Ocean – Science at Home

Here are some fun things you can do at home to supplement any science lessons about the ocean, fish, and submarines.

Math and Science Skills

Shell observation and sorting

If you happen to have a collection of seashells, put out a wide variety of shells to explore, plus magnifying glasses for a close look. Kids can be encouraged to sort them, looking for commonalities and differences between the various shells. They can compare them to diagrams like these. (Or we use the pictures in the book Seashells by the Seashore. (Read about it here with our Books about the Beach)


Fish match and sort

Make cards with pictures of fish / sea life on them. (Two of each) Kids can sort into categories, or find the matching fish. (You could put paper clips on them and “fish” with magnet poles to catch them.)



I’ve used artwork www.meddybemps.com/deepblue/thereef.html to print a mural of a coral reef. Then I use this field guide to make counting sheets so they can tally how many of each fish they see. www.meddybemps.com/deepblue/fieldguide.html


Science of Submarines and Divers

Build a Waterproof Sub

Make a little paper person. Use plastic Easter eggs, or plastic leftover containers, or a wide variety of other options as a submarine for them to ride in. Place it under the water. Do they stay dry or get wet? If they got wet, how can you re-engineer the sub to be airtight / watertight? With accommodations, this is a fun activity with kids from age 2  – 10 or beyond. Learn more in our post on building a mini submarine.

Ballast Tank Submarines

With a water bottle and a few basic supplies, you and your child could build a model of a ballast submarine. Find directions in our submarines post. This project is a parent-child project, best for age 5 and up.

Cartesian Diver Bottles

In the 16th century, Descartes is said to have invented an experiment to demonstrate buoyancy which we can re-create. You make a “diver” with a paper clip, a straw and some clay (or bubble wrap and a paper clip) and put it in a full water bottle. Design it just right and it will float on top of the water.  When you squeeze the bottle, the air bubble trapped in the diver compresses (gets smaller). Water is denser than air, so this increases the mass and density of the diver, so it sinks. When you stop squeezing, the air bubble expands, forcing water out of the diver, and the diver rises. This is a tinkering project an adult and an older child (5 and up) can do together.

There are lots more details in this tutorial. Here’s a video of our final product in action:

Art and Crafts

Cardboard Aquarium

A fun craft project is this ocean diorama.

Fingerprint Fish

Provide paper, ink pads (like for rubber stamps) and markers. Kids make fingerprints, then turn them into fish by decorating with markers. I used a picture from https://www.etsy.com/listing/13261893/underwater-card as inspiration.


Watercolor Resist Fish

Dissolve Epsom salts in warm water – add blue/green liquid watercolor or food color. Kids draw a picture of fish with pastels, then paint over the fish with the Epsom/watercolor mix. When it dries, the salt will sparkle.

IMG_20160604_122344049 IMG_20160604_145010789 IMG_20160604_145014550 

Sea Shell Impressions

You can use playdough for a short-term process-based play, or if you want to keep the impressions, use Model Magic air drying clay (see this post to learn more) and a collection of small scalloped sea shells. Kids make a small ball of clay, then press the shell into it to make an impression.


Imaginary Play

Climb Aboard an Imaginary Ship: With an umbrella stand, a pole and dowel, and some fabric, you can make a boat with a sail. Use blue fabric for the ocean. Add sea-life puppets, fishing poles (dowels with magnet wands tied on) and fish shapes and paper clips on them to catch.


Outside Play – Beachcombing

Print paper seashells and items to find on a beach. (I used these: www.first-school.ws/t/apshellsc.htm.) Scatter them outside in sand play area.

Rhymes, Songs, Books

A Sailor went to sea clapping game. Here’s a tutorial: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr8P2wt7d7Y, and here are kids doing it full speed: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NEwPQUFHcc This game teaches rhythm, hand-eye coordination, singing and moving at the same time, and teamwork.

Songs: Over in the Ocean – read the book (see below) and sing the song. Other options are: All the Fish are swimming in the water (www.youtube.com/watch?v=60RRRq4dJ58 or http://kcls.org/content/all-the-fish-are-swimming/) or Slippery Fish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXfTXCIXIq8 and hand motions here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C9HSOlb4qI)

Dance: Dance to Under the Sea from Little Mermaid or Yellow Submarine or Octopuses Garden by the Beatles.

Book recommendations: Don’t miss my post on recommended books about the ocean and fish, especially Over in the Ocean. Also check out this post on books about the beach. My post on submarines includes recommended sub books. 

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