We love the beach! The sand between our toes, waves crashing, and all the little treasures to be discovered along the shoreline makes the beach a favorite family destination. On our recent excursion to the beach, my girls had so much fun collecting shells and letting their feet sink into sand that it inspired a sensory discovery activity for home! We made beach and ocean squish bags with some of the shells we collected, sand from our sandbox, and just a few more simple items. The squish bags have not only allowed them to continue exploring their love for the beach at home, but have also made for great learning tools to spark conversations and build vocabulary for both land and sea!
Materials Needed for Squish Bags
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- Two gallon sized zip-top bags
- Large bottle of blue hair gel (or clear hair gel and blue food coloring or liquid watercolors)
- Clear packing tape
- Coral Reef Toob
Making Your Beach Squish Bag
After gathering the materials, I asked my preschooler to pour a cup of sand into the zip-top bag. Once the sandy “beach” was in, both girls joined in adding the seashells. This was great fine motor practice for my toddler as she carefully pinched and gripped her fingers to pick up the shells and transfer them to the bag. They especially loved this part because they got to re-examine their treasures from the beach!
My oldest thoroughly enjoyed squeezing the blue “ocean” hair gel into our beach squish bag. She even joked that she could now hear the waves crashing!
Both girls helped spread the sand and water around the bag and loved the squishy feeling beneath their fingers! The hair gel was perfect for representing the water as they noticed right away that the ocean water had bubbles in it!
The sensory fun was endless with this beach themed squish bag because they would bury and rediscover their shells over and over again!
Making Your Ocean Squish Bag
As an extension to the sandy beach squish bag, I wanted to create an ocean themed bag mostly due in part to my girls’ interest in the topic. I like to capture my children’s interests and allow them to grow into exploratory learning themes. An ocean theme is next on our list!
We followed basically the same steps as our beach squish bag by adding hair gel for the ocean and then our Ocean Toob animals.
Once again, I involved the girls in assembling the bag- giving me an opportunity to introduce each ocean item. As we placed them in the bag, we talked a little about the features of the octopus, starfish, coral, and different types of fish. We even added a piece of coral that we found at the beach.
They were eager to seal up the bag and begin exploring! This colorful ocean squish bag gave my toddler lots of practice in identifying and naming colors. I would ask her to find the red fish or blue starfish and she would excitedly poke and squish. We also worked on one-to-one correspondence by counting the number of fish.
As an added precaution for any of the hair gel leaking out of the bags, I added some clear packing tape around the edges of both bags. When doing these types of sensory bags in the past, I have found that this prevents the edges from popping open and keeps the sensory discovery and play much cleaner!
I plan to leave the beach and ocean squish bags out for the girls to explore as we dive further into our ocean themed learning activities. I may even grab them to occupy their little hands for when we are on the go and waiting at the doctor’s office or a restaurant.
We hope you enjoy making some of these sensory squish bags too! What are some fun and hands-on ways you like to encourage theme based learning?
Even more sensory squish bag inspiration!
Find sensory squish bags for every season here.
Get a Full Week of Ocean Theme Learning and Play
Save time and get right to the playful learning with our printable lesson plan sets. Each set includes over 30 playful learning activities related to the theme, and we’ve provided different versions for home preschool families and classroom teachers so all activities are geared directly toward your needs.
Watch this short video to see just a few examples of the types of activities and printables included in this set.
This set includes active hands-on learning ideas and the following printables:
1) Shark Dice Game (color and black/white)
2) Whale Dice Game (color and black/white)
3) Starfish Sorting and Patterning Cards
4) Ocean Letter Matching Puzzles
5) Ocean Life Number Cards 0 to 35
6) Ocean Family Counting Sets for Numbers 1-10
7) Sea Life Cards (for counting, patterning, and sorting)
8) Ocean Roll and Graph Game
9) Sea Life Word Building Cards
10) Sea Life Syllable Sort Activity
Find more ocean-inspired play and learning in our ocean theme.