Upcycled 3D Coral Reef Craft

Hey reef lover! Help spread reef awareness & appreciation by sharing this post, liking on YouTube, and pinning on Pinterest:

Coral reefs are one of the planet’s most amazing habitats, giving homes to countless ocean animals and even providing us oxygen, food and medicine!

As marine science educators, we of course LOVE teaching about reefs, and it seems all ages from kids to adults are drawn to the many colors, textures, shapes, and sizes of marine life found on the reef.

To celebrate these important ocean ecosystems and help spread awareness & appreciation for reefs, we’ve created an eco-friendly craft using many upcycled materials.

You’re bound to have many of these items in your household, and it gives new life to things like packing materials that may otherwise end up in the trash. Encouraging kids to be creative with what you have is a great part of this activity!

Getting to snorkel or scuba dive a coral reef in person is an amazing experience, but this craft adventure is a good stand-in when travel isn’t an option (or to extend learning before or after a tropical vacation).

It’s a great summer activity for kids at home or camp, or in the classroom or homeschool during an ocean unit. With help, preschoolers can do many of the steps too. It might just become a fun family project, with lots of different unique pieces that each member of the family can contribute!

And of course, our tradition here at LP is to include a splash of learning, so you’ll find a little learning & conservation along the way. You can also dive deeper with the help of our book, A.B. and the 7 Seas to learn more and identify many of the marine animals in the printable. So fun!

How-to Video

In the video below, you’ll see different kinds of coral made with household supplies: brain coral, bubble coral, staghorn coral, and sea fans.

Coral is actually a colony of animals! Many kinds of coral build hard skeletons, making rocks underneath them as they grow, while others grow soft skeletons and make sea fans.

Our sped-up version gives you some ideas of how to make your own, which will be a unique creation!

TIP: If you don’t want to make the stacked or tiered version, you can keep it simple by using either the bowl or plate as your reef base.

Printable Coral Reef Animals

Download our free printable coral reef animal cutouts below to make your reef complete.

TIP: They’re designed to fold in half, helping to give a more 3D look. We glued some of the animals to pipe cleaners to make them “swim”, and others directly to coral or rocks.

Dive deeper with the help of our book! Learn more and identify many of the animals using A.B. and the 7 Seas:


How to Stack

(This is shown in the video above.) Using the paper plate, bowl, and toilet paper roll, the combination creates a stacked structure with the layers that reefs have. Of course feel free to use either the plate or the bowl to make it a single layer, still a very cool 3D creation!

  1. Before gluing the coral decorations onto the bottom reef (plate), glue one end of the toilet paper roll to the plate.
  2. After the coral decorations have been attached to the bowl & plate, stack them by gluing the top part of the toilet paper roll and placing the bowl on top of the TP roll end to secure.

Suggested Supplies (be creative with what you have!)

By using recycled materials or things you have around the house, you can help minimize impact on the environment.

  • egg carton
  • bubble wrap
  • brown packing paper
  • toilet paper roll
  • paper plate
  • paper bowl
  • mesh potato bags
  • tissue paper (we used aqua for the bases, and pink/yellow for sea fans or sea sponges)
  • a few craft pom poms (for sea urchins)
  • mod podge or glue
  • paint (we used 4 colors: blue, pink, purple, yellow)
  • paintbrush
  • hole punch
  • pipe cleaners
  • hot glue gun & sticks (*Be careful of burns & always have adult supervision if you allow kids to handle hot glue.*)
  • scissors
  • toothpicks
  • string

Protect Coral Reefs

Coral reefs need your help! They are under threat by many different impacts, like warming ocean temperatures, pollution from fertilizers & plastic, ocean acidification, and the sunscreen we wear (even inland!).

To dive into how you can swap your sunscreen for one that’s reef-friendly, check out our infographic:

You can also help spread awareness and appreciation of reefs by sharing this post or pinning on Pinterest. We hope you enjoyed the adventure and keep exploring the amazing ocean world!

Live porpoisefully,

Eve & Rett (Everett) Taylor

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, hot glue, 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.

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