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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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!)
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.
2. Place your mini animals in the tide pool model.
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.)
Continue adding water until you reach high tide. Notice how all the animals are underwater during high tide.
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!
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
Be sure to also check out these other fun ocean themed activities for kids: