Ocean Themed Play, STEM and craft Activities

Sensory bin setup as a beach with litter

Laura @inspiremyplay

Founder of @inspiremyplay, Early Years teacher for 11 years and mummy to three gorgeous girls. I'm passionate about about the benefits of play in early childhood.


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Ocean themed activities seem to be a big hit in our house! I realised the other day just how many ocean and beach themed activities I've shared on Instagram over the past 18 months and thought it would be great to collate them all in one place to share with you. Many are sensory play based, with a few STEM activities and art & craft thrown in too. I hope you find some inspiration!

Spaghetti Ocean

We love a bit of spaghetti play! It's such a fun sensory experience and makes a brilliant ocean/seaweed base to play alongside ocean animals. 

To make coloured spaghetti cook it according to the packet instructions (or use leftover spaghetti). Add a few drops of food colouring and use tongs to toss the spaghetti in the food colouring. Once it has soaked for a few minutes, remove any excess food colouring by rinsing it under water. 

To make this ocean I divided the spaghetti into two and coloured one half green and one half blue.

Ocean & Beach Clean-up

Explore the problem of ocean pollution with kids in a hands-on way!  

I allowed the girls to have fun playing with a lovely clean beach before I sent them away for a few minutes and added the rubbish. They were shocked and saddened by the mess! It was a really powerful way to highlight the issue. The girls then used their fine motor tools to remove the rubbish and restore the beach.

Sticky Fish

We love the possibilities of sticky back plastic (otherwise known as contact paper)! For this activity cut out a fish shape from cardboard and add a piece of sticky back plastic to the back so that the sticky side is facing upwards. Draw lines over the fish and provide pom-poms or other craft materials to decorate. 

This activity is great for fine motor skills and can be used many times over as the pom-poms come off easily and can be re-stuck.

Jelly Ocean

Jelly is a great sensory play option for little ones who are still mouthing. I found this blue jelly in the supermarket, but if you can't find some you could use a packet of gelatine with some blue food colouring.  

Add the sea creatures before leaving the jelly to set. Then provide spoons and other tools so that the kids can enjoy digging them out and 'rescuing them' from the jelly.

Under the Sea Salt Painting

We love salt painting! It is such a fun and effective art technique that just uses salt, glue and watercolours. You can learn about the whole process on this Instagram post.

Shaving Foam Ocean

I made this Arctic Ocean using shaving foam with a few drops of food colouring swirled in. To make the ice I used freezer frost! But if you're better than me at keeping your freezer in check you could use blocks of ice frozen in packaging or bits of polystyrene.

Layers of the Ocean

This liquid density activity is a brilliant way of exploring the layers or 'zones' of the ocean and uses everyday liquids that you should be able to find at home. Find out all the details on this Instagram post.

Rock Pool Play Tray

We may not be able to go to the beach at the moment but you can bring the beach to the kids by creating your very own rock pool! Set it up in a large tray or tub so they can get their feet in and get the whole experience!

Salt Water Habitat Sort

Explore where different sealife come from with this mini habitat sort. I chose a coral reef, open ocean, rockpool, polar ocean and mangrove for my habitats.  The girls sorted the sealife into the right habitat and we discussed a few that you might find in different places. Then they had a lovely time playing with the small worlds afterwards.

Frozen Aquarium

The girls loved rescuing the sealife out of our frozen aquarium on a hot day last summer. I gave them bottles of warm water and tools to chip away at the ice. Find all the details about how I froze it in layers on this Instagram post.

Bubble Foam Ocean

We love bubble Foam! It's a great enhancement to water play and quick to set up. To make bubble foam put 1 part tear free bubble bath (or washing up liquid) to 2 parts water into a bowl. We usually do 1/2 cup of bubble bath and 1 cup of water at a time. If you'd like to colour your bubble foam add a little food colouring at this stage. Mix it up using an electric hand mixer until you start to get stiff peaks and then scoop it out into a tray for play. We usually make 3 or 4 batches of different colours to fill a tray.


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Fizzy Ocean

Have you tried mixing bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) with vinegar before? It makes an exciting fizzy reaction that little ones just love!  

To make a fizzy ocean lay out a thin layer of bicarbonate of soda onto a tray and add in some sealife figures and shells. Then fill a couple of dishes with white vinegar and add a few drops of colouring to make one blue and one green-blue.  

Provide pipettes or droppers for children to transfer the vinegar to the play tray. As they squeeze it into the tray it will react with the bicarbonate of soda and create a fantastic fizzy, foamy ocean. 

Once the girls had finished creating their ocean I then provided them with a bowl of water and they had fun cleaning up the animals.

Sand Play Dough

This may be slightly off the ocean theme but sand play dough is great stuff and I had to share it! Sand play dough has a really unique texture to it and perfect for at-home beach play. Add some shells and loose parts for them to make their own pictures in the dough. You can find my sand play dough recipe on this blog post.

For more beach and ocean themed activities do check out my pinterest topic board here. You can find a full list of our favourite play & craft supplies on my Amazon storefronts.


Sensory and Creative Play Made Easy

Whether you are new to sensory play for little ones, or you are a seasoned pro, the PlayTRAY is the perfect tool to create a playful home.