A sea-foamy ocean sensory bin is just the thing for an ocean preschool theme on a hot summer day. Add some bubbles and some sea animal toys and an ocean sensory bin like this one will definitely be a huge hit! See all our favorite preschool themes here.
But there’s more than just the ocean your preschooler or toddler will learn about.
Sea-Foamy Ocean Sensory Bin with Sea Animal Toys
An ocean theme has to be one of the best preschool themes! There’s just something about the ocean that is so fascinating.
For my preschoolers, it’s partly the fact that the nearest coastline is at least 10 hours away, so much of what my preschoolers know about the ocean come from activities like this one.
And their curiosity is endless, which makes an ocean theme all the more fun to teach. It’s seriously one of those themes where you teach an inch wide and a mile deep.
This ocean sensory bin is just one activity in our ocean of activities. (I know, clever, huh?)
FAQ About Teaching an Ocean Theme
Read, explore, and play! Begin by asking the children what questions they have about the ocean or something that they want to learn more about. Devote time to learning about aquatic animals, and their special characteristics. Help children identify what they might see at the ocean shore such as sea shells, seaweed, or sand.
Consider introducing an ocean sensory bin for children to interact, play, and learn with. Play dough is also a fun hands-on learning activity for an ocean or beach theme, too.
Preschoolers should be able to: recognize and identify different kinds of common ocean animals, share a few details about various ocean creatures, recognize that some animals are large predators (sharks and killer whales) while others are bottom feeders, compare animals that live in the ocean/those that don’t, and understand that the ocean produces over half of the world’s oxygen.
It’s also important that we teach our young children to keep the ocean trash-free and support efforts to recycle and reuse.
Help preschoolers understand that the ocean needs our help. Keep plastic out of the ocean by using reusable drinking and lunch containers. Participate in an ocean/body of water cleanup. Invite the preschoolers to brainstorm ways that they can help the ocean and ocean animals for our future.
Hide and Seek Ocean Animal Sensory Bin
This is a simple and shallow water bin that has been amped up with some soapy suds to create sea foam. Like all sensory play and water activities, please supervise your preschooler or toddler at all time during play.
- water table or mixing tub
- liquid dish soap
- ocean animal toys
- food coloring or liquid watercolors (optional)
Fill the water table or mixing tub with 1-2 inches of water. Add ocean animal toys and set aside.
Using a stand mixer or egg beaters, beat 1/4 cup of liquid dish soap with 1/2 cup of water. Add a few drops or blue or green food coloring. Beat well, until the soap turns foamy, like the ocean. Scoop the soapy foam into the water bin.
Depending on the size of your water table, you may need to do a few batches. And given that we are working with soap suds, this step can’t really be done in advance. The water bin will be most foamy immediately after it is made.
I typically prepare this water bin while my preschoolers are playing outside after snack time.
The Ocean Sensory Bin Play
This ocean sensory bin is great for toddlers, but it is also an awesome scooping and pouring activity for toddlers. There are loads of benefits of scooping and pouring activities, which I will discuss further below.
When I offered this water bin to my preschoolers, I didn’t tell them about the ocean animals hidden under the soap foam. That was a complete surprise to them!
Initially, they just kinda’ looked, but didn’t touch it. Then one preschooler asked, “What do we do?” “Whatever you would like,” I said.
It didn’t take long for the children to get elbow deep in the soap foam, and they were delighted to find ocean animals that had been hidden in the bin.
Don’t Forget Children’s Books About the Ocean
It’s not uncommon for preschoolers to question how to play in a sensory bin. I typically don’t offer too many rules, but some rules always remain the same.
- The sensory items stay at the sensory table.
- The sensory items must be shared.
The children swished the water, stirring up the foam and the animals. They dove their hands into the water to find the hidden animals, so excited to find one, and we practiced naming them.
Later, we paired the sea animal toys with the fact cards from my Ocean Activity Pack.
When I offered this bin to my toddler class, they asked for small cups and practiced scooping and pouring. They tried to scoop up the soap suds, and found that they don’t pour. But through more play they learned that the water always poured out.
And then, what I loved the most, was when the children started to experiment with the soap bubbles. And look at what we discovered:
This preschooler got her hands all sudsy, and then played with the bubbles, finding that she could put her finger through the bubble without popping it!
She felt magical!
The toddlers and preschoolers continued to play, swirling the water in an effort to made more bubbles.
Sensory play ideas don’t have to be complicated. It’s the experience that matters most. We have added just water beads to other ocean sensory bins, and young children enjoy them just as much.
What My Preschoolers Learned
Sensory bins are an important part of any preschool program. Here are just a few things they learned by exploring this ocean sensory bin:
- ocean animals and names
- ocean animal parts (tentacles, beak, fin, claw, etc.)
- the difference between wet and dry
- that bubbles can be made and destroyed
- that bubbles are made of a thin film of soap with air inside
- fine motor skills
- language skills by talking about what they were seeing and feeling
- following directions
- and much, much more!
Here are Some of the Sea Animal Toys we Used
More Ocean Sensory Play for Toddlers and Preschoolers
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.
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