Ocean Diorama Craft Project

Young boy cutting paper for crafts
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You can learn a lot about ocean habitats by creating an ocean diorama. Including fish, marine mammals and ocean plant life in your diorama will give you an overview of what life is like for the creatures of the sea.

This ocean diorama craft can be modified to match the abilities of children both young and old. It's recommended for ages 3 and up and takes about two to three hours to complete. 

Materials Needed

Gather these items:

  • Shoebox
  • School Glue
  • Sand
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Construction Paper
  • Scissors
  • Ocean creature miniatures
  • Magazine clippings


  1. Select a small shoebox for younger children and a large one for older children. A small cardboard box, such as an empty cereal box, will also work if you don't have any shoeboxes.
  2. Remove the lid from the shoebox and save it for future craft projects. Flip the shoebox so that it is resting on its longest side with the open section facing you.
  3. Cover what is now the bottom of your shoebox with a layer of school glue. Sprinkle sand over the glue and wait for it to dry. You can use sand from a nearby beach, or purchase some from a craft store. This is your ocean floor.
  4. Paint the sides and ceiling of your shoebox with blue acrylic paint to symbolize the color of the water in the ocean. Wait for the paint to dry before continuing.
  5. Add plant and animal life to the ocean floor. You may want to include kelp, seaweed, starfish, lobsters, algae, crabs, lichens, clams, coral, and seagrasses. You have several options when it comes to adding plant and animal life. You can make them on pieces of construction paper, cut them out and glue them in place, or purchase plastic miniatures. You may even have a few pieces of real seaweed, coral or seashells you can use on your ocean diorama if you live near the beach. These can be easily glued in place as well.
  6. Add ocean animals that are seen swimming in the ocean once you finish with the ocean floor. Some ocean animals you may wish to include are octopi, jellyfish, different varieties of fish, sharks, stingrays, eels, dolphins, seahorses, turtles and sea urchins.
  7. Cut pictures of ocean animals out of a magazine, draw the animals yourself on construction paper or locate plastic miniatures you can use in the diorama. Any of these options will work to create an ocean diorama.
  8. Hang the ocean animals from the ceiling of the shoebox with a piece of yarn. You can also glue some of the ocean animals around the sides of the shoebox. Older children might enjoy gluing a school of fish swimming in a pattern to the side of their diorama. Adding ocean animals to the sides of the shoebox and then having some of the animals hanging from the ceiling helps to create a 3D look.
  9. Give the glue time to dry before displaying your new ocean habitat for all to see.


  • Cover your workspace area with sheets of newspaper or an old plastic tablecloth.
  • Rather than using blue acrylic paint, you can cut metallic blue wrapping paper to fit each side and glue it in place.
  • Hang the ocean animals at different lengths so that the animals appear to be swimming at different depths.
  • Cover the front of the shoebox with a light blue plastic wrap or cellophane to give the illusion of looking through the water.