Best Ocean Book Activities

My children are fascinated by the ocean and learning about it’s creatures. The ocean book activities we completed in this post are related to our favorite picture books about the sea.

Please see the list below for specific fiction and nonfiction books all about life in the ocean.

The children I have worked with over the years have always been fascinated by the ocean. As a teacher, I collected dozens of ocean books for writing lessons since students are captivated by this subject. With my children at home, I have developed even more activities to use with these books.

Best Ocean FICTION Picture Books

  • Flotsam by David Weisner (This is my ALL TIME favorite book to teach fiction writing!)
  • Miss Smith Under the Ocean by Micheal Garland
  • Ten Little Fish by Audrey Wood illustrated by Bruce Wood
  • The Mermaid by Jan Brett
  • Never Touch a Shark by Make Believe Authors
  • One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
  • Magic School Bus Ocean Floor by Joanna Cole
  • Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle
  • Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni
  • Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfitzer
  • The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

Best Ocean NONFICTION Books

  • National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of the Ocean by Catherine D. Hughes
  • Ocean Animals Who’s Who in the Deep Blue by Johnna Rizzo
  • Over in the Ocean In a Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes illustrated by Jeanette Canyon
  • The Wonder of Underwater Animals
  • Under the Sea by Sally Morgan & Camilla de la Bedoyere

The links in this blog will help connect you to the resources I used for this unit. I am an Amazon Associate, and I earn from qualifying purchases from the links of this site.

Organize and Prepare Activities for Ocean Books

I have less time to set up activities now than I did as a teacher, so I like to store activities in small white containers from IKEA to help me manage the various centers I want to use for a unit. Then I hid them away in the closet and hope I remember to use them! At night, I usually set up a sensory bin and books I want to focus on for the next day. Then I try to have ready in other white containers materials that we might have time to use that relate to the books. But typically, I create mini-lessons and activities as the day progresses and ideas come up.

For storing loose parts for different sensory play, try using silicone pouches, small containers, or zip-lock bags to sort and keep materials for each activity. I hold the tools and science materials together in the closet in one large bin. Then I use a small wooden Melissa & Doug container that was part of a play kitchen set but now carries all the tools we use daily for the sensory bins. Our usual tools include silicone cupcake molds, magnet wands, and various wooden scoops and tongs.

Ocean Sensory Play Materials

Before I buy any new materials, I first gather anything and everything I have around me related to the topic. For this ocean unit, I only bought three new items. I also made the colored rice and beans for the sensory bins. I like to start planning new units after my kids, and I look around the playroom for materials and books we could use for activities. Then I make a list of items I need to buy after the scavenger hunt. Below are some simple supplies that are versatile for all things ocean fun. Please keep in mind if your child is under three to keep choking hazards out of reach while your preschooler plays. I had to use nap time for my baby as my preschooler’s time for the sensory play.

  • Kinetic sand
  • Colored rice
  • Colored chickpeas
  • Water
  • Shells (This is a small kit, but perfect for sensory bin play)
  • Pebbles various sizes
  • Buttons
  • Mini ocean themed erasers (Target and Dollar Tree)
  • Foam paint
  • Ocean animal figurines (Try the large tub from Lakeshore Learning)
  • Playdough molds of ocean animals
  • Play-dough texture rolling pins, balls
  • Wooden scoops and containers of various sizes
  • Magnetic chips/ wands/ letters
  • Wooden ocean animals
  • Ocean animal puzzles (Melissa & Doug are my favorite)
  • Ocean animal puppets

Ten Little Fish Book Activities

This book by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Bruce Wood is a quick and easy book to teach counting to ten.

Ten Little Fish book by Audrey Wood and sensory bin activity will lead to hours of screen- free fun for your preschooler.

To see more activities with other Audrey Wood books, please explore my blog for other book activities.

List of Book Activity Ideas

  • Count 1-10 with the book or make your little fish for counting.
  • Use a counting puzzle to link numbers to counting fish.
  • For more counting practice, try hiding ten magnetic counting chips under the sand in the sensory bin.
  • Using construction paper, cut out fish shapes and have your child make a growing pattern with the various colored fish.
  • Use magnetic letters to learn words from the book. Have your child try to match the letters to the terms in the book. We use silicone cups to sort letters for different phrases.

Ocean Book Activities For After Reading The Mermaid

Use the intricate details of Jan Brett’s illustrations to focus on pattern work for your young learner.

List of Book Activity Ideas for The Mermaid

  • Create a sensory bin with colored rice and garbanzo beans with layers of shells, ocean animals, magnet letters, magnetic chips for an open-ended play activity. Include scoops, containers, and magnetic wands for inquiry play.
  • Try using colored pasta to thread a necklace and crown. This craft can also include a pattern mini-lesson since the book uses so many different patterns.
  • Another sensory bin for this book is to use blue and purple colored rice. Form a mermaid tail with purple rice. Then hide shells at the bottom of the container.
  • A simple math mini-lessons that connects to this book would be to teach patterns in nature, counting 1-20 and sorting, using inspiration from the borders on the pages.
  • Use the words tail, tale, sea, see for a mini-lesson. Then try a scavenger hunt for words that include the letters s and t through the book.

To compare stories, try reading Miss Smith Under the Ocean and discuss the mermaids’ similarities and differences in both books. Another comparison is to use Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

5 mermaid book activities

Under The Ocean Activities

The Miss Smith book series I used in the classroom every August with Miss Smith Reads! It’s a great book series to illustrate the power of reading.

List of Book Activity Ideas

  • Create a sensory bin exploration with kinetic sand, magnets, ocean animal figurines, and playdough molds.
  • Read aloud Miss Smith Under the Ocean book and hunt for magnetic letters from the sensory bin that spell out words from the book. You can also use the magnetic letters to do a letter scavenger hunt through the book for letter and sound recognition mini-lesson. For example, use this for a “word of the day” activity.
  • Try visiting a local park, aquarium, or beach to explore.
  • Make a sensory bin of a mermaid tail made out of colored rice. Hide ocean animals underneath the colored rice.
  • Read the other books listed within this book.

Flotsam Activities

This wordless book is one of my all time favorite books because of it’s magical illustrations that inspires your mind to beyond what is possible.

List of Book Activity Ideas

  • Make a beach inspired sensory bin filled with items found in the book. Plain rice, chickpeas, or sand are perfect for the base of this sensory tray.
  • Take a trip to the beach and take pictures.
  • Have your child make a drawing of what they would imagine they would see at the bottom or the sea.
  • For older children, try creating large murals of their favorite illustrations in the book. I had students help me do this in the classroom, and I kept that artwork up for years!

The Magic School Bus Ocean Floor Activities

This beloved book series is also available to view on Netflix. For my preschooler, I only read a few pages and look at the details on the page.

List of Book Activity Ideas

  • Try the wind experiment explained in an illustration in the book to demonstrate how waves on a beach move water at the beach.
  • Using the same wind experiment bins, add rocks, mini ocean-themed erasers, and blue foam paint to create a more realistic ocean.
  • Follow-up the watery bin play by experimenting with more objects for a sink or float inquiry activity.
  • Take a trip to the beach and enjoy.
  • Play with a globe to see the locations of the world’s oceans.
  • Make an ocean floor sensory bin and layer the container with different ocean animals.
  • If you have enough wall space, try making a mural with painting paper that shows the ocean layers, similar to the last page in the book.

Never Touch a Shark! Activities

This short rhyming book has touch and feel sections on each page.

This book is read over and over again in my household. Therefore it is easily matched with letter & sound recognition lessons after reading. We also play an ABC shark game.

Over in the Ocean Activities

The illustrations in the book make it the perfect selection for practicing patterns while making crafts.

List of Book Activity Ideas

  • Use colored pasta or shells to build a pattern. Then expand that to make a textured drawing.
  • Play with play-dough or air dry clay to make ocean animals like the book.
  • Try a math activity with mini ocean erasers to learn to count and add 1-10.
  • Use dot art to make a background for the ocean floor. Then play with your created art with ocean animal figurines.
  • Ocean animal counters would be a perfect practice for sorting, patterns, counting, and adding work.

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