Ocean Centers for Preshool, Pre-K, and Kindergarten
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Ocean Life is a perfect theme for the end of the school year or summer! Kids find it so fun and interesting; who doesn’t love sharks and jellyfish?!? Plus, you can add waterplay outside to take the theme out into the sunshine. Make sure you grab the Ocean Freebies later in this post because, trust me, your students will love them! Now grab your lesson plan binder, and let’s plan for an ocean theme.
Grab all of my Ocean Printables HERE in my TpT store.
Ocean Oobleck! Make a watery blue oobleck! Add small ocean animals and teal, blue, green-colored letter beads. To make the oobleck, mix 2 parts corn starch (ex: 1 cup) and 1 part blue water (ex: 1/2 cup). Then to make it extra watery, add another part blue water (ex: 1/2 cup) to make it look like an ocean! To make blue water, I add a few drops of blue food coloring to the water. Lastly, you can add fun mix-ins like blue glitter, ocean animals, and letter beads.
Letter Shells! Write letters on the inside of shells to create a fun letter manipulative. Then students can hide and find the letters in regular sand or kinetic sand. If you want to challenge your students, have them build names or sight words with the shell letters. The Dollar Tree usually has shells, and craft stores have them as well.
Beach Writing Tray with Ocean Letter Cards! Place sand in a writing tray with a few small shells. Students pick a letter card and write the letter in the sand using the shell. When students use the shell to write, they will be strengthening their pencil grasp. If you don’t have a wooden writing tray, try using a plastic food tray or divided kid plate.
Shark Color (or Add) by Number! Students roll a dice and color the number. If that is too easy for your students, use two dice, add, and color the total on the Shark Color by Number page. Grab the FREEBIE HERE! 2D Shape Beach Match! Students match the shape cards to the board. Crab shape cards and shell shape cards are included. Place the shape cards in a bin with sand or other fun sensory filler to make it more engaging. Grab the FREEBIE here.
Ocean Animal Count! Grab a muffin pan and place magnet numbers in the bottom of each spot. And guess what? The magnet numbers stick! Pick numbers 1-6 in order, higher numbers in order, or mix up random numbers. Students identify the number and then place the matching number of items in the tin. Use ocean mini erasers, shells, ocean mini-figures, or ocean animal math counters. Add tweezers for extra fine motor work.
Sea Turtle Symmetry! Take a green paper plate and draw a line down the middle. Then cut out a head and feet from green foam or cardstock and tape to the back. Students take pattern blocks and create a symmetrical pattern!
Pirate Flag Count! Arrrg! Don’t forget to incorporate fun pirate activities during your ocean theme. Tape the numbered flags to pipe cleaners, then place them on a tray with pony beads. Students identify the number and place the matching amount on the flag for a fun math and fine motor activity.
Shell Sort! Take butcher paper or poster board and draw two lines on it to create three sections. Place a basket of shells out and label each section (small, medium, large). I like doing giant sorting boards because it gets the kids up, moving, and interacting with each other! For tons of sorting and graphic activities, check out my Graphing and Sorting Unit HERE.
Ocean Slime! Make a batch of glittery blue slime and add ocean counters! To make it a math game, add a dice. Students roll the number and place that many counters in the slime. SO MUCH FUN! Here’s a tip to clean the counters that will have slime on them: place the counters in a bowl of water and let them sit for a few hours. The slime will dissolve, making it easy to rinse and dry the counters.
HOW TO MAKE OCEAN SLIME:
- Mix equal parts GLUE AND WATER FIRST. Make sure you do this step, or the slime may not turn out!
- Add in the glitter (optional).
- Stir in equal parts liquid starch.
- Mix with a spoon until the slime forms and knead it.
Ocean Playdough Tray! Mix a batch of blue and tan playdough. I added a bit of sand to the tan playdough and blue glitter to the blue playdough to create a fun texture. Place shells, ocean animals, rocks, and gems on the tray for students to create ocean sculptures with! Now they can build, create, and sculpt ocean sculptures while developing their problem-solving, STEM, fine motor, and social skills!
Ocean Sensory Table! Place kinetic sand or loose sand in the sensory table for a fun beach sensory table! Add shells, beach animals like sea turtles or crabs, and plastic shot glasses for students to build sandcastles with! If using dry sand, add funnels and sifters.
Fine Motor Beach Snack! Give every student a vanilla pudding cup, teddy grahams, lifesaver gummies, an umbrella, and a baggie with three vanilla wafers in it (aka sand). Students smash the vanilla wafers up by smashing and squishing them using their finger and hand muscles. Then they can add the “sand,” people, tubes, and umbrella to their pudding cup, creating a little beach!
Ocean Crafts! Crafts are fine to mix in as long as you are doing process art projects too. Crafts are great for practicing and developing scissor skills. Check out how we made our ocean mural and ocean crafts in this blog post. Aquarium Dramatic Play! For your ocean theme, change the dramatic play center into an aquarium. Students can make the ocean animal exhibits during small groups to sneak in STEM and literacy skills! I’m sharing all the details on how we transformed the dramatic play center into an Aquarium HERE.
Ocean Blocks/STEM Center! Add props to the blocks or STEM center for the ocean theme. Add boats, ocean animals, shells, blue felt for water, yellow felt for sand, gold coins or gems for pirate treasure, and ocean-themed STEM challenge cards. Your students will be excited to build something new, which will extend their thinking as they build, construct, and problem-solve to build something different than they usually do. Ocean Science Table Investigation! Set up an ocean investigation at the science table for students to explore. Many students may not have been to the ocean yet so fill the science table with real photos of the ocean and various ocean animals. Students can examine, compare, and measure the ocean animals, then sort animals that live/don’t live in the ocean. Set out small props for students to build little mini ocean animal habitats with! Grab all the science printables in the All About Habitats Science Unit (Ocean, Savannah, Rainforest, Polar) HERE from TpT. Shell Science Investigation! You could set up a shell investigation instead if your students are interested in shells! Place real shells out in a sand tray for students to find, examine, measure, sort, and compare using science tools and shell charts. Grab all of these science shell printables in the All About Shells Science Unit HERE.
These are some of my student’s favorite ocean activities and centers! I hope your students love them as much as mine did. I would love to see how they went in your classroom so please tag me on social media when you share them in the Pocket of Preschool FB Group or on Instagram.
Need ocean printables? Grab all of my Ocean Printables HERE in my TpT store.
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hey, i’m jackie!
I’m Jackie, your go-to girl for early childhood inspiration and research-based curriculum.