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Learning About Ocean Plastic Pollution: 6 Fun Family Activities (2024)

Water pollution is a growing concern that threatens both oceans and freshwater sources.

Plastic is not biodegradable and when it enters the ocean, it can last for hundreds of years. The effects have been devastating on marine life, with thousands of organisms becoming tangled in plastic or ingesting items.

While many believe that recycling is the answer, this does not solve the ocean plastic pollution problem.

According to Ocean Conservancy “every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments”. This is the equivalent of full garbage truck of plastic going into the ocean every minute, of every day for a full year!

That much plastic is bound to have a huge impact on ocean ecosystems.

Today, you can often see in the news photos of fish, dolphins, or seals that get entangled in plastic and either drown or die of starvation. This leads to the rapid extinction of rare species and a reduction in the population of marine life.

Today, we’re learning about ocean plastic pollution with fun and easy eco-friendly family activities to teach children about the harmful effects of pollution and how we can work to prevent it:

Learning About Ocean Plastic Pollution: 6 Fun Activities for the Whole Family

These six activities are fun, practical and engage various learning areas like language, math, art and physical movement. They’re all activities that adults and older kids can enjoy too, to include the whole family:

1. Make At-Home Fancy Dress Costumes

As a family, many celebrate holidays by dressing up. Unfortunately, many store-bought costumes are made from plastic.

You can create a great family activity by making costumes at home that use environmentally friendly material to make learning about ocean plastic pollution fun!

To make it more educational, you can pair the costume-making with an essay or some research on how to make a stunning Halloween costume at home. Students can even write an essay on this for their English course or science class, using assignments by EduBirdie. By referring to online sources such as essay examples, families can gather many great ideas for costumes and decorations.

With some great online help, students can generate an informative essay that can provide families with creative costume ideas that are eco-friendly!

Learning about ocean plastic pollution - Kids Halloween Costumes

You can also involve your friends or neighbors to create both eco-friendly costumes and decorations for the house or yard.

They will not only be helping the environment but will also be creating a one-of-a-kind costume that will surely attract attention!

It can also be exciting street decorations. For Halloween, for example, you can use a pumpkin and tree branches to create a Halloween monster.

Activities like these are both educational and fun, making them a great way to teach kids about preventing plastic pollution!

2. Sorting Trash and Recycling as a Game

As a family, you can work together to sort trash before it goes out for collection. This is a great way to educate children on how to effectively recycle.

By engaging in garbage sorting, you will be able to separate those items that can be recycled from those that simply end up in a landfill. Print a sorting guide, in which the child can find what type of garbage his favorite juice box belongs to.

This will help to make everyone in the family aware of recycling methods and your efforts can help prevent plastics from entering the ocean.

Learning about ocean plastic pollution -Kids Sorting Recycling

Using different bins for items is one of the best ways to explain to your kids the importance of garbage recycling and how it works.  Tell them how each bin is disposed of and which items are recycled and which will go to a landfill.

By engaging all family members when learning about ocean plastic pollution, you can take steps to reduce waste and combat the pollution problem.

In this way, your child will be most interested in starting to sort garbage. You can even come up with a bonus system or a mini-competition between family members.

Every week you can check whether all family members have sorted the garbage correctly and if no errors are found, they receive a bonus or reward.

3. Head to the Beach for a Mini Clean-Up Mission

A simple and effective way to make learning about ocean plastic pollution practical is to spend a family day at the beach.

Instead of laying in the sun or making sandcastles, walk the beach and collect any debris or trash. Seeing how much plastic is lying on every beach, even ones that ‘look clean’ is an eye opening exercise!

Along the way, explain how these items can affect marine life and water quality when they enter the ocean.

Learning about ocean plastic pollution - Collecting Litter on the Beach

This is an interactive activity that can involve family members of all ages and inform everyone on the importance of pollution prevention.

Kids love to use grabbers to pick things up so incorporate these in the clean-up to make for a fun activity.

You can also develop a rewards system by offering something special for filing up bags with collected trash. This will help to keep children engaged and they will be part of an important process to remove plastics from our oceans while getting a great reward at the end of the day!

4. Create Custom Reusable Cups and Water Bottles

Many people grab a bottle of water and toss it when done. This can eventually end up in the ocean. To prevent this, try buying some plain, reusable cups and water bottles and decorating them at home.

Family members can personalize their cups or bottles and instead of using plastic bottles, refill them and enjoy a beverage.

Check out this video by KOOZI FUN TIME! for how to use acrylic paint on mugs:


More than 40 million plastic water bottles are disposed of each day. By taking steps to reduce the number of bottles used within the family, avoid buying cases of water.

Use water filters at home and grab your personalized cup to have a sip. This is a simple and fun way to engage everyone in the family while providing education on plastic pollution.

If homemade ones won’t cut it for your older kids, you can order beautiful reusable water bottles online. In this way, they will be able to stand out at school and tell their classmates why it is more useful to use reusable bottles than disposable plastic ones.

5. Reusable Tote Bag Art Project

When we’re learning about ocean plastic pollution, plastic bags are a great example to use.  Plastic bags are one of the biggest enemies of the ocean, introducing plastic, microplastics, and chemicals into the water.

They are also often mistaken as food by many mammals. Some sea creatures will see a floating plastic bag as a jellyfish and ill ingest it. By teaching children about which marine animals feed on jellyfish, you can also teach them how plastic bags can destroy marine life.


Make a fun art project that involves making a reusable bag. You can find plain totes at many stores and then affix patches or even have kids color them with markers.

Learning about ocean plastic pollution - DIY kids tote bag

They will be able to create a personalized bag to use when shopping or heading out for a day trip. This is a fun way to reduce plastic bag use and will also provide you with a strong reusable bag that can be used anywhere.

6. Keeping a Trash Journal

Nowadays, most of the products you buy are packaged in food-grade plastic, cardboard, or foil. Together with your kids, create a trash journal to record how much plastic that you throw in the trash or recycle every day for a week.

At the end of the week, the whole family counts their total number of discarded or recycled plastic and calculates what this figure is for a year. Then work out how much of the plastic was recycled, how much went to the landfill, and what can you do to use less plastic in the future.

Learning about ocean plastic pollution - keeping a trash journal

After that, try to buy products wrapped in eco-friendly materials, use reusable bags instead of plastic ones, skip plastic straws and use reusable water bottles and cups. You can add any other ways to reduce your plastic consumption that works for your family too.

You can repeat the exercise after making adjustments, to show them the impact of their efforts. In this way, your children will clearly understand how much plastic people consume and how they can change that.


Preventing further plastic pollution in our oceans is something that everyone should be focusing on. If we keep using plastic straws, bottles, bags, and other items, the amount of plastic in our oceans will outweigh the number of fish before we reach 2050.

Each day, there are billions of pounds of plastic debris in the water, all contaminating reefs and affecting marine life. Learning about ocean plastic pollution with this fun activities, families can learn while taking important steps to help ocean ecosystems.

In this way, as the next generation, our children will be able to save the planet and the oceans from plastic pollution!


Centre for Biological Diversity: Ocean Plastics – A Global Tragedy for Our Oceans and Sea Life

National Geographic: Plastic Pollution Facts and Information 

Ocean Conservancy: Trash Free Seas – The Problem with Plastics

Science News for Students: Let’s Learn About Plastic Pollution

Wikipedia: Marine Plastic Pollution 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much plastic is in the ocean?

It is estimated that 1.15–2.41 million tons of plastic enter the ocean per year. As for now, there are now 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in our ocean. Check out the full guide for more info.

Where do plastics in the ocean come from?

Plastic in the ocean originates is from the fishing industry, nautical activities, and aquaculture. It also washes into the ocean from land-based activities via rivers, streams, and beach litter. Check out the full guide for more info.

Where do microplastics come from?

Microplastics are very small plastic particles that can originate from a variety of sources, such as ingredients in cigarette filters, textile fibers, and cleaning or personal care products. When larger plastics break down in the ocean, they break up into tiny fragments called microplastics. Check out the full guide for more info.

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