Tide Pool Science Experiment for Kids

Here’s a super easy science experiment for kids all about tide pools! Children will create their own mini tide pool and then add water to explore what happens during low tide and high tide. (And when they’re done, they’ll be left with a really fun tide pool sensory box to play with outside!)

*This activity meets the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS K-ESS3-1).

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Tide Pool Experiment for Kids (& a fun ocean themed sensory bin when you're done!)~ Buggy and Buddy

This post was originally published on July 6, 2014 and has since been updated.

We have been taking all kinds of trips to the beach and tide pools this summer, and often on those trips, talk of low tide or high tide comes up. So I decided to help the kids understand what low and high tides are and how they affect sea life with this simple tide pool science experiment. (And be sure not to miss our rocky shore small world and ocean themed book set– more fun ways to learn about ocean life!) This post contains affiliate links. 

Tide Pool Experiment for Kids

 Materials for Tide Pool Science

  • Dish pan or plastic bin
  • Lots of rocks and stones in various sizes
  • Mini toy sea creatures (We used these, but you could also make your own out of clay or Sculpey!)
  • Water

Directions for Model Tide Pool

1. Start by filling your pan on bin with rocks. (We had some sand nearby so we threw that in too!) Arrange them so there are varying levels of rocks in your pan, creating a tide pool.

tide pool science


2. Place your mini animals in the tide pool model.

Tide Pool Science Exploration for Kids


3. Before adding water, discuss which animals will be underwater first as water is added.


4. Begin to add water one pitcher or cup at a time. (Pay attention to which animals are covered with water first.)

Add water to your tide pool to create high tide


Continue adding water until you reach high tide. Notice how all the animals are underwater during high tide.

Science for kids: Learning about the tides


5. Before dropping your water level to low tide, discuss which animals will be exposed to the air first. Begin removing water one pitcher at a time until you’ve reached low tide. Notice how at low tide most animals are exposed to air. (This is a great time to talk about any body parts or movements sea creatures have to help them with low tide!)

When You’re Done

Simulating low and high tides in our tide pool model really helped Lucy visualize what’s going on in our local tide pools and why certain ares of our beaches are sometimes exposed and sometimes under water.

After we were done, we left our tide pool outside for the kids to play with- it’s now the perfect tide pool themed sensory bin!

Tide Pool Science Experiment for Kids~ Buggy and Buddy

What’s Going On?

Sea animals that live in or near the rocky shore have to deal with fluctuating tides. Because the water level changes, these animals are sometimes in air and sometimes in water.

Tides are influenced by the gravitational forces of the moon, sun and Earth, the Earth’s rotation, and the shape of the shoreline.


Want to go even further?

Even more activities to inspire creativity and critical thinking for various ages.

1. Create waves in your tide pool. Talk about how waves and tides are different.

2. If you live near the beach, go on a tide pool scavenger hunt.

3. Check out the children’s books below to discover even more about sea life in tide pools!

In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails, and Salty Tails by Anthony D. Fredericks

In One Tidepool

Be sure to also check out these other fun ocean themed activities for kids:


Tide Pool Science Experiment for Kids: Fun ocean activity for kids- turn it into a fun ocean themed sensory bin when you're done! (Next Generation Science Standard Kindergarten: NGSS K-ESS3-1) ~ BuggyandBuddy.com


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this, it’s a wonderful way to learn about the tides and tide pools. I’m going to pin this to my homeschooling board.

  2. This book looks wonderful!

  3. I am adding this book to the to read list!

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

  4. Thank you for a great post! I want to try this with my first graders this year. Just shared it on my blog!

  5. Chelsey this is very cool. Will work great after a trip to the beach. Thanks for the idea 🙂


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