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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Edible Jelly Beach Small World + 39 Other Sensory Play Ideas

Do your kids love going to the beach? Mine do, but because we live a while away we don't get there as often as I'd like, so to substitute actual trips, we do lots of beach and ocean themed small world play. Normally I set these up using sand and water like a real beach, but this time I decided to do something a little different and create an edible beach small world using jelly and coconut. The girls absolutely loved it!

Follow the instructions below to create your own edible beach play at home, or in the classroom. I'm also going to share how you can find 39 other fun sensory play ideas.

jelly beach sensory small world play


This beach is a great way to combine sensory play and small world play into one activity. The cool, squishiness of the jelly and crumbly texture of the coconut provide ample sensory input while perfectly representing a beach. An added bonus is the sensory bases are completely edible if the kids get curious and put them in their mouth. 

Of course you want to discourage them mouthing the plastic animals and other props though and this activity should always be done under adult supervision. If you're doing this activity with toddlers I suggest using larger plastic animals so they can't fit them in their mouth.

Supplies needed to set up a taste safe beach

  • Blue jelly {jello}
  • Shredded coconut
  • Plastic ziplock bag
  • White vinegar
  • Yellow food colouring
  • Aquatic animal figurines
  • Play tray or container

If you're worried about your child possibly eating too much sugar in jelly/jello then you can use gelatin powder and water with some blue food dye to make the ocean. Also if you don't want to use coconut the sand can be made from polenta, cous cous or blitz up some plain biscuits or cereal in a blender to form a crumbly powder.

The beach set up can be as simple, or elaborate as you want to make it. We used a combination of our Safari coral reef toob and Collecta sea life mini figurines. I also added a beach shack and a plastic aquarium plant to add more depth to the set up as my children are older.

Also remember when choosing your play container it will need to be able to fit into your fridge while the jelly mix sets. I would of used our kmart play tray for ours to make the beach bigger, but we didn't have enough spare room in the fridge.


You will need to prepare this play tray ahead of time to allow the jelly to set, so I recommend making it either first thing in the morning for afternoon play, or prepare the night before.

1. Make up and set the jelly into the bowl/container you're going to use for play. Follow the packet instructions and leave to set in the fridge for a few hours.

2. Dye the coconut yellow to make sand. Add the shredded coconut to a ziplock bag. Add in a few drops of yellow food colouring and a cap full of vinegar. Seal the bag {removing all air} then slowly smoosh the coconut around inside until it is evenly covered in yellow food dye. Set coconut aside on a flat tray or piece of parchment paper to dry out.

3. Once the jelly is set use a spoon to scrape some of it back to make space for the beach sand. Layer the jelly chunks you scrape out of the container on top of the remaining flat jelly at the edge nearest the beach. This will create a breaking waves effect {as shown below}.

beach waves made with jelly

4. Fill the empty section with the shredded coconut to create the sandy beach.

5. Decorate the beach and ocean with animal figurines and any other small world props you want to use. You'll need to carefully push the sea animals into the jelly so they stay in place without causing the rest of the jelly to break apart.

jello beach small world

I let the girls decide which animals to add to our jelly beach as I find they stay engaged in play a lot longer when they have input into the set up. They chose Nemo & Dory from our coral reef tube and a dolphin and octopus from our Collecta mini tubes. I think the turtle is one we got in a Yowie, however there are mini turtles in the Collecta mini tubes as well.

beach small world beach shack

I added the cutest little ceramic beach shack I found once in a dollar store. If you're looking for cute small world props then always keep an eye out when at dollar stores and even pet stores as you can find the best mini items for just a few dollars. You can also find some of our favourite small world props in my Amazon store.

You can see from the photo below that when I added the shredded coconut into the bowl a bit of it got unintentionally stuck to the edge of the jelly waves. I actually love this though as it gives the white wash effect of the waves breaking onto the sand.

jelly beach small world from above

This activity was great for the girls as they both played side by side with the small world even though they have a nearly 4yr age gap. They both can't resist jelly so anything involving jelly and play always gets their interest. 

As their imaginary play developed they got other animal figurines and added them into the small world. The shark inevitably gets added to any water themed play we do so he can be the bad guy that chases the other animals.

girls holding sharks in small world play

When engaging in small world play and sensory play, children are actually doing a lot more than imaginary play. They're also practicing essential developmental skills they'll need in later life including physical skills and social skills. These are just some of the skills I saw my girls practice while playing with our jelly beach small world.


  • Fine Motor Skills - They were using their pincer grip to carefully pull the animals from the jelly as well as grasping, pushing and squishing while exploring the jelly.
  • Hand/Eye Co-ordination - They also used their hand eye co-ordination when picking up the animals.
  • Imaginary Play - They engaged in lots of imaginary play, giving the animals names and creating family and friend groups for them. They also enacted out many different story lines.
  • Speech and Language - While playing the girls were developing their speech using different adjectives to describe the animals and the beach and talking in full sentences creating social stories.
  • Social skills - The girls worked together to create their play and to share the toys.

Word of warning though, jelly play can get messy, and sticky, if your kids get really hands on. My girls are big sensory seekers so this small world eventually became a green squelchy mess as they combined the jelly and the coconut to experience the textures and colour mixing. 

If you're not a huge fan of messy play you can do this activity outside, however it was easy enough to clean up with warm water in the sink. Surprisingly enough despite having a whole bowl of jelly in front of them, they were so immersed in play that they didn't actually eat too much of it.

messy beach sensory play

taste safe beach small world play tray


This activity was inspired by my friend Casey's new book Sensory Play for Toddlers and Preschoolers. In her book she shares a simple edible ocean small world using jello and shredded coconut that she did with her daughter Lilly as a baby. Her set up was really simple, so I used her sensory bases and then made ours a little more detailed and realistic as my girls are older.
casey patch edible ocean small world

Casey's book features 40 different sensory play ideas including sensory base recipes, sensory play invitations and sensory process art activities. If you've been wondering why sensory play is important, how to get started with sensory play or want some new sensory ideas that are easy to set up, then her book is a must read. The other great bonus is all of the activities include extension ideas so they can be adjusted for older children or different interests.

Sensory Play for Toddlers & Preschoolers includes dry and wet sensory play options for both indoor and outdoor play. All of the activities are also designed to develop fine motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination, early measurement skills and oral language skills. 

Think rainbow rice, edible mud, water play, potions, playdough, nature play and simple science activities. Casey is also a huge fan of using taste safe sensory play bases {as are we} so the book does contain play that uses food products. Casey's book can be bought online at Amazon or Amazon AU.

sensory play for toddlers and preschoolers by Casey Patch book review

If you haven't heard of Casey before, she's the teacher mum behind Little Lifelong Learners where she sells educational printables for school and home, shares lots of play inspiration and tries to help take the overwhelm out of providing fun play experiences for kids. She also runs the Little Play Club membership where you can get access to exclusive play packs and mentoring, however it only opens for new members a few times a year - find out more and get on the waiting list here.

Casey is a prep teacher - turned stay at home mum - turned boss lady extraordinaire. Casey is mum to Lilly, Elliot and Audrey who also double as models in her book. She loves imaginary play, specifically small worlds and dramatic play set ups. She's also a huge fan of donuts, and of course all of these things are why we get along so well! You can follow her on Instagram at Little Lifelong Learners.

casey patch owner of little lifelong learners


Disclosure - I received a complimentary review copy of Casey's new book Sensory Play for Toddlers & Preschoolers. This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience, which means I may earn a small commission at no cost to you, should you make a purchase.

Would you like to comment?

  1. I love this idea, my grandson has sensory issues and this is a perfect play day for us here. Really a great blog Toni love these idea thanks for sharing this Claudia from Whats Cookin