Fish Scales

If children love ocean animals, this is a great way to explore the purpose of fish scales. Have you ever wondered why fish have scales? Well, scales are almost like a body armor for the fish. Fish have scales and are also covered in a layer of mucus that makes them slimy—this helps them to swim through the water and also prevents other objects from attaching to them. So fascinating! Children may simple demonstrate interest in the fact that fish are many different colors, sizes, shapes—indeed, we highly recommend you show children pictures of the colorful fish that live in coral reefs, they are absolutely magnificent!

Set up Time: 5 minutes


  1. Gather together play dough or clay. We used a type of clay that does not dry out (linked in the app)
  2. You can invite children to make their own fish, or you can help children to make the fish shape. It does not have to be perfect! Children can add a face and fins.
  3. Decorate the fish with buttons to represent scales. You can invite children to simply decorate, or you can add light prompt. For example, you can invite children to make a fish that looks “tropical”, or a fish that is their favorite color. You can ask what kind of buttons they like best, or if they can make a pattern. That is the beauty of using loose parts—they can be used in dozens of different ways!

Note: If working with young children who still put things in their mouths, you should use jumbo buttons only!


  • Buttons
  • Modeling clay or play dough

Learning Through Play

Physical: Fine Motor – Playing with buttons is a great way to increase fine motor strength, as children will have to use a pincher grasp to find buttons and stick them in the clay!

Social-Emotional: Persistence – It actually takes a lot of focus to search for all the pink buttons, or all the small buttons, or all the sparkly buttons. That is why sometimes it’s actually better to work with open-ended materials, or materials that do not have just one purpose, because it increases children’s creativity and their determination.

School Readiness: Sorting – This is a great activity to encourage sorting—Children might want to make stripes, so they search for all the buttons in two colors. Or, they might take time to pull out all the jumbo buttons and make a little pile on the side. Perhaps you can add little bowls or trays that will help children stay organized as they take time to carefully sort their materials.

See this activity in the Rayz Kidz app along with the other activities in the theme “Water Cycles”. Rayz Kidz is your trusted source for play-based activities featuring over 100 themes and 500+ hands-on activities and clear descriptions of the beautiful learning that is happening through play.