Summer is here… and that means one thing: the countdown to Shark Week is on! My kids are fascinated by all things ocean, especially sharks. To capture their imagination, we created our own portable shark tank – or “squishy shark” as my 2 year old calls it. You can make this simple sensory play bag too, with a few basic supplies. This post contains affiliate links.
Sensory Play for Shark Week
Sensory play offers a great opportunity for young children to explore naturally. They can touch, play, investigate, learn and create in a hands-on, up close way, even subjects, like sharks, that might normally be out of their reach. What better way to learn during Shark Week than to bring these creatures to tangible life in your child’s very own portable shark tank!
Shark Tank Supplies Needed
To create this simple sensory bag, you will need a few basic and affordable supplies.
- Craft paper
- Paint (blue, yellow, gold glitter, pink)
- Foam brush
- Bubble wrap
- Rolling pin
- Rubber bands
- Scrubby sponge
- Pipe cleaners (optional)
- Craft foam sheets (yellow and blue)
- Gallon plastic zipper bags
- Hair gel
Make the Shark Tank Back Drop
First, you will create a backdrop for your shark tank, using multi-media and texture to create a 3D effect. Wrap your rolling pin in bubble wrap and secure it in place with a rubber band at each end. Apply blue paint with a foam brush to your bubble wrap. Be generous with the paint. Then, roll your rolling pin across your craft paper.
Next, combine yellow and gold glitter paint on a paper plate and using a scrubby sponge stamp a ‘sandy floor’ across your background. And because everything needs a little pink, do the same with pink intermittently across your ocean backdrop. For a little added dimension, you can twist pipe cleaners and tape down the sharp ends to create seaweed in your ocean.
Fill Your Shark Tank
Once your background dries, cut it to fit your gallon zipper bag. If your plastic bag has a label on it, you can easily remove it with a Magic Eraser. Fill your gallon bag with a 16 ounce bottle of clear hair gel. I picked up the hair gel, scrubby sponges and bubble wrap at my local Dollar Store.
Cut out a shark and stars from your blue and yellow craft foam. I used a star-shaped cookie cutter and foam shark stamp as templates for ours. Add these to your bag of hair gel. Smooth your bag so hair gel fills the entirety of the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible and zip it shut. Then, tape your background to the back of the bag, taping it down all four sides.
Endless Sensory Play with Squishy Shark Tank
All that’s left is to play with your portable shark tank! Both my toddler and preschooler are thoroughly entertained manipulating and moving the stars and shark around the tank.
More Ocean STEM Fun!
For more ocean, STEM and sensory play fun, be sure to check out Ocean Ice Sensory Play, Summer Sorting with Seashells and DIY Tactile Alphabet Cards. You can find all our favorite STEM fun on our STEM for Kids boards on Pinterest: STEM for Girls, Math, Engineering and Science!
– Many thanks to Meghan from Playground Parkbench for stopping by with this fun Shark Tank Sensory Play, just in time for Shark Week!! She’s a former hedge fund analyst turned SAHM to three kids ages 4 and under who shares awesome parenting tips, kids activities, and financial savvy for families. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest!