In occasion of the World Oceans Day we are very proud to show you our reef model made entirely with recycled materials, such as a box, toilet rolls, a plastic bag and starch-based loose fill.

Over the first week at home during the third national lockdown (January-March 2021 in the UK) my daughter was involved in making a great school project: to build a tropical reef model.

She was occupied in different ways: initially she watched some live streams about tropical reefs (at and she decided which under-the-sea animals to make, she cut out their shapes from toilet rolls, attached the parts, painted them, glued the googly eyes. Then she painted the background and set the animals in the box.

As you can see, many skills are involved in making this craft project (as well as learning the names of marine animals and their parts): using scissors, using hole punch, making a special knot, gluing very small surfaces, using double sided tape, painting.

We created a shark, a squid, a crab, a seahorse, an octopus, a couple of jellyfish, a clownfish, an angelfish, a trio of little fishes. At the end, my daughter made a tally chart asking friends which under the sea animal of those created was their favourite. The winner was… the crab!  And which one is your favourite?

Tally chart - favourite sea animals at
Tally chart

If you would like to have a go at doing this project with your kids, they will be busy many hours! We made it in three sessions of two ours each. This material is enough for twelve sea animals.

You will need

  • medium sized box
  • 12 toilet rolls
  • white card
  • 1 toothpick
  • googly eyes
  • woollen threads
  • a green plastic bag
  • starch-based loose fill
  • invisible threads


  • scissors
  • hole punch
  • double sided tape
  • glue stick/PVA glue
  • acrylic paint
  • paintbrushes

How to make

Session 1 – Raw animals

After collecting on the internet the templates of the chosen sea animals and adapting them to our project, we drew their shapes on the toilet rolls and cut them out, attached their components and made holes. We used one toilet roll for each animal, exception: only one toilet roll for the two jellyfish and only one for the three little fishes, so nine in total. We used the leftovers and the remaining toilet rolls for the parts (fins, tails, legs, claws).

These are the tutorials that inspired our under-the-sea animals:

Session 2 – Finished animals

We painted each sea animals using acrylic paint. After drying, we attached the googly eyes and the woollen threads to the jellyfish and the squid.

Session 3 – Setting

We painted the inside of the box, blue for the sea, ochre for the sand. While it dried, we made the corals with starch-based loose fill and the seaweeds with strips of a green plastic bag. Finally, we add the sea animals, attaching them with double-sided tape or letting them float with an invisible thread.

Our tropical reef model is ready to play!

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Toilet roll under-the-sea animal at
Image on Pinterest