Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Teaching about ocean animals is one of my favorite times of Kindergarten! The kiddos love learning all about the deep blue ocean that they cannot see! And the ocean animals that inhabit this mysterious unknown are no less exciting to little minds!
I like to use a variety of hands on activities, ocean animals printables, worksheets, books and videos. I fill my library with fiction and nonfiction books about the ocean and its animals. My ocean animals lesson plans usually include a short informational video at the beginning of each lesson as well as some fun ocean videos for throughout the unit.
I have compiled a list of my favorite hands on ocean animals activities, I hope you and your kiddos can have some fun with these:
1. Ocean Sensory Bin: O.k. so I know some classrooms don’t like the mess of sensory bins especially the ones with water but during my ocean animals unit I cannot help but break out the water beads, ocean animal little people, magnetic fishing rods and magnetic fish (available from lakeshore learning) The picture below is my daughter playing with my ocean unit sensory bin last year. (She may have added a few non-ocean animals, haha)
2. Make a Classroom Ocean: I love to push desks out of the way and lay down a large sheet of board paper. I have the kids decorate the paper with paint, markers and crayons. I have several reference pictures hung around the room for them to look at while they are working. We then label each of the animals they drew and put their name by it. I then hang this masterpiece in the hallway for the parents to admire at drop off. (I wish I had a good picture of this from last year but sorry to say Covid ruined those plans!)
3. Ocean Animal Directed Drawings: Whether you are an artist or you find a great video on youtube.com you can’t go wrong with a fun directed drawing. My kiddos love to do these throughout the year and ocean animals are some of the most fun to draw and color.
4. Play Who lives in the Ocean?: So there are a couple of different ways I have played this game with my kiddos. I like to place ocean animal little people in a pillowcase and have the children reach in and pick one out. They then use their sense of touch to try to figure out what animal they chose. I have also done this orally, giving clues to certain ocean animals and having them guess which animal I am describing. This year I plan to have my Ocean Animals facts posters on my view board to reveal the correct animal during one of my lessons. Kind of like a gameshow, I will let you know how that turns out!
5. Ocean Play Center: I happen to be fortunate enough to have an extensive collection of little people that I use for most of these activities. If you do not have plastic ocean animals you can use the printable animals in my ocean animals unit. Just copy the coloring pages on cardstock, color if desired, cut out the animal and laminate. Then place the animals in a center with a blue shower curtain, green hula skirts(makes great seaweed!) sand in a sensory bin if you are brave enough and any other ocean related items you have.
6. Ocean Animal Writing Center: This is another activity where I use real life photographs of the Ocean habitat and Ocean Animals. I have my read the room cards available as well as several types of writing sheets; one sentence with blank drawing section, make a list sheets, ABC order sheets, paragraph writing sheets with blank drawing section and draw and write the word sheets. This way the center is differentiated to each of the abilities in my classroom and every child can feel successful with the activity they choose to complete. My writing center is stocked with special pens, markers and anything that will make it more fun. For this ocean animals writing center I will make a few construction paper seaweed pieces and put cutouts of different ocean animals on the wall where the kiddos will be working.
7. Ocean Animal Show and Tell: Have each kiddo bring in an Ocean Animal stuffy or toy that they have. Give each child a chance to tell about their animal, where they got it, does it have a name etc. Then ask each kiddo what is special about their animal that makes them perfect for ocean life, see if they remember any facts about their animals from your lessons. Add facts to the discussion as needed. Create an underwater reading station after the show and tell where everyone can read Ocean Animals books with their toy. I like to hang a blue sheet over the area like a tent to create an ocean feel.
8. Ocean Animal Scavenger Hunt: Hide Ocean Animals Printables around your campus. Give each child a clipboard, pencil and list making paper. Go on a hunt for each of the animals and record their name on the list paper. When you return to the classroom go over the animals you found and some facts about them. You can use the animals in the Ocean animals coloring book to print on cardstock or colored paper, color if desired, cut out and laminate. I did this for our scavenger hunt and wrote the names of the animals right on to the cutout in sharpie. You could also use the photograph cards or read the room cards.
9. Theme math and literacy to the Ocean: I try to incorporate my science units into math and literacy as much as possible. Our science time is so limited that I feel including it in my other centers accomplishes 2 goals. Plus the kiddos are much more engaged in the activities when they have a fun theme. We are usually working on money when the Ocean unit hits so I will create a shopping experience where the kiddos will “buy” ocean animals and record how much they pay for them on a list sheet. In a sight word center I will print out our target words onto ocean animal cutouts for the kiddos to record and use in sentences. I also made a set of sentences for them to build out of my printable ocean animals, they put the animals in order and record the sentence in their writing journal. These simple sentences tell fun facts about the ocean animal they are using.
10. And save the best for last! My most favorite of all time Ocean Animals hands on activity is (drum roll please!) Playdough Ocean Animal Creations! I know it sounds silly but I just love to see what the kiddos come up with, how they view these animals, what they make to go with them etc. I will have pictures of the animals available for the kiddos to reference and add google eyes and pipe cleaners to their play buckets.
Now I am sure you are thinking how in the world does this teacher have this much time to set up and teach all of these activities? Well, the answer is I don’t! I pick and choose which activities to do with each class depending on personalities and abilities. This year with Covid there are several activities that break with the new regulations so I will either have to scrap them or modify them. (insert sad face!)
I have done every single one of these activities multiple times in varying ways and they have always been a hit with the kiddos. Take count of what your kiddos respond to and what types of activities they like. For instance 2 years ago my Ocean Center was a huge hit, the kiddos were begging to go to it but this year I wouldn’t even attempt sand!
This year's group of kiddos needs writing practice so I will most definitely have the writing center and scavenger hunt. I will be playing Who lives in the Ocean? as I described above. We won’t be able to have the stuffy show and tell but I am thinking of having them draw their favorite ocean animal and sharing their drawing. This is my daughters Sea Turtle, I may be a little biased but I think it is the cutest sea turtle I have ever seen!
Each year looks a little different but we sure do love studying the ocean and all of it’s AWESOMENESS!!!! The pictures, fact posters, photographs and other activities I reference above are available in my Ocean Animals Unit on TPT. This unit also includes several other ocean animals activities including ocean animals coloring pages, ocean animals labeling worksheets, ocean facts and vocabulary printables, student facts book and more! With 150+ pages it has everything you need to make your ocean unit a success! Grab it by clicking on any picture below.