Ocean/Beach Discovery Sensory Bin

While I’ve always been a fan of sensory bins, I haven’t used them too often in my classes with the tots.  That is starting to change as I’m seeing how popular they are with the littles… and their parents!  This ocean sensory bin is so fun and my own children have enjoyed it many times and now, so have the tots in my class.  Super easy to set up and encourages so much learning through play.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Large bin (We’ve also used our water table)
  • Mixed blue beads (I grabbed a bag from the dollar store)
  • Bag of decorative river rocks (or collect some in your neighborhood)
  • Sea shells
  • Plastic sea animals (I really like these Terra by Battat Sea Animals from Target)
  • Water

Set up the river rocks on one side of the bin for the “shore” and the blue beads on the other side of the bin to represent the ocean.

Place some shells along the beach

Place some of the sea animals on the shore (such as the sea lion, turtle, crab).

Place some of the sea animals in the ocean (such as the octopus, sea star, sharks, eels, etc..)

Add water and your bin is ready for play!


Hand the bin over to your little superheroes and let them play!

My little guys had a blast!

The Science Behind the Activity:

This sensory bin allows children to have a sensory experience with different textures of rocks, shells, beads, toy animals as well as encourages them to get wet.  While playing with your child, ask them which ones like the water and which ones prefer the shore.  Do any of the animals like to eat other animals  For older children, you can bring up the topic of predator and prey and habitats.


Follow up this activity with a book about sea animals, oceans, beaches.  Visit an aquarium or tidepools.  Or collect sea shells and rocks and sand from a trip to the beach and make a sensory bin when you come home to “re-live” your fun memories at the beach.

Or try some more of my Ocean learning activities:



Exploring Life in the Ocean Zones

Want to explore which organisms live in the various “zones” of the ocean?  Here’s a fairly simply activity to put together.  Depending on how you make it, you can use it once or make a re-usable one.  I’ll explain how to make both versions.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • 5 sheets of blue paper in varying shades (dark to light)
  • box of ocean creatures (We used Terra Sea Animals) OR  box of ocean life stickers (We also used these Deep Sea Foam Stickers)
  • Glue and scissors
  • Sheet protector (optional)


Cut the sheets of blue paper into thick strips and layer them on top of each other with glue so that you have 5 strips going from lightest (top) to darkest (bottom).  I glued my dark strip at the bottom first and then layered the rest on top.


The five layers represent the 5 ocean zones.  I labeled them and then slipped the sheet into a sheet protector.


I printed out a reference sheet with the 5 ocean zones and the organisms that live at each level.  We discussed why there are more animals in the Sunlight Zone than in the Trench.  Then he used the sea animals to place them at each of the different levels.  (This is where you could use the sea life stickers instead of the animals) We identified what the animal was and why they lived at the various levels.  The discussion I had with my 4 year old son was amazing!


That’s it!  It was so simple to put together!  And really, the best part was when my 6 year old came home from school, my 4 year old explained the entire thing to him!  He named the zones and explained why the zones were darker at the bottom and lighter at the top and how there was more food at the top than at the bottom of the ocean.  I was blown away!


Science behind the activity:

There are 5 major zones of the ocean:

  • Sunlight Zone (Epipelagic)
  • Twilight Zone (Mesopelagic)
  • Midnight Zone (Bathypelagic)
  • Abyss (Abyssopelagic)
  • Trench (Hadalpelagic)

Obviously the Sunlight zone receives the most sunlight and is the warmest of the ocean zones and therefore more marine life exists there.  As the ocean depth increases, less sunlight penetrates through the water and it is darker and colder with less marine life there.  BUT, there are still MANY different organisms present at the deeper zones and they thrive in the dark and the cold and they have some unique adaptations as well.  With older children, you could research this in more depth.


This activity goes really well with the Ocean Zones in a Jar activity.  You can actually see how the layers of the ocean get darker as you go deeper and it’s a great visual for kids (as well as several science concepts wrapped up into one activity!)