There’s something about the ocean that makes it so mesmerizing. Maybe it’s the size. Maybe it’s all of the different creatures that can be found in it. Either way kids really enjoy learning about the ocean and sea life, so a preschool ocean theme can be a treasure trove of new discoveries and learning.
Here are some fabulous resources for planning your preschool ocean theme activities.
Why It’s Fun
There’s so much to learn with an ocean theme. Kids have so many questions about the ocean that it can lead to a very long unit study as you let their curiosity lead the way. Even if kids can’t actually visit an ocean they enjoy imagining what it would be like and engaging in ocean inspired pretend play. Nonfiction lovers are thrilled to learn new facts about sea creatures, and there are tons of opportunities for sensory exploration in this theme.
When to Teach an Ocean Theme
An ocean theme can be taught any time of year. It can be a separate theme, or you can combine it with another focus like the beach, specific sea creatures, or different kinds of bodies of water.
As you approach the end of the school year an ocean theme can also be a natural way to lead into summer, or it can be a theme you explore during the summer if you teach year round.
Teaching Tips & Major Concepts Kids Will Learn
If you’re planning a preschool ocean theme there are so many possibilities for incorporating meaningful early learning skills.
These are just some of the concepts kids can learn about the ocean:
- where oceans are found on Earth
- what kind of water is in the ocean (and the properties of saltwater)
- different layers of the ocean
- specific animals that live in the ocean
- jobs people have related to the ocean (fisherman, oceanographer, marine biologist, etc)
- how far your hometown is from the nearest ocean
You can also use small sea life manipulatives for many learning activities to teach math and literacy concepts.
Items to Collect and Request in Advance
If you get parents, friends, and family involved you can enrich the experience kids have during your preschool ocean theme.
Collect or ask people to help you collect:
- artifacts from the ocean (sea stars, shark teeth, sand dollars)
- photos from trips to the ocean
- ocean related tools for pretend play (toy fishing rod, pretend tropical fish, snorkeling gear, flippers, binoculars)
- magazines with photos of sea life
You might even invite special guests (or go visit if you can) to come and share about fields and hobbies related to the ocean. You could include:
- a fisherman (hobby or professional)
- a seashell collector
- a marine biologist
Printable Ocean Theme Lesson Plans
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.
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
Get Your Lesson Plans
Individual Activity Ideas on Fantastic Fun and Learning
Here on Fantastic Fun and Learning we’ve shared the following ideas to go along with a preschool ocean theme.
Turn egg cartons into your favorite sea life for pretend play.
Use a process art approach to creating jellyfish.
Build your own coral reef with play dough.
Make an easy coral reef water play bin.
Or get a little more crafty with a beach and ocean small world setup in the water table.
Practice name recognition with seashells.
Create a beautiful underwater suncatcher.
Keep those seashells handy for more sensory play and art.
Use these printable fish math games to practice early math skills.
Count and create with this Rainbow Fish play dough invitation.
Many of our fish theme activities will also work well with an ocean theme.
Make an O is for Octopus letter craft.
Make a fun ocean inspired snack.
More Activities from Creative Educators
We’ve also gathered many ocean theme sensory play ideas.
Stay ashore and try some beach sensory play.
Create a school of fish with these fish craft ideas.
Read the Rainbow Fish and try some of these book-inspired activities.
Make ocean crafts.
Find even more ocean play activities.
Informational YouTube Videos
Learn about sharks.
Get an up close look at humpback whales.
Swim with the sea turtles.
Take a virtual field trip to a coral reef.
Continue your journey to the coral reef.
Move along with the Animals in the Ocean.
Sing along with the classic favorite A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea.
Baby Shark is always a kid favorite!
Other Online Resources
Finger plays and action rhymes are a great addition to your preschool themes. Here are a few terrific options to go along with an ocean theme.
If you’d like to supplement your hands-on learning with some online games you might try:
Affiliate links included.
There are so many great books to read for your ocean theme. It’s hard to choose which ones you’ll have time to read! We have a couple of books lists that will help you start narrowing it down.
Below are some more of our favorite books for an ocean theme.
Bring the ocean alive with real photographs and nonfiction texts even if you can’t go to an ocean in person.
Other Props and Teaching Tools
Reinforce learning with these hands-on materials and games to go along with your ocean theme.
Encourage pretend play in your small word and play dough invitations.
Use our sea life alphabet matching cards separately or add them to an ocean theme alphabet sensory bin.
Print out and use the fish pattern block mats from Prekinders for math time.
Practice beginning sounds with the ocean animal clip cards from A Little Pinch of Perfect.
Practice taking turns, counting and more with these fish card game ideas.
Possible Field Trips or Adventures
Although it isn’t realistic to be able to take your kids along to the ocean, there may still be some adventures nearby! You might:
- visit a local aquarium
- visit your local pet store’s fish area to see which fish are tropical fish
As you wrap up your preschool ocean theme take note of what the kids were most interested in throughout the theme. Continue on by investigating one of those concepts more in depth. Below are some possible suggestions. Themes we have printable lesson plans for include links after them.
- Fish-Lesson plans available for home preschool and preschool classrooms
- Another specific animal the kids were interested in
- The Beach or Seashore
- Pond-Lesson plans available for home preschool and preschool classrooms
- Coral Reef