DIY Coral Reef Decor

Many VBS themes relate to water, so this DIY Coral Reef can be used over and over again!  These are so fun and use materials you may already have on hand.

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This year’s VBS theme is Shipwrecked {learn more about the theme here}.  The VBS kits are available now.  All of our VBS resources are designed to be used alongside any of the Group starter kits, although I HIGHLY recommend purchasing the ultimate version with digital.

Thanks to Michelle for sharing her photos and instructions for this DIY Coral Reef!  You need to dye the coffee filters & q-tips at least 24 hours before assembling your coral reef.


Coffee filters
Food coloring
Bowls or pie plates

1. Place food coloring or liquid water color in a bowl/pie plate with water until the desired color is achieved (make it dark – they dry lighter).
2. Take about 10 coffee filters at a time and dip the ruffled ends into the color solution. Allow the color to creep about half way up the sides.
3. Place the dyed coffee filters on cookie sheets ruffled side down and allow them to fully dry, which takes about 24 hours.


Cardboard boxes
Hot glue gun
Brown kraft paper
Pool noodles
Exacto knife
Wire or pipe cleaners
Dyed coffee filters
Dyed q-tips


1. Glue cardboard boxes together and cover in brown kraft paper to make the coral reef base.

2. Add pool noodles. In the photos, some are whole cut into varying lengths and some are spiral cut with an exacto knife. For the spiral cut ones don’t get them too skinny or they won’t stand up. I also cut circles from some pool noodles and threaded those onto wire.

3. To attach the curly pool noodles stick wire through the bottoms in a c shape and the push both ends through the cardboard box base.

4. Hot glue round pool noodles to the boxes.

5. Add coffee filter coral.  Use a short piece of wire or pipe cleaner and thread individual coffee filters onto the wire poking through the center of the filters. I put about 7 filters per piece of wire. You can stack them up before putting the wire through but be sure you separate them or you won’t get the same look. Once they are threaded onto the wire, scrunch them around the bottom next to the wire. This lets the ruffled end fan out. Poke both ends of the wire through your box where you want your coral to go.

6. Add q-tips.  Cut the dyed q-tips in half so that you have two sharp ends.  Stick these sharp ends directly into the cardboard, or stick them into a foam ball and glue that to the coral reef.

7. Optional: Add other items to accent your coral reef!  Some fun ideas include bows, spray glitter, mardi gras beads… let your imagination run wild!

What else have you added to your coral reef decor?

I am a long-time Vacation Bible School lover.  I’ve lead in several capacities throughout the VBS world and am currently our church’s VBS director.  It is a joy for me to be able to share VBS ideas and resources with others!  I will continue to share VBS ideas here as we prepare for Shipwrecked VBS.  Follow the blog to see more of our ideas and planning!  Please let me know if there are any specific VBS items or ideas you need help with!

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