Beach Activities for Kids of All Ages
Beyond sandcastles: Tips to get more from your time at the shore
Will summer find your family heading to the ocean, a lake, a river, or some other body of water? If so, lots of refreshing fun is in store. And as soon as kids set foot on the sand, they will likely be off and running—or splashing, swimming, building castles, digging canals, or hunting for treasure.
Once you’ve had your fill of the usual beach activities, though, you might be ready to try a new idea or two. Here are a few to please all ages:
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Elementary School Kids
Make tracks. As you walk in the wet sand, encourage your child to examine the footprints you leave behind. How do your tracks change if you run, jump, hop on one foot, or walk backward? Can you find tracks left by birds or other animals?
Chase the waves. Run up to a receding wave. Then scurry back as the next one rolls toward you. It’s a simple game, but endless fun if you have crashing breakers and an energetic, giggling child.
Start a collection. Take along an empty egg carton and invite your child to hunt for tiny treasures to fill each section. Shells, pebbles, bits of driftwood, and other interesting objects are fun to find and then arrange by size, color, texture, and other categories you devise. (Note: Some beaches have rules against taking natural objects from their shores. If so, after your "hunt," make sure you put shells, pebbles, etc., back where you found them.)
Fuel the imagination. Sculpt sand into a life-size sailboat, hot-air balloon, elephant, or anything else your child dreams up. Let yourselves get carried away on an imaginary journey.
Go on a wildlife safari. Many animals live at the water’s edge, from shorebirds and crabs at the seashore to snails and minnows in a lake and frogs and dragonflies around a pond. Equip your child with tools such as a field guide, binoculars, or a water scope. Then seek out animals to observe.
Float a boat. Show your child how to use sticks, driftwood, or bark to fashion a boat. Tie on a string to pull it through the water. You could even lash sticks together to create a raft or add a twig mast and a sail made from a leaf or scrap of fabric.
Get in the game. Play hopscotch or a giant game of tic-tac-toe by drawing a grid in the sand. Play soccer with beach towels as goals. Or dig a series of holes and take turns trying to roll a ball into them.
Create sand art. Pack a squeeze bottle of glue and some construction paper. Have your child use glue to draw on the paper. Sprinkle sand over it, tilting the page to coat the entire glue design. Anchor the art with rocks while it dries in the sun.
Skip stones. This classic activity is a perfect pastime for a place with flat stones and quiet water. Challenge kids to a contest to see who can rack up the highest number of skips.
Make a masterpiece. Collaborate to create a design or sculpture using sand, pebbles, shells, driftwood, and other materials at hand. With artistic vision and eager participants, you’ll soon have passers-by stopping to admire your creation.
Capture the moment. Invite kids to sharpen both their photography skills and their powers of observation by zooming in with a camera lens on the fine details of waves, sand, stones, vegetation, wildlife, and anything else that catches their eye.
Need ideas for more beach spots to explore this summer? Check Nature Find to locate places near you. Then pack the beach bag and have a blast!
Kate Hofmann is a writer/editor for National Wildlife Federation’s Ranger Rick magazine and Eco-Schools USA program. She has a master’s degree in environmental education and loves to help kids, families, and teachers discover the beauty and benefits of time outside. A native of northern Michigan, she is surrounded by water and can often be found exploring the shores of the Great Lakes.