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6 Ways to Occupy Your Kids at the Beach

Beaches and kids go together like peanut butter and jelly, sun and sand, and night and day. However, kids are notorious for quickly running out of activities, even when they’re at the shore. To keep parents from going too crazy when their kids moan “We don’t know what to do!” we’ve come up with a few ideas moms and dads can reference the next time you have to ward off doldrums and encourage playtime. 

1. Bring a Sandcastle Kit to the Beach
Building a sandcastle is one of the biggest beach thrills there is. Instead of simply making kids create sand sculptures with a bucket or two, be a little more precise and put together a sandcastle building kit that you can bring to your favorite beach this year. Your kit should include items such as:

  • Cups and buckets of varying sizes. Go to the local dollar store and you’ll find bathroom-sized cups, 16 ounce cups and other cups. Plastic bowls can also be used to make interesting shapes in the sand.
  • Plastic knives and spoons. The knives can be used to gently scrape away at the edges of sandcastles, leaving straighter lines than would be possible using your fingers. Spoons can help round out sides of sand structures.
  • Paintbrushes. These can help brush away unwanted sandy areas.

Best of all, most of these design tools for your sandcastle kit can all be thrown away or recycled at the end of your beach adventure. No fuss, no muss and all fun! 

2. Plan a Beach Scavenger Hunt
The beach is a great location to initiate a scavenger hunt for kids. Before you go, write down a list of at least ten things they’ll need to find to win the hunt. Make sure you have a fun prize for the winner, such as a pack of gum, a crisp one dollar bill, or letting them pick the evening’s festivities. Here are some suggestions to add to the scavenger hunt list:

  • A pink shell that has no cracks in it
  • A dark blue or gray rock that is totally smooth and round
  • A rock that is flat and long
  • A sand crab skeleton
  • A piece of wet seaweed
  • Something man-made found in the sand (e.g., a bottle cap, a wrapper, a piece of plastic.) Make sure your kids know not to pick up anything that could be dangerous, such as broken glass.
  • A large shell
  • A tiny shell
  • A weird shell

As they bring items back, cross them off the list. This type of scavenger hunt can also easily become one that involves taking pictures of objects, rather than bringing them back to a central location. A photo scavenger hunt may appeal more to older children who can be trusted with a digital camera or mobile phone. Image suggestions include:

  • A beach ball
  • a volleyball net
  • a dog on a leash
  • a trash can
  • a lifeguard
  • a baby
  • a soda can
  • a radio
  • ear buds
  • a seagull
  • a boat
  • a surfboard

3. Make and Fly a Kite
It’s fairly easy to make a kite at home using either a pre-packed kit or using things that are commonly found around the house. The kite can be assembled and tested before being taken to the beach for its maiden voyage.

Although flying a kite is relatively simple, it does take a little bit of ingenuity. You’ll also need to luck out with the perfect beach day in order to fly it. Look for a day when it’s windy, but not too windy. Start by letting the kite string out a little at a time, rather than all at once. Gain control before allowing the kite to fly higher and higher. Kids can master kite flying after a few rounds, although they should be monitored by adults to make sure they are operating their kites safely.

For families that are hesitant to build their own kites, or families that are already at the beach, there are plenty of pre-made kites available for purchase at most family-friendly beaches! 

4. Bring Along a Construction Site Kit
The moist sand is an ideal spot for a faux construction site where kids can play with all sorts of fun things. Bring along any of the following items and watch the construction begin:

  • Toy cars and trucks. Sand can get stuck in metal-based cars, so plastic versions may be better for the beach.
  • Toy figurines. What would a construction site be without the workers to run the equipment? Plastic toy men and women make perfect construction pros, and they can be easily cleaned after their adventures!
  • Straws, plastic cups and paper plates. These items can help create buildings and other structures for the construction to take place around. After the beach, they can also be thrown away or put into a recycling bin.

The nicest aspect of your kid’s construction site is that they can span quite a bit of space. Your kids will feel like the sky’s the limit when it comes to engaging in some play.

5. Enjoy Some Beachcombing
Children probably don’t know much about the art of beachcombing, so you can use a trip to the beach to introduce them to this popular pastime. Beachcombing involves walking along the shoreline and looking for treasures in the sand. While it’s customary to discover shells and rocks, other items can also pop up, including pennies, nickels, dimes, buttons and other unexpected finds.

Kids enjoy being able to spot unusual things, and this gives them a chance to walk on the beach rather than play in the water. It’s also a good downtime activity after a snack or lunch.

As a precaution, it’s essential that kids know what’s safe to pick up. They shouldn’t pick anything up that might have edges that are sharp, such as broken shells. Living objects should also be avoided in case they sting or bite.

6. Play Some Volleyball or Toss a Frisbee
When all else fails, parents can always go back to a tried-and-true beach sport: volleyball! Nets and volleyballs are inexpensive to purchase, and you can set them up easily in no time at all. If your family isn’t large enough to play a game against each other, there’s nothing wrong with making new friends and asking them to join in. Beach volleyball can provide lots of laughs, but it’s also great physical activity. Just remember to wear plenty of sunscreen and drink lots of water.

Along the same lines, a Frisbee makes a nice addition to any beach trip. Plus, if the beach happens to be dog-friendly, you can get your family dog in on the fun!