How to teach using seashells in preschool

Written by becky swain
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How to teach using seashells in preschool
Seashells are easily manipulated by small hands. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Seashells offer numerous teaching opportunities to preschool-age children. They can learn about the ocean, use them in crafts or use them to learn math. Seashells can be easily manipulated by small hands. The shapes and easy accessibility can make seashells a treasured part of a themed preschool curriculum. Integrate a variety of seashell activities in your preschool curriculum that permit children to use what is known about seashells and apply their knowledge in new ways.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Assorted mini seashells
  • Cockle seashells
  • Auger seashells
  • Angel wing seashells
  • Clam seashells
  • Beach pails
  • Number cards
  • Magnifying glass
  • Plastic container
  • Sand
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Foam picture frames
  • White craft glue
  • Construction paper
  • Fish stickers
  • Non-toxic ink stamp pads
  • Crayons
  • Sandpit or sand table
  • Small plastic fish
  • Beach umbrella
  • Sea-themed music

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  1. 1

    Include a seashell activity in your math centre. Place mixed-up number cards with the numbers 1 to 10 next to a beach pail full of shells. Ask the preschooler to select a number card and count out the number of seashells represented by the card. The child places the correct number of seashells on the number card (See Reference 1).

  2. 2

    Read "What Lives in a Shell?" by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld during story time. Place sand, an assortment of shells and a magnifying glass in plastic container. Let the children examine the shells' colours and patterns using the magnifying glass. (See References 2 and 3)

  3. 3

    Incorporate seashells into an art or craft activity. Prepare cockle or clam shells by rinsing them and allowing them to dry in the sun or buy shells from a craft store. Let the children use acrylic paints and brushes to create a simple picture inside of the shells. Examples of simple paintings include a beach ball, the sun and a rainbow. Encourage the children to use their imagination.

    An alternative to painting shells is a craft activity with foam picture frames. Give each child a foam picture frame, white craft glue and an assortment of small seashells. Children can decorate their frames by applying the shells with the craft glue (See Reference 4).

  4. 4

    Show the children how to use shells in a stamping activity, which is best used with cockle, auger or angel wing seashells. Set out construction paper, seashells, fish stickers and non-toxic ink stamp pads. Tell the children to place the fish stickers on the bottom half of the construction paper. Demonstrate how to gently press a seashell down on the ink pad and then press it on the paper to stamp a seashell shape. Stamp several different types of seashells on the top half of the construction paper to create a beach scene. The children can draw beach pails with crayons and add any other beach items to personalise their pictures (See References 1 and 5).

  5. 5

    Use the shells as manipulatives to develop sensory and fine-motor skills. Create a miniature beach scene with a sand table or sandpit. Fill the sandpit or sand table with a wide assortment of seashells and small plastic fish, and pour the sand over the items. The children can sift through the sand with their hands to find the shells. Provide a beach umbrella and sea-themed music (See Reference 1).

Tips and warnings

  • Packaged play sand is available from discount and home-improvement stores, or teacher-supply stores.
  • Shells can be purchased from a craft store.

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