I recently completed a preschool ocean unit with my two kids, 4-year-old QBoy and 3-year-old XGirl. As part of our learning about ocean animals, my goal was for my kids to become familiar with some of the most common ocean animals. I wanted my kids to recognize the animals and be able to describe some of the most interesting facts about them. For example, the fact that squid will squirt ink to escape from predators or that sea stars can regenerate their limbs if one of their arms gets cut off.
In this post I’m sharing several activities we did during this unit to help my kids learn about ocean animals.
Note: For more resources, printables and activities related to the ocean and its inhabitants, please see my ocean unit study page.
Learning about ocean animals using nomenclature cards (aka, 3-part cards)
One of my goals for our ocean unit was for my kids to become familiar with a large variety of ocean-dwelling animals. Toward that end, I created a set of Montessori-inspired 3-part cards featuring 20 different ocean animals for them to learn about.
The kids were already familiar with some of the animals, but others were new to them. I started by laying out cards for several animals and saying the animals’ names. Then I had the kids match the pictures of the various animals, and as they did so we would talk about each animal.
I also purchased some mini ocean animals for this unit, both the Safari Ltd Ocean Toob from Amazon and a sea life set from Oriental Trading Company. The kids spent some time matching the animals from our set to the images on the 3-part cards.
I also created a matching Ocean Animals Book to go along with the 3-part cards. We learned about the animals by reading from the book.
Want a copy of my Ocean Animals 3-Part Cards or Ocean Animals Book?
Gift of Curiosity subscribers can get these printable for free. Enter your email in the subscription box at the top of this page, then check your email for a code to save $10 on your first purchase. *Valid only for new subscribers*
Acting like ocean animals
To add a gross motor component and just to have some plain ‘ole fun, part of our learning involved acting like ocean animals. We walked like crabs, moved like dolphins, and in the picture below, QBoy was doing his best impression of a sea lion.
Ocean animal observation game
To further reinforce the names of all the animals, we played an observation game. I placed some animals on a tray and had the kids study them.
Then, while the kids closed their eyes (or hid behind our couch :-)), I changed something on the tray. The kids then had to figure out what had changed.
Sometimes I took an animal away.
Sometimes I added an extra animal.
They had so much fun trying to guess what had changed!
Learning about ocean animal adaptations
I wanted the kids to learn a few things about how animals are adapted to life in the ocean.
For example, I had them make a pile of all the animals that move through the water with fins. We looked at how fish and sharks move their tail fins from side to side, but whales move their tail fins up and down.
We also played a game outside (from the Sea World Ocean Discovery Pre-K pack – no link because resource no longer exists) to demonstrate how different animals catch their food.
First, the kids pretended to be sea anemones. They sat down, and I blew bubbles to represent the food they needed to catch. They kids caught as many bubbles as they could while being stuck to the ground like sea anemones.
Then they stood up and got to “swim” like sharks. I blew more bubbles and they raced around to catch them. After the activity was over, we discussed how it was easier to catch food when they could move.
On another day when my mom was visiting us, we were pretended to be different animals. QBoy was intrigued by the fact that jellyfish sting, and he liked to pretend to be a jellyfish so he could sting us with his long arms.
The kids were also really fascinated by the fact that squids and octopuses squirt ink. So I suggested the kids take turns playing a squid, complete with a water bottle for them to squirt their “ink.” The kid who was playing the squid would sit on a chair while the rest of us would pretend to be predators coming to eat the squid. When we got close, the kids would squirt us with the water bottle to simulate how the squid squirts ink. The rest of us would then pretend to not be able to see because of the ink.
Needless to say, giving my kids permission to squirt me and their grandmum with water was a HUGE hit!
More resources for learning about the ocean
More ocean posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Ocean Montessori activities
- Salt water and waves science
- Shell activities
- Blubber experiment
- Ocean animals book & 3-part cards
- Ocean Printables Pack
- Ocean Do-a-Dot Printables
- Ocean I Spy