5 Fun Ways To Teach Babies & Toddlers About Ocean Conservation - in Honour of World Oceans Day!

For many of us living and raising our children near the coast, whether here in Australia, or further afield, watching them fall in love with the natural beauty of our beaches and oceans is one of parenting's greatest pleasures. For my family at least, we consider Australia's beaches nature's greatest playground, and one which my daughter seemingly never tires of. That's why ocean conservation is such an important topic to introduce our kids to, whether through education, sensory play, volunteering or otherwise.

Did you know, by the time our children are grown and have little ones of their own, our oceans might be more full of trash than natural treasures. Between pollution, global warming and over-fishing, these critical eco-systems are in real danger of being damaged beyond repair. In fact, around a third of ocean mammals and corals are in danger of extinction, and more than half of all marine life may disappear by 2100. And my favourite (if you can call it that!): by 2050, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish.

Whilst these facts may make us worry for the world we're leaving our children, it makes it even more important to teach our kids to be part of the solution. Notice how all these predictions are for the future? That's because with efforts in ocean conservation we make today, and those we teach our children to take tomorrow, can still turn it around! The theme of 2022's World Oceans Day is Collective Action: because when we act together, all those little things add up to big, important changes.

The stats might feel heavy, but learning about ocean conservation doesn't need to be! In honour of World Oceans Day (held this year on June 8th) here are some fun ways to teach your kids about ocean conservation, even during the winter months.

 

ocean conservation kids beach hunt sensory play

 

 

1. Set up a beach-side sensory scavenger hunt

Most parents have heard about the benefits of sensory play for babies and toddlers. Well the beach is the perfect sensory playground! Now that I've got a walking, talking toddler on my hands, one of my favourite activities is to set up a beach-side scavenger hunt. The average shoreline is absolutely full of treasures, objects, textures and noises that are especially weird and wonderful to your average pre-schooler!

Challenge them to see how many different shells they can spot in your nearest tide pools, or to feel what the tentacles of a slimy anenome are like (great sensory play - just use gentle hands!), or even collect magic sea glass "gems" from the sand. My little one loves to fill up a bucket with all her finds, which not only help her fall under the ocean's spell, but provide a natural talking point about ocean conservation (especially when the inevitable bit of plastic or cigarette butt ends up in there!)

 

 

2. Ocean Inspired Sensory Play

So good, we mentioned it twice: sensory play really is the best, most immersive teacher for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers alike.

On those rainy days where making it ocean-side just isn't practical, it can be really easy to set up an ocean-themed sensory play session at home. Whether you're making a sensory beach-scape from coloured rice and flour, or setting up a simple lesson on ocean warming with ice and shaving foam, there are so many opportunities to learn about ocean conservation through sensory play.

We love ocean-themed sensory play so much, we've created a FREE e-book full of our top ideas and invitations to play. And to help the littlest of hands of minds fall in love with the ocean, there are always our ocean-inspired and eco-friendly baby sensory books (made of recycled plastic bottles!)

 

 

3. Turn Beach Clean Ups into a Game

Do you Take 3 for the Sea? We swear by this simple initiative to get babies and children into the lifelong practice of keeping our beaches and oceans clean. It's super simple, and easy to turn into a game! Just take 3 more bits of rubbish away from the beach, than you arrived with. My little one loves rummaging around in the sand, and asking about what she finds.

Fighting the battle to keep our oceans plastic free is a key part of ocean conservation, and a way our children can easily help make a difference! We love this organisation so much, that we donate a $1 per online sale from our books and swimwear to their efforts to teach children about ocean conservation.

Plus, if you want to get a little gang involved, there's likely an organised beach clean up happening near you. They're a great way to get children out in the fresh air, show them that volunteering can be fun, and often provide lots of opportunities for kid-friendly ocean education. Try enquiring with Take 3 or your local branch of Sea Shepherd or Greenpeace to see what clean ups might be happening locally.

 

 

4. Make story time sustainable - with ocean-themed sensory toys and books

Story time is a really special moment in any baby or toddlers day. It's a moment of quiet time that has countless benefits to your bond and your child's brain development (amongst others!) but it's also one of the rare moments in the day when children are quiet, calm and receptive. There's even evidence that shows that children process what they have learned during their sleep - so it's a great moment to slip in something important - like ocean conservation.

The children's book market has really caught on to making sustainability digestible and fun for the smallest of enquiring minds. There are so many incredible titles that make the ocean's amazing creatures the star of the show, and show (as well as tell!) the importance of things like recycling on ocean conservation.

Some of our favourites for bed-time are Goodnight Ocean and, for an interactive way to explore the impact of plastic pollution (and recycling), Planet Rescue. And for younger babies, we'd be remiss not to mention our own eco-sensory books - all ocean inspired and made from recycled plastic bottles!

 

 

5. Make them the Champions of Reducing, Re-using and Recycling at home!

One of the things I DO love about having a toddler in the house, is how earnest and happy she is to get involved in even the most mundane of household tasks. The pre-school years are an amazing time to capitalise on our children's eagerness to learn and please, by getting them involved in tasks like recycling.

We like to involve Lila in sorting our recycling but older children can find recycling fun and rewarding too! My sister-in-law makes the rewards of recycling tangible for her 8 year-old: he's made taking plastic bottles to the Return & Earn bottle bank quite the little side hustle, making 10c from the machine for each bottle he brings. In fact, he's been so successful, it's now how he gets his pocket money, which I think is genius!

 

It CAN be fun to involve your kids in ocean conservation

Teaching our kids about ocean conservation may be important work, but it can also become really important play! Whether you help your little one fall in love with the ocean through sensory play, or get them into the great out-doors by turning beach clean ups and scavenger hunts into an interactive game, this World Oceans Day the best thing you can do is start a baby conversation about ocean conservation.

And if you're looking for quick and easy ways to introduce ocean sensory play to your day, you'll find plenty of ideas for toddlers and above in our free e-book, or check out our sustainable soft books for baby ocean lovers here.

Adorable and sustainable swimwear that loves the ocean back!