The Traveling Closet – Ocean Life Lessons for Kids

by Mary Ann on June 13, 2011


sea urchin craft

Mary making a sea urchin craft

The Ocean is a BIG subject. It should probably be broken down to a specific ocean or beaches or specific animals and fish in the ocean, weather over the ocean, tides; well, I am sure you get the drift. (No pun intended)

I know this would make the ocean life lessons for kids easier but I couldn’t resist the books! I mean I went to the library to find a topic on the ocean and I just couldn’t resist the books. I came home with almost more than I could carry. It was fabulous!! There were just so many books that would teach kids about ocean life.

Now I could have just sifted through the books and picked a couple of things to talk about but here is what clinched it. I made the mistake of Googeling “ocean crafts for kids” under images. Cute! Cute! Cute! So for better or worse I was hooked. ) No pun intended)

So this last week we did ocean life lessons. I had my regular children ages 1, 3, and 5. I had a second 3 year old and 5 year old, a 2 year old and an eight year old. Quite a group!

I have to say that this was just such a fun day and that the eight year old was interested in all the ocean life activities that I had despite the fact that they were prepared for younger children. We did take a break in between a couple of the activities because the little boys needed to burn off some energy. I love the summer!

So here is what we did. I showed them the book About the Ocean-We Both Read by Sindy McKay. The We Both Read Books are wonderful for beginning readers or children who would  like to become beginning readers. Mom/Dad reads one page and then the second page is specifically designed for the child to read. They are great!

reading about ocean picture

Grandma reading about the ocean

I showed them pages 1 and 2 and asked them to show me the land. Then I asked them to show me the water. Then I asked them which is more, the water or the land. We all decided that there is a lot more water on the earth than there is land. We talked briefly about the fact that all the large bodies of water are called seas or oceans. I pointed out all the different oceans of the world. We didn’t talk about their names but that would have been a great thing to do also.

On the table I had a large stack of books. We looked at them one by one. I asked them what animal or fish was on the cover. Then we just skimmed through the book talking about the pictures. We only did this for about 15 minutes. We talked about the fact that there are many different fish and animals that live in the ocean. Ocean life is amazing. See the list of books about ocean below.

To add an element of excitement and fun this week I had chosen a book which matched the activity I wanted to do and put it into a plastic bag along with all the materials for the ocean craft. Then the children took turns choosing a bag. They didn’t know what they would find in the bag until it was opened. We first took out the book and talked about who was on the cover and then read the book or just talked about the pictures depending on the amount of text. Then I showed them what we were going to make.

ocean craft picture

Maggie's school of fish

In our first bag was the book What Is a Fish? by Bobbie Kalman. It is a book for older children and so we just talked about the pictures. We talked about what a “school” of fish is. We looked at pictures of fish that don’t look like fish at all and we saw a fish who makes “slime”. We saw fish with teeth and fish without teeth. We saw fish that were in the movie “Finding Nemo” and the children could pick them all out. They were especially excited to see the fish from the black deep that had a light on his head.

Then we made the most fun sea scenes that had a school of fish. It is pretty self explanatory. We used fish shaped crackers.  We glued small star shaped pasta on our star fish to make it “bumpy”. We followed this activity with a fish cracker snack and juice.

paper bag octopus craft pic

Salem's Octopus

The next bag contained a book about Octopuses by Carol K. Lindeen. This book has some fascinating pictures and is an easy read book. We read the whole book. Then we made a darling octopus craft out of a paper bag. Here’s a tip. We were using white bags and so one of the mothers suggested that they color their bag first. What happened is that they made their faces which when the octopus was put together was either scrunched up or in the wrong place. If you use white bags tell them to only color the body and that you will make the face when you have put the octopus together.

We stopped at this point for a run around the yard and then we read Harbor by Donald Crews. We looked at all the different kinds of boats that sail the oceans and what they are for.

We read the book Mister Seahorseby Eric Carle. That was really fun. Did you know that there are at least six ocean fish where the daddy fish takes care of the eggs or fry. (a fry is a baby fish) This book is easy to read and has some amazing hidden pictures. We tried to find the hidden fish before turning the page. Ocean life is absolutely fascinating and it was fun to learn so much about it..

The next choice turned out to be a book about the sandy shore of the ocean, Sea Shores by Beth Blaxland. We looked through the book talking about beaches and who lives on the edge of the ocean.

crab crafts picture

Crabs, crabs, crabs!

On page 16 was a terrific picture of a crab. So we made a crab craft. The smallest children didn’t do this project but the older ones really liked it. They had the option to glue or staple the legs in place. I’ll bet you can guess the method they liked best. (Stapler of course)

I had a couple more books about the beach which we read. These were good picture books. One was called On the Way to the Beach by Henry Cole, which has hidden pictures which were fun to uncover. The other book was even better. It was called Grandma’s Beach by Rosalind Beardshaw. This book would be fun to read on a different day and then create a beach experience in your own back yard just like grandma helped Emily to do.

We finished by reading a book about Sea Urchins. Gosh, they don’t even look like a fish or an animal at all! We used the book Sea Urchins by Martha E. H. Rustad. Everyone LOVED this project.

Grandma School with the traveling Closet lasted almost two hours. Children participated as they felt inspired. Occasionally one or two would rest, take a run around the room and work off energy or look at a book instead of doing a project. We all had a very good time.

By the way, I checked out another book that I want to tell you about and one that my daughter had purchased. The first is called Awesome Ocean Science! by Cindy A. Littlefield. If you want to do some great experiments about ocean life this is the book for you! The other book is called Sounds of the Wild: Ocean by Maurice Pledger . Little Mary had practically played it to pieces, literally. It is a sound pop up book. You can hear whales and dolphins and sea gulls among many others. Although it is practically falling apart from so much rough use (little hands are rough) Mary “reads” it quite frequently. She is not the least bit concerned about the condition of the book. She loves the sights and sounds!

baby in backpack picture

Here is how we manage Mary when her hands get too busy : )

List of books about the ocean for children:

The Best Book of Whales and Dolphins by Christiane Gunzi
Baby Sea Otter by Betty Tatham
Seals and Walruses by Norman Barrett
Jellies by Twig C. George (Remember Finding Nemo?)
Zoobooks Sea Otters by John Bonnett Wexo
Eels by Deborah Coldiron
• In the Wild – Sharks by Claire Robinson (Another Finding Nemo fish!)
Sea Turtles by Emilie U. Lepthien (Yet another Finding Nemo animal, dude!)

ocean crafts pictures

Ocean Crafts

More fun ocean projects for kids:

I found three other projects that I thought would be really fun to do another time. This would be really good for older children.

Hanging ocean diorama Just look at the picture and you will be able to do this by yourself.

Jumping Dolphin It really moves!

Flower Pot Shark I would use Styrofoam cups!


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimberly June 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm

I love the crabs! It looks like everyone had a wonderful time:)


Mary Ann June 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm

We did! It was very fun and something for everyone that day. : )


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