Marine Biology for Preschoolers

If you’ve been anywhere near a 4-year-old boy lately, you may have been astounded by their knowledge of marine biology. These kids know the difference between a stingray and a manta ray and between a blue whale and an orca. Are they all super-intelligent? Are they using google to learn everything about everything? Do they have pushy, marine biologist parents?

I’m afraid not. I think it has nothing to do with education and everything to do with “Octonauts”, the hit preschool show on CBeebies about underwater adventurers.Every episode features a different sea creature in trouble and there are catchy songs to hammer the message home. But there comes a time when even the most Octonauts-obsessed of children wants to stop watching sea creatures on the TV and start seeing them in real life. So, where do you do that? Contrary to what my son believes, you won’t find a pufferfish or shark in the canal at Mile End!

But you might well find them at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Portsmouth. Recognised as one of the best attractions in Hampshire, the aquarium has tiger sharks, zebra sharks and all manner of tropical fish, including the tropical tunnel, where you are surrounded on both sides by brightly coloured fish and coral. They even have Toddler Tuesdays, catering specifically to preschoolers.

If you’re not in the Portsmouth area, don’t worry! London Aquarium also comes highly recommended, and for a budget option check out the small collection in the basement of the Horniman Museum, South London. There are no sharks in that collection, but sea urchins, frogs, jellyfish and seahorses! More than enough to keep your tiny Octonaut happy.

So take their learning away from the TV and into an aquarium – build on that obsession while you can. You never know – they may grow into a marine biologist, just like Dr Shellington!

Kate Milner, on behalf of Hampshire’s Top Attractions

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