Ocean Zones Upcycled Craft Activity for Kids

We’ve got a fun ocean activity for kids to help learn the ocean zones: it’s a craft that upcycles a used container and turns it into a cool piece of undersea art that can store treasures!

This takes just a few materials and there’s a good chance you already have the supplies at home. Look for things that you can recycle or repurpose (like a disinfecting wipes container or oatmeal container) rather than buy to make it more eco-friendly.

With our free sea animal printable using our hand-painted illustrations from our children’s books, it’ll be an adorable addition to a kid’s room!

Pin for later πŸ™‚

The finished craft would make a great piggy bank or way to store art supplies like colored pencils. So many possibilities!

Not only do we have a craft for you, but we’ve also got more exploration into ocean zones by way of a new infographic we’ve created and some other sites to explore too.

We highly recommend one of our picture books (ages 4-10), Zale’s Tales: The Ocean Seeker to go along with this activity, which takes you for a ride around the ocean with a fun game of hide-and-seek!

Zale's Tales Volume 2: The Ocean Seeker

The story takes you around the ocean from the poles to kelp forests, to coral reefs, the deep sea, and even shallow mangrove forests. It uncovers a wide variety of ocean habitats and the animals that call these places home.

It is a fun adventure that goes perfectly with exploring ocean zones! (Click here to get it on Amazon.)

Before we get to the craft, let’s dive into ocean zones (pun intended, of course) with the help of our infographic. These zones are based on how much sunlight reaches them:

It’s amazing how much of the ocean is actually dark!

The sunlight zone has most of the animals and ALL of the plants, since plants can’t grow without enough sunlight. Dolphins, sea turtles, and most other air-breathers need to live in this zone.

In the twilight zone, it’s very dimly lit – not enough sunlight for plants to grow. There are still animals here though, and they either eat each other or eat floating bits that sink down from the sunlight zone. Some animals in this zone can glow (called bioluminescence), allowing them to see what they’re hunting or lure food. Some whales can dive to this zone, but for the most part the animals are ones that can breathe by getting oxygen from the surrounding water.

In the midnight zone, it’s completely dark! The only light comes from animals that can make their own (called bioluminescence). Brrr, it’s chilly here too, and lots of pressure from the water. This zone goes all the way down to the deepest part, a trench (Mariana Trench) in the Pacific Ocean about 6.8 miles (11 km) deep.

(For more ocean zone exploring, see the links & video at the end of this post.)

In this craft, you’ll make a model of the ocean zones and place animal cutouts in the different zones. The only ones that have a “right” zone are:

  • kelp (plants) – goes in the Sunlight Zone
  • sea turtle & dolphin – go in the Sunlight Zone
  • anglerfish (fish with light dangling from its nose) – goes in the deeper zones
  • whale – upper two zones

You’ll need:

  • tall empty container
    • we used a sanitizing or disinfecting wipes container, but an oatmeal or coffee canister, a protein powder container, or a plastic milk jug or juice bottle would work great too
    • NOTE: If you use a container with a label that won’t come off, you’ll want to either paint it or glue on white paper first (we haven’t tried it), since the tissue paper will show what’s under it. Or, you could use construction paper instead.
  • a half to full sheet each of 3 different shades of blue tissue paper (or construction paper)
    • for a more realistic model, you could use black paper for the midnight zone!
  • paint brush
  • mod podge or white glue
  • scissors
  • ocean animals printable (free)

How to Make It

1. Take the label off of the container that you’re using. (If you use tissue paper, it will show some of what’s underneath.) Tear or cut the tissue paper (or other paper) into strips.

We used 3 shades of blue, but you could use black for the midnight zone for a more realistic model!

2. Use the paintbrush to apply mod podge or glue to the container, then place strips of tissue paper around the container over the glue.

To represent the sunlight that fades in deeper waters, use the darkest color at the bottom (We found it easier to flip the container upside down to do the bottom of the container.)

Keep gluing and adding tissue paper, switching to lighter colors as you go up.

Note: For those that want to make a more accurate model, note that the majority of the ocean is made of the midnight zone & twilight zone, with only a small sliver of sunlight zone. You can use black tissue paper to represent the midnight zone to make it more realistic.

3. Apply more glue over the top of the tissue paper and let dry.

4. While the glue is drying, print the Ocean Zones Animal Cutouts page (free), and cut out the creatures.

5. When the “ocean” is dry, glue the cutouts to the zones. The only ones that have a “right” zone are:

  • kelp (plants) – goes in the Sunlight Zone
  • sea turtle & dolphin – go in the Sunlight Zone
  • anglerfish (fish with light dangling from its nose) – goes in either of the deeper zones
  • whale – upper two zones

Apply more mod podge or glue over the animals to seal them.

Once dry, store your treasures in the container!

We hope you had a blast diving deep into the ocean zones!

Live porpoisefully, The Taylors

Want more exploration into ocean zones? Check out:

How Far Does Light Travel in the Ocean? from NOAA

Ocean Zones in a Jar from PBS Kids

Sci Show for Kids – Ocean Zone Video:

Disclaimer: All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies). Observe caution and safety at all times. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.

4 thoughts on “Ocean Zones Upcycled Craft Activity for Kids

  1. This is really good! The preschoolers are talking about the different layers of the ocean!

    1. So cool, thank you!! This makes us so happy to hear and we absolutely love that your preschoolers are diving right in! πŸ’™

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