As a parent who is admittedly cheap, I am always looking for ways to entertain my children while burning as much energy as possible. Going to the beach is one of the absolute best ways that I know of to accomplish this.
Currently, we go to the beach at least once a week. If I could go more I would. I spend as much stuff with my sunblock on as needed I bring one set of snacks what ample water for hydration and then we go spend a day at the beach kids love it
My youngest does not swim on his own yet, my older children needed swimming lessons so I stand as a the lifeguard and play with them in the sand and run around. Most importantly though, we explore the coral reef and shoreline.
Exploring all of the beach, sand and whatever washes up on the beach. We “discover” creatures and talk about temperatures, textures and the shoreline environment.
Additionally we talk about the wind, the sky and how everything on the beach affects or contributes the the ecosystem. The beach is a definitively great place to learn to and play.
In my case we live near the beach, so we generally go to the same beach. When other children who do not frequent the beach show up, it is interesting to see my children talk about and sometimes teach the others what they know.
While playing the beach can be very helpful for a child who is curious because it teaches them about a variety of things. If they are just learning you can go over colors, or the differences between solids and liquids. As they grow you can teach them about gases and various environmental elements.
A great reference for educational activities you can do at the beach is the National Geographic Ocean Education online. The lessons are easy to follow while leaving room for adaptation and creativity. My children enjoy making waves and learning why people live near coastlines.
Beaches are a very valuable learning environment for a child. the beach the beach is also a very useful for exploring and learning about the world say for example we have a 1 to 3-year-old teach him about the various textures of sad and how some solids stick to gather better than others.
Multi Sensory Learning
What I really like to do to capitalize off of the learning opportunities presented at the beach, is document what they discover with a photo. I take a picture on my phone or GoPro for reviewing later.
Doing this reminds my children to leave what they find alone and not disturb the ecosystem on the beach. This also helps them with correlating what they have just seen and touched on the beach to what we can read, and play games about online.
At the end of a long day at the beach, if my children have any energy left, it is really interesting to see the spark of discovery in their eyes when they see detailed information about the coral reef life they literally just held in their hands a few hours ago.
If they are tired, I wait until the next day or present them with the opportunity to review some of the great ocean educational resources online or play an ocean oriented educational game.
The following is a list of a few of resources I have used with my children. There are games, videos and audio books covering a variety of aspect of oceanography.
ABCYa Educational Games for Kids Ocean and Science Games included
Schmidtocean Ocean Education Resources
Whales of the World
NOAA Planet Stewards Education Project
NOAA Educational Games
Scholastic Ocean Education Ocean Life Teaching Guide
TeacherVision Oceans – Teacher Resources
Idaho Public Television Lesson Plans for the Ocean
My children also really enjoy coloring. The other week I printed out the following coloring book when we got home and made a game out of it with the strategy being “who can color the book closest to what we saw at the beach in real life today.”
They really enjoyed this coloring book, hope you find it useful as well:
Pacific Coral Reef Coloring Book
This little Sand Crab above sparked a really interesting conversation about different species of crabs. Of course we ended up looking on line for more information and stumbled across this really interesting find about Mole Crabs:
Pacific Mole Crabs
Teaching my children about all kinds of different elements of the sand, coral rock and coastline is really fun for our entire family. Walking the shoreline together, talking, playing and exploring never grows old.
What I make a point out of not doing is over teaching. Intentionally making casual conversation about each question, or item they stumble upon. Even if it is just a piece of trash, glass or rubber.
Whether the question is being asked by my 3 or 6-year-old, or my 8 and 9 year old, I try to re-enforce asking questions, discovering and exploring as much as possible.
My youngest is amazed at the various descriptions of textures, shapes and sizes at the moment. The older ones really enjoy how mass equals force times acceleration in the process of skipping rocks.
We saw a few dolphins off the coast the other day and so I explained how each creature has a name, a role to play and what foods it may eat. When we got home, ate and settled down later I pulled up the Ocean Institutes Dolphins reference and asked my children for feedback
Each of them was eager to tell me their responses to questions I asked them about Dolphins. Items about how large a Dolphin is or how much it weighs were top of the list with exciting responses such as “25 feet!” and “200 pounds!”
Adding to their sense of enlightenment in answering their questions, I brought out the scale and used each of them as an example response “Since you weigh 51 pounds, and a Dolpin can weigh up to 1500 pounds, a Dolphin can be up to 30 times your weight!”
Everyone can apply each lesson differently or deemed necessary of course. There are also many other methods and websites that can be referenced in each situation as well. This is the link I use when referencing Dolphin information:
One of, if not the best things about the beach is you can just have fun hanging out and spending time with your children. By no means am I the type of Father that keeps repeating life lessons and lectures all day every day into my children’s earn.
What I have experienced though, is that if my children find something I am telling them fun and interesting it is way easier for them to retain the information rather they just “get through” the lesson.
So at the beach, I take a load of, relax and let the lessons roll in along with the waves. If there is a pearl of wisdom that washes up on the shore, all the better. If nothing happens but fun and family time, that is okay too. Especially if the little Oceanographer in my home ends up just wanting to build sand castles and bury Daddy in the sand.