How to Make a Stunning Coral Reef Decoration for an Under the Sea Party

Decorating for Vacation Bible School is always a daunting task and this years theme, Ocean Commotion had us all scrambling for ideas and exercising our Pinterest muscles.

I ended up combining several techniques on 2 coral reefs and they became the spotlight of our craft room. This coral reef would be a colorful and beautiful addition to any under the sea or mermaid party decorations.

How to Make a Stunning Coral Reef for your Under the Sea Party, Mermaid Party, or VBS. By Press Print Party #OceanCommotion #Underthesea #mermaid Decorations

See more amazing under the sea decorations here.

Keep on reading for all the tutorials to make you a coral reef pro. You can use all or just some of the techniques outlined below.

This post may have affiliate links.

Here’s what I used:

  • Boxes
  • Brown craft paper
  • Pool Noodles
  • Floral Mesh in several colors (Available at any craft store or fake floral department of big retailers)
  • Tissue Paper in several colors
  • Packaging Peanuts
  • Spray Foam (“Great Stuff” from the hardware store)
  • Spray paint
  • Fishing line
  • Wire
  • Wooden BBQ sticks
  • Toothpicks

Make the Coral Reef Base

First arrange the boxes in a reef like fashion.

Boxes for coral reef - Press Print Party

Crumble the brown craft paper and drape it on the boxes.

Paper crumbled to make coral reef - Press Print Party!

I know. Looks suspiciously like a couple boxes covered with brown paper. We will make magic with that.

Base to make coral reef -Press Print Party!

Make Tube Coral

Cut the floral mesh into 1 foot strips, roll them, fold them in half, and attach 3 to 4 pieces together with some fishing line. Then attach a wire hook.

Floral mesh to make faux coral reef - Press Print Party!

Floral mesh how to to make flowers for coral reef - Press Print Party!

Butt of floral mesh flower

floral mesh flower for coral reef - Press Print Party!

Make Paper Sea Anemones

You’re basically making a tissue paper flower with very pointy petals. Here’s how I did it:

Stack 4 square paper tissue sheets of the same color.

Paper flower instructions

Fold accordion style in about 1″ folds.

paper flower instructions

Wrap wire around the middle.

Paper flower instructions for coral reef

Cut the ends very pointy.

paper flower instructions

paper flower instructions

Carefully separate the sheets of tissue paper on both sides.

paper flower instructions

paper flowers instructions


Wrap the wire around the bottom to bunch the sea anemone to one side. You’ll use the wire to stick the anemone into the cardboard box.

paper anemone instruction

Coral reef close up - Press Print Party!


Make Pool Noodle Coral

Cut a pool noodle in half and another in 2 uneven pieces. Cut in a big swirl pattern around the noodle, starting at the top and stopping about 6 inches to 1 foot from the bottom. Cut inside the swirl at least one or two more times.

Pool noodle coral reef - Press Print Party!

Make Coral with Spray Foam

I found this good tutorial on Pinterest so I’m re-posting here:

How to Make a Stunning Coral Reef for you Under the Sea Party, Mermaid Party, or VBS. DIY By Press Print Party #OceanCommotion #Underthesea #mermaid Decorations

“Things you’ll need: Large cardboard/wood surface – lined with wax paper Wood dowels Can of spray foam Spray paint

What you do: Place wood dowel on wax paper and secure with tape. Spray the foam over the dowel in an organic free flowing motions to create something that resembles coral. Note: Foam will expand so don’t spray too much in one area. Let dry overnight. Carefully peel off wax paper. Then spray paint.”

This is one of mine:

spray foam faux coral reef

I made a bigger one on this reef. You can see in the back. I also used a honeycomb lantern as brain coral on this one.

faux coral reef with pool noodles, paper flowers, spray foam coral etc... Press Print Party!

Make More Coral out of Packaging Peanuts

Just string white packaging peanuts on a wooden BBQ stick. Use toothpicks to make the arms. You can stick or glue a couple together and spray paint it if you wish. I left most of them white (like dead coral).

Packing peanuts coral

packing peanuts coral

They look great in the back!

final coral reef with pool noodles, paper flowers, etc..

Put the Coral Reef all Together

Now you’re ready to use the wire ends to stick all these wonderful items in your cardboard boxes in an organic coral reef fashion. Stab BBQ sticks where you want the pool noodles to stand.

Pool noodle being attached to coral reef base

final coral reef with school of fish on wall

Coral reef close up

If things keep on falling you can use some of this fantastic product.
How to Make a Stunning Coral Reef for you Under the Sea Party, Mermaid Party, or VBS. By Press Print Party #OceanCommotion #Underthesea #mermaid Decorations

The burst of color on the coral reef will amaze your guests.

final coral reef with pool noodle coral and paper anemones

Pin for later:

Make an amazing coral reef


Check our Mermaid Printables!


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44 thoughts on “How to Make a Stunning Coral Reef Decoration for an Under the Sea Party

  1. Monica D says:

    Thank you so much for what you have done, and the pictures and descriptions in the steps. I am going to be using this in combination with another idea for VBS this year and can’t wait to get started!

  2. polyurea reviews says:

    Thanks for sharing! I can tell you really took a lot of time to create this post. The coral reef display is fantastic! I recreated it with my niece last night and apparently it went over very well at show and tell.

  3. Elaine says:

    This was awesome! We had under the sea theme for our “special needs prom” they loved looking at all the cute corral. I wish there was a way you could attach a picture.

    • Press Print Party says:

      I’m so glad my coral reef tutorial helped you. If you needed to attach pictures to it you could get them printed or glue them on thick foam board and tape a bbq stick to the back of it. That way you could stick it in the cardboard box.

  4. J beans says:

    Do you remember what the total cost was? I want to make a few but someone else is selling the ones they made for a bday so I don’t know which way to go. A part of me thinks I’ll do a better job than she did and have fun too.. another part of me. Is like “you’re a full time remote employee and stay at home mom during COVID!! Just buy it”

  5. Amanda says:

    Your ideas saved me!!! I have been cutting a million images using my cricut to do an ‘under the sea’ trunk or treat for my sons school and i just wasnt satisfied with it. I wanted it more realistic and fun and 3D and i stumbled across your blog and im so glad I did! You are amazing. Forever grateful.

  6. Chelsey says:

    Thank you for sharing some great ideas. How did you cut the pool noodles? Every time I cut mine, they fall off or you can not see the spiral.

  7. Chelsey says:

    Love all the ideas you shared. I am excited to try making the sea anemone you shared and I liked how you used BBQ sticks to hold the pool noodles in place. Your coral reef looks awesome!

  8. Chelsey says:

    Love all the ideas you shared. I am excited to try making the sea anemone you shared and I liked how you used BBQ sticks to hold the pool noodles in place. Your coral reef looks awesome!

  9. Pingback: Amazing Under the Sea Party Decorations. Originally for Ocean Commotion VBS. Gre… – Best DIY ideas

  10. protective coating says:

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate
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  11. Daniel says:

    We love this creation! One question. How do you attach the pieces to the boxes? Does the wire just poke through the box? Thanks in advance!

  12. Kelly says:

    I love this. Thank you so much. I’m making a mermaid in coral lantern for a parade in Atlanta and you just completely covered everything for my coral base! It’s going to look awesome now!

  13. Teresa says:

    I actually I am being paid for making a coral reef decoration, I am sorry but I am copying this. It is so wonderful. By the way, what kind of fabric you used with the paper lantern to make the jellyfish? Thank you and congratulations, it is beautiful.

    • Press Print Party says:

      Hi Teresa, I’m so glad my design can help you. That’s what I’m here for. The jellyfish paper lanterns don’t have any fabric. It’s actually strips of plastic tablecloths that have been stretched. Hope that helps. I’d love to see your final product! Nathalie

  14. Diane says:

    So do you cut around the outside with the swirl. I know I am asking too many questions but rather confused. So you use one cut and then cut two more from it, got that now. I just don’t understand how to get started. So when cutting do you turn the noodle to get the swirl?

  15. Ashleigh Elmer says:

    I love, love, love your coral reef display! I was wondering do you make any of these items and sell them. I would love to use this in my classroom next year as I am doing an ocean theme, Thanks Ashleigh

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