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Ocean themed sensory play ideas.

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5 simple ideas to try

The ocean is one of our favourite places to be and sensory play is one of our favourite activities – put them together and it’s a match made in toddler heaven. Most days you’ll find us engaging in some sort of sensory activity and the ocean based themes go down an absolute storm. Here’s a few ideas that you can dive into:

Ocean Small World:

ocean sensory play



Setting up an ocean based small world has to be one of the easiest to do! All you need is a clear tub (or sink), plastic creatures,  plus a mixture of shells and pebbles.

Zoey absolutely loved playing with this: she splashed around, examined the sea creatures, then scooped them up with her fine motor skills set which we bought from Kidstuff.  Water is a fantastic introduction to sensory play – even better is the fact you can do it outside on warmer days!


Sink Ocean

sink ocean 4

Want to make a mess without making a mess? The sink ocean is definitely the way forward! Simply mix together shaving foam with a splash of  food colouring, then add in some sea creatures (ours are from Oh Ivy).

Your littly will love exploring the texture of the shaving foam and squishing it in their hands. You can talk about how it feels and what sea creatures they discover within the foam – this is all fantastic for language development. In fact, Harrison taught Zoey to say ‘turtle’ by using this very activity!


Ice and Rice

ice and rice2

This is a great option for warm, sunny days when you’re in need of cooling off- hello Australian summertime! Aside from freezing water for the ice-cubes (we added food dye to ours), there really isn’t a lot of preparation needed. All you need to do is mix rice and ice in a tub along with shells and other beach finds.

Zoey explored the textures of the shells – learning to say the word ‘shell’ in the process.  –  I also introduced ‘cold’ by using the ice-cubes. This is very much an example of learning through play: the words Zoey learnt were all  in context and she definitely had a lot of fun along the way!


Shell Exploration



This is a really simply set-up to explore the shells we collected from a trip to the beach. In fact, this is a great one to save up for holidays when resources are limited. Armed with a magnifying glass, we explored our collection in close up: we talked about textures, shapes and the creatures we thought might’ve inhabited the shells. A great follow up to this with older children would be to visit the local library for books about the ocean or shells in order to research and investigate further.


Coral Reef Bubble Wrap

coral reef 2

This has got to have been one of our favourite sensory play activities to date! Using some old cardboard packaging as a canvas, along with bubble wrap and non-toxic paint, we set about re-creating scenes from our Usborne ‘Under the Sea’ book and more specifically, The Great Barrier Reef.

With Zoey, I talked about the vibrant colours  and how the paint felt on our hands, but older kids would benefit from this too, particularly if it tied in with learning on how to help protect coral reefs. If anyone has seen ‘Chasing Coral on Netflix, they’ll know just how desperate the situation is, so an early introduction to the theme is probably a good idea!










Sian Thomas

Sian Thomas

Sian is the founder of Teach Investigate Play. She helps parents navigate the early years by providing meaningful and simple activities. She also owns 'Get Set Social Media' - a social media consultancy for small businesses. From the UK, now living in Vienna (via Australia). About page has more!

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