Jellyfish Races: Ocean-Themed Birthday Party Game

We’ve got a super-fun activity to share with you today!  It’s a fabulous water game for an ocean-themed party, ocean unit, or just a summer day — and kids just LOVE it!  And, as always, we sneak a little bit of learning into it too 🙂

It’s reminiscent of a state fair “step-right-up” game: the goal of the game is to help the (fake) jellyfish that’s washed up on shore get out into the open ocean water where it belongs, without touching it of course.

jellyfish races kids (6)

How to play?  First, you can’t touch the jellyfish because *gasp* they can still sting even when they’re washed up on shore.  So, instead of our hands, we use a spray bottle to help the fake jellyfish get out into the open ocean, which is represented by the sparkly finish line at the end of the race track (long narrow bin).

You can play just for fun, or add some competition to it where the first jellyfish to the finish line wins!

It would make for a super fun game for a kid’s summer or ocean birthday party to play outside or on the patio!  Get everyone to cheer and clap as the races happen to add even more fun.  Kids LOVE to play and race over and over!

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Ready to get started?  Here’s how we did it:

(Oh and there’s a free printable jellyfish fact page in this post too, don’t miss it!)

What you’ll need (for adults!):

  • 3 (or however many you want) long under-bed storage bins
    • we used Sterilite 41 quart underbed storage boxes that are about 35″ long
  • a hand saw or dremel tool to cut the plastic lids of the bins (optional! Instead, just place the object in floating water without the lid.)
  • textured spray paint (sand color – see photo in instructions)
  • clear packing tape
  • pack of metallic crinkle (found on the party aisle of your craft store – see photo in instructions, we used this stuff from Michaels)
  • fake jellyfish (we used these aquarium decorations from Amazon)
    • note: we cut off the clear piece of fishing line that attaches the jellyfish to the aquarium
    • we’ve also made our own using an inflated ziplock bag, a used dryer sheet, and a rubber band, see below in post
    • experiment with other floating objects!
  • spray bottles (we used 1 per bin, but had 2 per bin in case)
    • be sure to adjust the nozzle so that the water comes out in a stream
  • access to a nearby hose, or buckets to fill with water and carry
  • table to put bins on
  • optional: neon blue food coloring
  • optional: submersible LED lights (great for nighttime)

what you'll need - supplies for jellyfish races

How to put it together:

  1. Make the starting line (the “beach”) – OPTIONAL. Carefully using a hand saw or dremel tool (adults only!), cut the lids so that they are only about 4 inches deep.  You may need to use sandpaper or a file to smooth out any rough edges. Paint the cut lids with a textured spray paint so that they look like sand.  In the photo on the left below, the original lid is on the top, and you want it to look like the piece below it:

    If you’d rather not cut the lid, make it easy on yourself: just remove the lid and place the “jellyfish” in the water.

    2. Make the finish line (the “open ocean”). Place pieces of “metallic crinkle” (find a pack with the party decorations at your craft store) on a piece of clear packing tape that’s as long as the bin is wide.  Then cover it with another piece of clear packing tape to make a “sandwich.”  Attach it to one end of the bin with more clear tape.

    3. Set it up. Place the bins on a table, and fill them a little less than half full with water, adding a few drops of neon blue food coloring if desired.   Also fill the spray bottles with water.  Put the lids on the opposite end of the finish line, and place a fake jellyfish on top of the lid!

    jellyfish races setup (2)We found that the tentacles hanging down helped get the jellyfish moving better when it was squirted. (Depending on the age and coordination, you may need to give the jellyfish a little nudge off the beach.)

By the way, there’s no need to purchase the fake jellyfish to make this work! You can use an inflated ziplock bag or another floating object.

To make a more anatomical jellyfish, we’ve used a ziplock bag, a used dryer sheet, and a rubber band.  Tape the corners down of the ziplock bag first, then inflate it with the bag mostly zipped up (we used a coffee stirrer).  Cut the used dryer sheet into tentacles (leaving an inch or so at the top), and attach it to the ziplock bag near the zipper using a rubber band.  They aren’t as long-lasting as the aquarium decorations, but they worked wonderfully for one event!

jellyfish options

To play:

Make sure that the jellyfish is placed pretty close to the edge with the tentacles hanging down, so that it won’t have too far to go to get into the water!  (Sometimes we had to give it a little nudge if it was stubborn.) OR, if you’re playing this without the lid, just set the jellyfish in the water close to the edge.

Also, be sure that the that the spray bottles are all set to a stream.

Have the kids line up behind each bin (one line per bin).  The first in each line will “race” each other by squirting the jellyfish off the beach, into the water, and all the way to the open ocean (finish line).  You can say “3! 2! 1! GO!” to start the race.

Once the first round of racers has raced, they can each pass the spray bottle to the person behind them.  They will definitely want another turn, so they can keep getting back in line!

You can always add more to it by having winners of different rounds race each other, or have the kids tell you something they learned about jellyfish from the fact sheet below.

jellyfish races game

We first created the Jellyfish Jubilee Races for an event called Autism OdysSea at the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station.  To add to the sensory experience, we had a gel ice pack for kids to feel what a jellyfish feels like.

We also made a sensory info board and printable fun fact sheet that kids and parents can explore to learn more about jellyfish and their stings!

jellyfish stings and things board 2

For the enlarged tentacles on the board above, we used clear vinyl tubes (from the plumbing section in the home improvement store), and then wrapped one with zip-ties to represent the fired nematocysts (stinging harpoons that inject venom when the tentacle is touched!).  It is a great sensory visual to teach how jellyfish sting!

We also included info about how to ease a sting, and a tip to make sure kids don’t touch jellyfish that have washed up on shore.

Click here or the image below for the printable Jellyfish Fact Page!

Jellyfish Jubilee Races - Printable Fact Sheet

We gave a stamp on their hand as a prize (a sea turtle, and added in another awesome ocean tidbit that jellyfish are the favorite food of sea turtles) for participating or telling us what they learned.

We also now use the activity as part of the jellyfish learning station for elementary school groups at the Science Station, and it works best with one kid per race track (although 2 works).  It’s a blast, and the kids get to learn all about jellyfish too!

We’ve adapted it for a nighttime event too (The Navarre Beach Marine Science Station’s Science Spooktacular event), throwing in some submersible LED lights into the bins:

jellyfish races - night

Whether it’s for a party, a fun ocean lesson, or just for a summer activity with the kids, we hope our Jellyfish Races bring fun, joy, and good vibes!

Live porpoisefully, The Taylors

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