Ocean Shadow Box


If your kids are learning about underwater sea creatures, why not make an ocean shadow box? It is super easy and will re-enforce the children’s learning about ocean creatures.

The first thing you will want to do is paint the box blue. It helps if a shoe box is a plain white color on the inside. We taped black construction paper around the outside of the box, but you could paint that black if you want.

In other shadow boxes we’ve made, we have spray painted the entire shoe box black, both inside and out. This is a great backdrop for any scene. If you are creating sea creatures from the deep, it is appropriate for your water to be black, especially if you make a flashlight fish out of clay, and place an LED light inside!


Let the paint dry overnight, and then you will want to attach a plastic aquarium plant to the bottom of the box. Use clay to attach the plant to the box. (Make sure your shoe box is on its side when you decide where the ocean floor will be!)

Pour white school glue on the bottom of the scene, gluing around the plastic plant as well as the rest of the ocean floor. Pour sand on top of the glue and shake it off.


If you have some small plastic ocean creatures, you can hang them with white thread to the top of the box. I used strong packing tape, but you could also use duct tape.

We added a rock and some walruses to the top of the box, along with some dolphins splashing out of the water. (See the picture at the top of this post.)


You can also create ocean creatures out of clay. We make a manta ray, a hammerhead shark, a starfish, a whale, and an anemone. If you study and shape one sea creature per day, you can add to your collection. You can display your creatures on built-in cardboard shelves that you have painted blue or black to match your shadow box, hot gluing the shelf into place.


You can also make a simple ocean shadow box by spray painting a box black, adding a goldfish in a small fishbowl, and throwing seashells or any other ocean toys into the display.

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13 Responses to “Ocean Shadow Box”

  1. Melissa says:

    My son would Love this! He’s having an underwater theme for his birthday. Such a fun idea!

    • Susan says:

      My kids have always love underwater sea creatures. We had a themed birthday around that: we blew bubbles when people walked through the door, to simulate as if we were underwater!

    • Oh my goodness! So are my kids! That’s a brilliant way to use this idea.

      They both want an Octonauts themed birthday party. They’re 1 year and 4 days apart in age (so I can recycle the props quickly with out having to store stuff).

  2. Katie says:

    This is a fun craft idea! My kids would love it!

  3. Alice Mills says:

    Very cute idea. Your kids are lucky you are such an engaging teacher!

  4. I wish I hadn’t parted with a box just yesterday, or I would be able to make a stash for their birthday parties coming up! lol

    This will be a great activity for them.

    • Susan says:

      I wonder if a shoe store might have empty shoe boxes in the back, from people who throw away their old shoes and wear their new ones out of the store. You could ask.

  5. Kristi says:

    What a creative way to let them explore the ocean!

    I haven’t done a shadow box in a long time. Reading this brought back lots of memories.

  6. Ida says:

    What a cute and creative idea! Especially for those who are like me and learns by being involved and doing something practical.

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