Refreshing Coral Reef Games for the Pool

When my son was 4 years old, he loved watching Finding Nemo, which led to a deep love for the coral reef and all the creatures the main characters in the movie encountered there.  Sea turtles, sting rays, barracuda, jellyfish, and, of course, clown fish.  All of these coral reef creatures were friends. Whenever we visited the pool for free swim, we had to play coral reef games.  Then, together we made our own facts board game to play once we are out of the water too!

Coral Reef Games in the Water

As we learned concepts about coral reefs, we put them into our water play. Coral reef games and coral reef learning are the most fun in a swimming pool.

Clown fish and the barracuda. We learned that the clown fish typically feed and swim during the day.  But when the night comes, the barracuda hunt in the dimming light! For this one person (at least) is a clown fish and the other is a barracuda. The clown fish swims until the barracuda says it’s nighttime.  Then the barracuda swimmer chases the fish.  If you want, you could name a spot in the pool as the “anemone” or safe spot where the barracuda cannot tag.

Jellyfish. We learned that a jellyfish stings with its tentacles to stay safe from predators. To play in the water, we choose a jellyfish, and the rest are other fish. A jellyfish tries to block (or “sting”) the other “fish” as they try to cross the pool.

Sharks. My kids love the chase to escape the sharks in the pool! The adult (myself) dives underwater with a “shark fin” (my hands) pointing out of the water. I swim through the water to “catch” my prey. Of course, if I do catch her, my daughter likes to try to convince me that “fish are friends, not food!”

Sea turtle rides. I give my little ones a ride on my back across the pool!

Retelling Stories. My kids love to “act out” favorite stories. Whether it is the Finding Nemo story or The Little Mermaid, it’s always more fun to “act out” the favorite scenes. Retelling stories is a useful pre-reading skill. Put kids in the water and bring the fishy stories to life: escape a pretend net or twirl in the “East Australian Current.”

Learning about the Coral Reef

Finding Nemo was just the jumping off point for our learning about the Coral Reef ecosystem. We found books to read to explain the science of the area, especially details about coral and what it is. I also wrote my own nonfiction book about coral reef systems and set up a review game to remember all the things we've learned. Of course, the theme iof the game s helping the clown fish make it back to his anemone.

Coral Reef Picture Books

Great nonfiction picture books entertain a young reader, keeping their attention with creative illustrations, an interesting story or narrative line, and helpful educational facts. I also find readability for the adult, because such a feature helps make reading and re-reading more likely to be an enjoyable experience for all involved. Here are some more great books to help develop a coral reef unit study.


One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jane Chapman, captures the story of the endangered loggerhead turtle. The mother spends 30 years at sea before returning to the same beach where she was born to lay her eggs. Will the tiny turtles survive once they hatch on the beach? I love the gorgeous illustrations as well as readable story that both entertains and teaches. 

Coral Reefs by Gail Gibbons has recently been updated by this prolific nonfiction author and illustrator. 

Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Jeanette Canyon follows the pattern of the folk song "Over in the Meadow". Consider singing parts of it together with your young learner!

How to Hide an Octopus by Ruth Heller is subtitled "and other sea creatures" talks about animals all over coral reefs and other shallow water bodies of water, focusing on how these animals hide from predators.

On Kiki's Reef by Carol Malnor, illustrated by Trinna Hunner, uses the life story of a sea turtle to describe the life surrounding a coral reef. I personally love the soft watercolor illustrations too!

Life in a Coral Reef by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a Let's-Read-and-Find-Out level 2 book. As with so many other books in this series, it provides great details, unique illustrations, and would be a nice foundation for learning about coral reefs.

Learning about the Coral Reef through Review

I put together my own ebook about Coral Reef Systems and together we made fact cards for our own board game. Our Coral Reef Systems board game is a lot of fun not in the water. Playing it together helps us remember the things we have learned, including facts about types of coral reefs, human effects of coral reefs, animals in coral reefs, and so forth. 

I am a strong proponent of using games to learn and review. Gamifying learning and review helps make learning even more fun!

Get the Coral Reef eBook and Game

Exploring Coral Reef Systems is a full-color informational text ebook with real photographs of coral reef life. Included with the ebook (also provided in booklet format) is a set of comprehension questions and writing prompts for researching about coral reefs and coral reef animals. Finally, the Coral Reef Game provides 40 questions for reviewing the details read about in the informational text along with a colorful game board.

I sell my Coral Reef Systems ebook, writing prompts, and game at TeachersPayTeachers and in my Shop.

If you are interested, check out my eLearning version of this ebook and comprehension questions at Boom Learning.  (Boom Learning deck is not included in this learning bundle.)

Get More Marine Biology Learning Ideas

As a part of a coral reef unit study, consider learning more specifically about the unique animal that is coral. These differentiated reading passages are included in the bundle mentioned above, and I'm also providing it free for those who sign up for the "science learning" list for Line upon Line Learning VIPs. 

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Free differentiated reading passages

When you sign up for the Line upon Line Learning science list, this freebie will be sent directly to your email address!

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Want some more ideas for teaching Marine Biology? Check out these posts below for more ideas!

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  • The clown fish and barracuda game sounds like so much fun! What a cute idea. I’ll have to see if we can make at least one more trip to the lake before school starts so we can try it out ourselves 🙂

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