One of the best things about early learners is they soak up information so fast. It’s a beautiful thing. Number recognition, number sense, and counting are all crucial skills that children need to learn early on.

As easy as flashcards and videos are to help teach numbers and counting, kids need variety and engaging content that will enforce learning.

That’s why I love hands-on games and activities when I’m teaching math. They’re fun, visually appealing, and keep children’s attention for more than what seems like 5 seconds. My favorite hands-on activity you ask? Feed the ocean animals!

Feed the Turtle

This feed the ocean animals activity is the perfect mix of sensory play, fine motor practice, number recognition, counting, and science! With low-prep, children will use their fingers or tongs to “feed” different ocean animals.

What Skills are Practiced?

Sensory Play – I love, love, love sensory bins! Confession, when my daughter is playing in a sensory bin, I can’t help but play along. It’s such a soothing activity. With this feed the ocean animals activity, feeding pieces and/or direction cards can be put into a sensory bin with colored rice, beans, or sand. The child will reach into the sensory bin and feel around until they find or pick out the correct feeding piece.

Fine Motor – This activity is designed to work those smaller muscles in the hands and fingers. When getting a feeding piece or direction card, the learner needs to pinch or grab the card.

Number Recognition – The direction cards in this activity tell how many objects to feed the ocean animal. When the card is picked, the child will need to identify the number that they are supposed to feed the animal.

Counting – Once a direction card is picked and the number is identified, the child will count the objects as they feed the ocean animal. Younger learners (such as toddlers and preschoolers) will practice counting up to 10 and older learners (pre-k and kindergarteners) will count objects up to 20.

Science – The ocean is truly an astonishing place. It baffles me even as an adult. This counting sensory game will help teach children about some of the many animals in the ocean and what they eat. Animals included in this activity are a whale, shark, jellyfish, turtle, octopus, and manta ray.

How Do I Prep This?

  • Print the pages or ocean animals, food, and direction cards that you’d like to interact with
  • Laminate the pages (this will be helpful as it will protect the pieces for longer play)
  • Cut out the white part of the mouth of the animal(s)
  • Glue the animal onto an open container using a strong adhesive (I use smaller plastic cups, tissue boxes, and I’ve even outlined and cut out a mouth to glue an animal onto a brown paper bag)
  • Cut out the food items and direction cards and separate them
  • Place the food items into a sensory bin so they’re poking out and need to be picked
  • Place the direction cards into another small container (like a cup or bowl) where the child needs to reach in and pull a card out
Feed the Jellyfish!

How Do We Play?

  • Child picks a random direction card and identifies the number of objects needed to feed the ocean animal
  • Child reaches into the sensory bin using fingers or tongs and pulls out a food item
  • Child “feeds” the ocean animal by placing the food item into the animal’s mouth and counts out loud until they’ve reached the amount of food stated on the direction card
  • Child pulls another direction card and repeats the actions
  • *If food pieces run out, simply dump out the cards and place them into the sensory bin

How Can I Get This Game?!

Lucky for you, this is a FREE activity you can get your hands on right now! Simply fill out the information below and I’ll email the activity over. 🙂

Looking for More Shark Activities?

These shark-themed counting 1 to 10 file folder activities will be an engaging way to reinforce understanding of one-to-one correspondence, using ten-frames to compose/decompose numbers, and identifying numbers 1-10. Grab it here!

If you’re interested in practicing skills across the board (such as letter ID, number ID, SEL, counting, vocabulary, tracing letters and numbers, and fine motor), you might also love this ocean-themed busy binder!


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