Salt water beaches are a family favorite because we are almost always guaranteed to find starfish, or sea stars, if we go during low tide. We have learned some great facts about starfish from divers, naturalists and aquarium workers over the years of visiting our local beaches and aquariums. Kids can learn so much about these interesting creatures just by taking the time to observe.
One thing kids usually notice when turning a starfish over is the number of tiny little tube-like feet on the underside. These little feet help the starfish move along rocks and the ocean floor. If you ever have the chance to watch a starfish moving across the glass in an aquarium, take the time to sit and observe for a bit.
While this activity won’t require kids to place hundreds of tiny tubes on the bottom of their starfish sugar cookies, it will be a tasty reminder that a starfish has many feet on its underside and a mouth in the center to help it eat. Store bought, pre-made sugar cookie dough will work just fine. Here is the recipe I use for rolled sugar cookies if you would like a homemade version.
Ingredients for sugar cookies
- 6 cups flour
- 4 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp softened butter
- 1 cup shortening
- 2 ¼ cups white sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp Vanilla
- Store bought or homemade frosting
- Mini chocolate chips
- Brown sugar for sprinkling on a tray (display purposes)
- In a large bowl, beat shortening, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add egg, milk and vanilla. Beat until just combined.
- Add half of the dry ingredients and mix. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix.
- Chill the dough for 4 hours.
- Roll the dough to ¼ inch thickness and cut in the shape of stars using a starfish shaped cookie cutter or regular star cutter. If using a regular star, turn the arms of the starfish a bit before baking to make it look more like an animal with movement.
- Bake cookies at 375 degrees for 8 minutes and then cool.
Decorating the starfish
- Place frosting into a piping bag or a large Ziploc bag with the tip cut off the end.
- Pipe frosting around the edges to outline the starfish.
- Pipe a filled circle in the center for the mouth and a lot of little dots to stick on the tiny tube feet.
- Place mini chocolate chips in the center for the mouth and on the little dots to represent feet.
Regular size chocolate chips may be substituted, depending on your child’s small motor ability. I like to display my cookies on a tray sprinkled with brown sugar to represent the beach.
A few fun facts about starfish
While frosting these cookies with your child, talk about a few amazing starfish facts:
- A starfish does not have eyes like you and me. Instead it has eye spots on the tips of its arms.
- Starfish prey on animals like clams and mussels. It uses its strong arms and tubed feet to pull the shells apart. Then it “throws up” its stomach into the shell of the animal it is trying to eat, digests the meat, and slides back into its own body.
- Although sea stars are generally known as starfish, they are not really a fish. A starfish is an echinoderm and is more closely related to a sand dollar than a fish.
- If attacked by a predator, the starfish will drop its arm completely off and will eventually grow a new one. A dropped arm could potentially form into an entirely new starfish because most of the vital organs are housed in the arms.
- While the varieties of starfish we see most often have five arms, the sun star can have as many as forty arms.
- Starfish by Edith Hacher Thurd
- Stars of the Sea by Allan Fowler
- Seashells, Crabs, and Sea Stars by Christiane Kump Tibbitts