Exploring patterns & details in seashells

One of the major advantages of living in Australia on the coast is getting to explore beaches, rock pools and endless amounts of beautiful shells and we are lucky, there are a few serene, mostly deserted beaches nearby that we visit regularly. 

Usually we hunt for treasure, look for crabs and creatures in rock pools, build sand structures, draw in the sand, jump waves and search for unusual shells. There is one beach we visit driving there by 4x4 and we usually have the entire beach to our self, it never fails to provide pile after pile of shells. Amongst them are these pretty little shells with the most intricate patterns that I used to collect with my mum as a kid.

Dimples has taken on the family tradition, he loves collecting shells. On this occasion we collected our treasures and specifically seeked out these small little shells. Bankivia Fasciata, a mollusk known as silver kelp shell but they don't actually live on kelp they live in sand just out of the break water. So after rough seas lots get washed up. Pinks, purples, greys, browns, whites, & cream colours with stripes or zig zag patterns (or both).

Once home we sorted our finds into piles; rocks, our silver kelp shells, shells with holes to thread, shells for the hermit crab pet & shells for the garden. Dimples started noticing the patterns and asking if they were a crab or slug (mollusk) & if they were the same even though they were all different. He noticed the zig zags and stripes so we decided to pick some favourites and look at them under a microscope. I drew up some outlines and dimples chose his shells and identified the colours and the shades on them, then focused on the detailed patterns. 

It was complicated; drawing tight zig zags and differentiating between shades of the colours and then identifying the way in which the patterns flowed on the shell. Using a steady hand and trying to stay in side the lines he did the patterning.

After he spent a long time focusing on the details of the shells and talking about how they are different, he announced he was finished and got a bit of clear tape to stick the shell he drew next to his picture of it. He was very pleased with his creations and told me that one is for me, one for Nan & one for his great Aunt who he went shell collecting with while she was visiting recently.

Learning Concepts:
Identifying colors & shades
Exploring Nature
Learning about shells
Steady pencil grip
Focused attention to detail
identifying differences and similarities

Ideas for Extension:
Draw the patterns in white crayon & then use water color to paint the sea shell
Collect shells for a pretend play beach
Exploring different sizes and shapes of shells found
Use them with some sand dough in a Sand Dough Activity like this
Use them in some Play dough Texture Printing

Happy Adventures :)


  1. Shells are so amazing, such gorgeous, beautiful, natural objects. I love your ideas for using them.

  2. What fantastic drawings. Although we don't live overly close to a beach, we do love going there and our 20 month old son especially loves playing in the sand. One day when he's older I'm sure he will appreciate sea shells in this way.

  3. Kids love shells don't they, and what great ways to explore more about them!

  4. Such beautiful shells, the ones we get from the beach are rather boring. I might have to pop to the cheap shop and buy some nice ones like these and attempt this.

  5. Great idea I am putting into my memory bank when the kids are just a bit older. Thank you h.

  6. Shells are beautiful and I adore this activity!

  7. This is a lovely exploration Nae :) Jack really loves observational drawings, we're heading to the beach this Christmas. I'm really hoping we get to collect some shells too.

  8. Wow look at all those gorgeous shells!!! We often go looking for shells but it seems local Melbourne beaches are sadly lacking these days!
    What a lovely 'drawing from life' activity.

  9. Wow, what a shell collection! He did a great job with the drawings, didn't he!

  10. What gorgeous shells, they are so pretty. My girls love collecting them too.

  11. How beautiful and well done with the drawing too.

  12. We collected shells the other day too! Miss Daisy's pockets were both filled with 'treasures' as she called them, rocks, shells, sea glass! I think we'll do some pictures with them... :) Thanks for a great idea!

  13. I love the way you have used these shells...so clever, and those pictures are just wonderful!

  14. We love collecting shells - every one is so unique. Love those drawings!

  15. Wow, those drawings turned out fabulously! I love looking for patterns in nature and shells are a great one for that. Lovely idea to draw them :)

  16. The details in Dimples' sketches are amazing!
    Have you seen the latest edition of Play Grow Learn. I featured a book called Swirl by Swirl- spirals in nature. I think you'd love it.



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