How to Make an Underwater Scene With Your Children

The summer holidays can seem to stretch in front of us endlessly when we're at the start of them and faced with approximately six weeks of small children needing non-stop entertainment. While there are often summer camps and clubs available, these are not always affordable for everyone and therefore we need to really use our imaginations to find budget-friendly ways to fill the time.

One of the things that we often do is rummage through our (clean!) recycling to see whether there is anything in there that would inspire a project or a game. Both my children are currently very keen on anything related to the ocean and underwater life, so last week we decided to make the most of the hot weather and use old plastic bottles to make underwater scenes.

We didn't go and purchase anything special for this project, though you may need a few odds and ends yourself depending on what you have lying around at home.

The first thing I did was to give the old water bottles (we used clear, two litre bottles) another thorough wash. Next, we used different jugs and pouring equipment (one of my sons insisted on using the teapot from his pretend kitchen set) to get the water into our bottles while spilling as little as possible. This was actually more challenging than I had thought it would be and it was really interesting to see how my children approached the task differently. Summer holidays should first and foremost be about playing and having fun, but if learning experiences naturally present themselves during the course of things then that is an added bonus.

Children Measuring Water From Sink Bowl

After that, we lined up the main 'ingredients' we would need to make our sea-water look as realistic as possible. We had some blue food colouring in the cupboard and some white, green and brown glitter in our craft box. If you don't have these items you can pick up food colouring easily at your local supermarket and glitter very cheaply at stores like The Works.

Glitter and food colouring

The purpose of adding the glitter was to make the water look as though it contained some silt and sand, so obviously if you have easy access to other materials that would achieve this effect then by all means use those instead.

Before we added the glitter, we tipped in a few drops of food colouring and gave the bottle a shake to allow the liquid to mix with the water. We quickly discovered that we'd need to add more than we had anticipated and again, watching the boys think about concepts like the mixing of liquids and using language related to 'more' and 'less' was great, especially as it was completely driven by them.

Tipping food colouring into the bottle

Once the boys had chosen their preferred shade of blue for the water (it was lucky that they had a bottle each as one of them felt it should be much darker than the other did!) it was time to add the glitter. I would also like to have added some small stones, but we couldn't find any lying around in our garden. I did briefly think about buying some, but then quickly remembered that the point of this project was for it to be something that we could do straight away and with minimal costs, so I abandoned the idea. However, if you have some little stones that you could include then please do so.

Once we had the 'ocean' looking as good as possible, we had to add some underwater creatures to it to complete the scene. As the boys are very keen on these things at the moment, we happened to have some little fish in our toy box that I had picked up cheaply (ten for about a pound) recently. You could also include a little Lego person as a diver, or perhaps even make some of your own fish to add into the bottle. Anything goes!

At this point, I stepped in again to do up the lids of the bottles very tightly, so that they wouldn't fail under repeated shaking and swooshing. If you are worried about this, you could always add a layer of gaffer tape around the seal between the lid and the bottle.

Finished Underwater Scenes

My children were so proud of their work and have insisted that we play with them on an almost hourly basis ever since we made them last week. We also found some good underwater stories - such as 'Tiddler: The Story-Telling Fish' by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler - that we could read whilst playing with our underwater scenes and this helped us bring the books to life, which was great fun. You could also make up your own stories about the creatures in the bottle and the adventures they might have, meaning you get even more value out of the project!