Are you using playdough in your class right now? Most states and provinces are suggesting or requiring we put it away until we have COVID-19 under control. So why am I sharing this? Because this is a GREAT send home activity. A can of playdoh is inexpensive, and these cookie cutters came in a huge pack of 50 different animals for less than $8, add in some loose parts you have hanging around your craft closet, and send it home. Your students can explore and make playdough ocean animals at home. If your school is all remote, this would be a fun activity to do over zoom where children chat, just like at the playdough table in your classroom, while you create and can show off their creations!
This under the sea playdough activity is wide open. There are no steps to follow just materials to include that will invite creativity and no doubt conversation. As students make these playdough ocean animals, they are honing multiple skills. Adding in small loose parts to the playdough allows children to continue to work on their fine motor skills, of course kneading the dough works on hand strength, which is also beneficial for writing and life skills too. Something else you will likely see when you invite children to create with these materials is storytelling. Oh! It’s fantastic because not only doe this work on vocabulary and other literacy skills, it creates a stronger classroom community as children tell each other stories. This is especially important if that storytelling is happening over zoom.
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Playdough Ocean Animals
Gather your materials. I am using packaged play-doh, cookie cutters from this pack of 50 ( use this link for the pack I bought), some pony beads, buttons, gems, googly eyes, and real shells. If you are using this for remote learning, I’d include a paper plate if you plan on sharing creations over zoom so that when a child shows it off, it doesn’t break apart. Having a paper plate to hold up to the webcam will prevent that tragedy from happening.
The first step, of course, is to use the cookie cutters, but don’t force it, if a child wants to shape their animal or just create with the dough go for it, they are still getting all the skill-building.
We added eyes
We then decorated our ocean animals with “scales”.
Even added some air bubbles!
All of these loose parts came out easily, and that is part of the activity, to take the small bits back out. It’s a challenge, but just the right kind of challenge for most. If you feel like these loose parts are too small, use larger ones like bigger gems, bigger buttons, etc… I don’t suggest using sequins. They are next to impossible to get out of playdough.
If you are using this for remote learning but are NOT doing the activity live as a group on zoom, make sure to include instructions for parents/ caregivers. Encourage caregivers to sit and play with their children, even for a short time, creating together and telling stories about their animal creations. We can’t recreate an excellent preschool environment remotely, but we can find creative ways to give our students similar experiences that will support their development.
Ocean Animal Books
Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae is a delightful book full of rhymes about all sorts of sea creatures, including jellyfish. Each page has a rhyming text that goes along with the animal. The book is cute, and the illustrations are bright and bold. My son enjoyed it, pointing out the animals. That said, it’s not a must-buy, more like a great to have on hand when you are specifically learning about the subject.
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 its way along the ocean back to its family. The illustrations are felt, fabric, sequins, and other fun and stunning hand-stitched creations. I am never ready for the next page because the present one 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’s just so pretty!
A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle is a book I have owned for many years. It offers so many learning opportunities for young readers and doesn’t lose any of the entertainment in trying too 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. 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! by Lucy Cousins gets are huge “Hooray” from our house. I thought my son when he was 3. He’s’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 colorful fun illustrations are so delightful 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 re-read it!
Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Elhert is a classroom favorite in every school I have ever been in. The colors are so bright, and the eye cut-outs that give readers a sneak peek at what colors are coming next is fascinating for babies and kids alike. I have used this book for various themes like under the sea, shapes, and of course, counting.
More Ocean Animal Activities – Thematic Unit
Our popular thematic units offer parents educating their children at home or preschool teachers with fun, hands-on ideas for children aged 3-5. Buy our under the sea unit for just $6.99 here, or check out our whole library of early childhood themed unit plans here.