love the Under The Sea theme for preschool because my school, my students, and I all live on an island, and the ocean is part of our daily lives. We ride the ferry boat to get to Seattle, we smell the tide at different times of the day, and going to the beach is pretty standard. None of this takes away from how fun this learning theme is, because no matter how close you are to the ocean, there is so much more to discover.
One of the things I think is really important while learning about the natural world is to use materials that represent animals and nature accurately. I use cute cartoony materials as well, and there is nothing wrong with some but make sure there is space for actual pictures, actual shells, real experiences whenever possible. That is why I made these simple matching puzzles for my class using actual photos of sea animals.
If you are a regular reader, you know that I have a large magnet board in my classroom and I will be using these puzzles on that board, but they work on a tray ( pictured below) or even the floor too.
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Gather your materials. You will need some photos of sea animals – you can find free images online or use these here —> PRINT FOR FREE, you will also need a laminator, laminating sheets, scissors, and good magnets if you are using them on a magnet board like me.
After printing out laminate them. I love my laminator, and it was not expensive at all. Being able to prep things for my class at 11 pm in my own home has made such a difference to my work life balance. You can grab an inexpensive laminator one like mine here.
I cut out after laminating because it makes the pictures match up perfectly. I cut some of the photos horizontally and other vertically because my students enjoy these activities and are used to them. Changing the orientation of the cuts creates a small challenge. Cut yours however you see fit.
Add magnets if you are using with a magnet board or cookie sheet.
You are ready to match up those sea animals.
How To Use These Sea Animal Puzzles
I made eight, but I will only put our 4-5 at a time, my students like to complete activities before moving on, and eight would be too daunting for a 3-year-old. My goal is exploration and language development, not frustration. I made these images small so that they fit nicely on a tray if you don’t have access to a magnet board. This tray is perfect for your science center.
I pop them on the board for free choice and then as my assistant teacher, and I circulate we try to guide children to activities that fit them best. So if I have a child who has talked about sharks I might say: “Lindy, I remember you telling me about sharks, there are some puzzles on the magnet board, one is of a shark, should we discover what else it up there?” Then together with the child I’d go and explore, as she does, I’d let her observations lead the learning. This one on one time also allows me to see what questions she might have about sea animals, which will help me create new experiences and questions to find answers to in the coming days.
Never force a child to any activity, as you play with your students you will get to know what they like, what is a challenge for them, and what they need to work on. Your task is to find activities and explorations that meet those needs and preferences to create an engaging learning environment. Every day won’t be a perfect match, and these sea animal puzzles may only be a fit for some of our students, that’s OK. I make these free resources for you so you can spend the time doing the most essential part of teaching, getting down on the carpet, listening, observing, and interacting with our students to find ways to serve them the best you can!
For more Under The Sea, preschool activities check out our Under The Sea thematic unit. It’s perfect for 3-5-year-olds with ways to differentiate most activities, it has circle time ideas, printable materials, a book list, fingerplay and more!