20+ Ocean Unit Activity Ideas for Kindergarten and First Grade

Surrounded by sand piles and drenched from earlier splashing my kids are laying with their new little friend.

Nearby I commiserate and brainstorm about blogging and motherhood and life with my pal Sara (who writes beautiful encouragement for mamas and kiddo adventure ideas on Sunshine Whispers). As we chat, we watch our kiddos and I am occasionally amazed at how happily our kids are playing.

It shouldn’t surprise me. Life at the beach is usually like this.

In part I think the fresh air and waves are freeing and joyful, but I am also reminded of the endless curiosities the ocean presents.

Looking ahead at our calendar, our July is starting to look like one long trip to the beach. No complaints here.

We will take our summer learning to the beach. (Read more about this specific beach at the bottom of the page!)

With child interest driven learning there is always a chance that they will head off in a completely unanticipated direction. If they do I will follow.

However, the planner in me has to think ahead at least a little.

Right now, with a beach trip fresh in their minds and a month ahead of further beach adventure opportunities I think it’s a safe bet that something about the beach or ocean will capture their attention.

In fact, this is not a new interest for my twins. They have been beach and ocean fans since their first trip as babies.

It is okay to repeat themes. Every time we come back to the ocean as an interest it looks very different. My kids are not the same. Their questions and skills and interests have grown with them.

And so I plan. I brainstorm. I research. And then I wait and watch and see where our adventures and their questions take us.

affiliate links are included below.

I thought it might be helpful to show you what this looks like. Let me know if you have questions after you read.

Ocean Unit Planning

Current Learning Objectives

I always try to keep their learning objectives in the back of my mind when I’m planning to make sure I’m covering reading, writing, math, science, gross motor, etc. My kids are in between K and 1st grade – here is a list of some of what they are working on at the moment:

*Continue growing in ability and confidence with reading independently.
*Communicate their ideas in writing and pictures.
*Ask questions and learn how to find the answers.
*Explore animal characteristics and habitats.
*Compare and Contrast two things and two books.
*Basic additional and subtraction
*Explore basic forms of measurement.

Field Trip Ideas

A big part of my philosophy of education is providing hands on AND real life experiences for kids. Field trips play a huge role in this. They are able to bring a topic to life in ways I never could with crafts or books or activities.

1. Ocean Obviously. We live about 15m from the Atlantic Ocean.

2. New York Aquarium

3. Visit a Tide Pool or Strandline

4. Whale Watching – not sure if I can pull this off this summer, but would love to try.

Possible Interests

I have been observing my kiddos on our recent beach trips and in their play, and making mental notes about things that seem to interest them about the ocean. From there I started researching, searching, and brainstorming ideas.

Based on what I have observed so far, my kids seem interested in Ocean Animals, Tide Pools, Building in the Sand, and Nature Collections. I have gathered ideas to expand on all of these below.

A mural is often a fun way to conclude a unit. I can see us gradually building to a large collaborative mural. This Pufferfish Paper Plate Craft, these Paper Plate Tropical Fish and this Cardboard Tube Jellyfish Craft are too cute. Perhaps we could add them to a mural?

Gorgeous process art Ocean project idea or this Layered Paper Underwater Scenes. are inspiring too.

Brownies Beach MD

  • Building Structures with Sand

    The STEM learning potential alone is enough to make me want to spend days at the beach encouraging these creations.

    There are a couple of fun sand building prompt ideas in this post. I would also like to introduce some different materials into their building, such as; sticks, rocks, flags, animals, boats, people.

  • Nature Collections

    I’ll need these ideas on How to Start & Organize a Nature Collection. Right now my son has a stack of sticks in his room.

    Once they are somewhat organized it would be fun to use some of these materials for activities like;

Sea Shell Printing sounds like a fun use for all the shells we’ve been collecting.

There are some great Math with Seashells ideas in this ocean science post.

I pinned even more to my Ocean Storytime + Unit Ideas Pinterest Board.


25+ Ocean Unit Ideas for Kindergarten and First Graders

A Starting Place

For now, we will start with some awesome Picture Books about the Ocean, some time to pretend with pretend Ocean Animals, and some more trips to the Ocean to see what sparks their interest the most.

Then I will do a combination of following their lead and introducing some of the related activities above to see what interests them the most – or go back to the drawing board.

I’ll share more as we progress!

Brownies Beach, Maryland

These pictures were taken on our beautiful morning at Brownies Beach in MD. It was about an hour drive for us from the suburbs of Baltimore.

Basic facts about brownies beach in maryland
  • Parking is limited and a little hike to the beach.
  • There is a port-a-potty by the parking lot and the beach.
  • You have to pay to go to the beach. Check the site for rates.
  • Water is shallow for a ways out which is perfect for little ones.
  • The beach is one of the places you can hunt for sharks teeth – bring something to collect things with you.

Brownies Beach Maryland with Kids