Sensory is always a key element for any theme, but the ocean, sea, beach, and luau themes are always a little bit special.
The children get to explore the large conch shell, shells, coral, starfish, shark teeth, and other items they just normally wouldn't come across here in the center of the U.S., basically as far away from an ocean as you can get. These are all items that I have purchased or collected from various beaches over the years.
For this year's OCEAN/SEA theme, I created this sensory bin. I use an underbed storage bin, which is large enough for 4 children to play simultaneously without space or resource issues.
The base is 20 pounds of aquarium gravel at a cost of $15. It is too much. It is HEAVY! 10 pounds would have been enough to cover 1/2 and I could have had the other 1/2 sand. I would have done that anyway and just only put in 1/2 the bag, but I didn't have any sterilized sand on hand, which I normally do. The combination of sand and gravel is easy, because of their size difference. The gravel is easily sifted from the sand at the end of of the theme for storage.
One end is ocean animals.
- Matching. I have two sets of plastic animals so that the children can match them.
- Magnetic fishing. I have a few of our magnetic fish randomly placed and the children can catch them with the rod. These fish can also be used for letter, number, shape, color or sight word fishing games. It is also a good study in magnetism as to which ones they can catch and which ones they can't and why.
- Sorting. Fish, coral, sea urchins, crustaceans, etc.
- Sorting by Color.
One end is shells.
- Matching. I have two sets of shells so that the children can match them.
- Pearls on the Oyster. Using the tongs, children place a white pom on each of the shells.
- Pearls on the Oyster. Using a spoon or scoop, children place the correct amount of pearl beads onto the numbered shells.
- Pearls on the Oyster. Using tongs, the children place the correct amount of white pony beads onto the numbered shells.
- Shell ordering 1-10. The flat shells are numbered and children can order them 1-10 or 10-1. The shells are sized accordingly.
- Sorting. Long, round, spiral, tube, flat, etc.
Additional scoops, sifters, pitchers, cups, ladles, etc. are always available for sensory play.
I was surprised that the little ones immediately caught on to the matching aspect and raced each other to see how many matches they could find. They also really spent a lot of time with the tweezers moving the "sea urchin" spiky balls and "pearl" poms around.
Sensory: gravel, and all the items
Fine Motor: Pouring, scooping, sifting, matching, tweezers, tongs, spooning, pincer grip
Math: 1-1 correspondence, counting, number recognition, number order, matching, logic/reasoning, sizing, comparison, geometry
Art: artistic expression, composition, mixed media
Social: sharing resources, community play, dramatic interpretation, negotiation
Language: social discourse, requesting resources, negotiation, vocabulary
Science: ocean animals, ocean environment, predators, reefs, scientific discussion
Tags: sensory, math, matching, sorting, preschool, daycare, child, care, childcare, ocean, sea, beach, theme, unit, math, sensory bin, pearl, oyster, animals, fine motor, counting, numbers, science,