If you’re feeling a bit #clambitious about that bucket of shells you and your kids collected on your beach vacation, we’ve got good news for you. Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite art projects for those summer seashells, good for kids of all ages, ranging from quick and easy breezy to more difficult all-day crafting. No clamshell bras, promise.
At top: seashell garden | alisaburke
1. DIY Seashell Seahorse
This one looks more complicated than it is, really—and the end result will look great in the bathroom. All you need to create a DIY Seashell Seahorse we found at Domestically-Speaking is a burlap canvas, a bunch of little shells, and a kid old enough not to eat the glue. Bonus: You can match it to décor by simply using a different background color and tracing a shape that fits your kid’s style. I can see my son loving a seashell hippo on blue.
2. Watercolor Shells
If your kids are like mine, they’d love to dye Easter eggs more than once a year. This fun watercolor seashell lesson at Rainy Day Mum from our seashell craft round-up last year combines color theory with beautifully painterly shells. All the beauty, none of the… uh… smell of kids who’ve eaten a dozen boiled eggs.
3. Sharpie Seashells
If the thought of leaving kids alone with sand, paint, and glue makes you want to hide in the mud room, rest assured that you and your kids can do great things with Sharpie markers. I love this idea we found at Creative in Chicago of color gradations. I know my 9-year-old would adore the chance to doodle emojis and favorite quotes all over big, white shells that might otherwise seem boring.
4. Tropical Seashell Fish
For smaller kids (and smaller shells), try this tropical seashell fish craft from Crafts by Amanda. You’ll have to help smaller kids with glue, but they’ll have a great time color-coordinating fish and fins. You could even glue a magnet on back and let them swim all over the fridge.
5. Shell Pins
Our regular beach isn’t known for a great shellection of shells. (Har, har.) If you can only get tiny curves and butterflies, try making your own shell hairpins. Click over the Swell.com to see how-to; you’ll need some epoxy and bobby pins, and possibly some YouTube tutorials for mermaid hairstyles. If you don’t have any hair fashionistas in the house, they also make great bookmarks and would look sharp on a boy’s summer suit.
6. Crystal Seashells
If your kid prefers science to tempera, this crystal seashells experiment at Little Bins for Little Hands uses any shells you have on hand as the base for a lesson on suspension. You only need two ingredients! Just make sure your kid knows the difference between rock candy and borax—this one definitely requires adult supervision.
7. Cute Crabs
Here’s another easy one for little fingers. To make this Cute Crabs kids’ art project, you’ll need flat shells, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and glue. And a vat of drawn butter, if that’s how you like your crab. Heh.
8. Seashell Cardboard Letters
I know my tween would love this glitzy seashell cardboard letter project. In addition to finding a home for all those shell chunks and teeny shells, you can also add any old baubles or doodads from the craft trunk. Keep it au natural or take it outside and spray-paint it in high-shine enamel or gold for maximum impact.
9. Zentangle Shells
If you don’t know what Zentangle is yet, it’s all about drawing structured but intuitive patterns, much like what you see in the adult coloring book craze. Zen + tangle! You can do it yourself, and you can do it on seashells, which is relaxing for you and any summer children who complain of being bored. All you need are Sharpies and this basic tutorial on how to Zentangle, plus inspiration from artist Alisa Burke on using the Zentangle theory on seashells.
10. Easy Wall Art
These easy but sophisticated groupings of shell art from The Party Teacher are high impact, low effort—which is great when you’re recovering from a big trip. You need zero artistic talent, and you can buy shells if the ones you’ve gathered aren’t quite up to the task. Just select paint that matches your décor and let the kids go to town with foam brushes, add some glue, and you can have a magazine-worthy display up before dinner.
11. Seashell Garden
Succulents are still all the rage, and if you’ve been lucky enough to find (or buy! We’re not picky!) some bigger shells, you can create your own garden of desert plants dressed up in seashore planters, like this one created by Alisa Burke (also at top). These easy-care plants are great for a kid with a not-so-green thumb, and they’d also make a great gift for the neighbor who fed your cats while you were on vacay.
12. Seashell Ladybugs
Here’s a great craft for the littlest ones. These seashell ladybugs we found at Still Playing School are great for the dozens of tiny clam shells kids tend to hoard, and you can use the liquid watercolor suggested in the tutorial or go with any kind of acrylic paint that you might have lying around. These little buggies are fantastic for counting and sorting by size or color, but they won’t eat the aphids out of your garden, unfortunately.
13. Specimen Art
Finally, a project for those teeny but colorful butterfly shells! My daughter calls these little beauties “nom-noms” because they look like they’re eating their way back into the wet sand. Our favorite beach always has thousands of empty shells that could be beautifully displayed in this clever specimen art project we found at Petal & Ply. If you’re not into straight lines, you can always arrange a whimsical flock of butterflies too.
For any of these art projects, just remember to always let your shells dry out in the sun first so they don’t stink. Ask me how I know.