What to Pack
- Beach chairs
- Bug spray
- Snacks and drinks
- Sand toys (pails, shovels, strainers, beach ball, toy car, etc.)
- Sketch pad and crayons
- Optional: A field guide for kids such as National Geographic's My First Pocket Guide: Seashore Life.
- Time your visit. Plan your trip for low tide when you're more likely to find shells on the beach and exposed tidal pools.
- Beware the burn! Apply sunscreen half an hour before going out in the sun and reapply every hour throughout the day.
- Hunt for shells. Look for cockles, mussels, scallops and periwinkles. Compare the colors, shapes and patterns of the shells you find. Which are round, oval, spiral? Which have ridges, stripes, spots? Sort similar shells into piles. Then line them up from biggest to smallest. A word of caution: Peek inside. Some shells might still house hermit crabs!
- Explore tidal pools. When the tide goes out, rocks are exposed, revealing a wonderland of sea life: sea stars, mussels, crabs, anemones, urchins, barnacles, crabs, kelp and more. (Use caution climbing rocks, which can be slippery.)
- Track the tide. Build a sand tower at water's edge and check it after an hour or so. It will help you see if the tide is coming in or going out.
- Ready, set, draw! Take turns using a stick to draw letters, numbers and shapes in the sand.
- Follow the footprints. Play follow the leader, following each other's footprints in the sand. Where are they easiest to see? Where do they disappear?
- Watch the wind. The beach is a great place to see this invisible force in action. Ask your child: How does the wind affect the waves, flags, seagulls, kites, sailboats?
- Hop the waves. Jumping waves as they roll in increases children's gross motor coordination.
- Get rolling! Roll a toy car or truck along the pavement or boardwalk. Then try rolling it in sand to discover the power of friction.
- Count it out. Count how many shovels of sand are needed to fill the pail. How many cups can you fill with one pail of water?
- Play with water. Have kids fill buckets with water and pour them into cups, strainers, etc., to experiment with the properties of water. What floats in the water? What doesn't? Watch the waves break over a sandcastle to see erosion in action.
- Investigate: Ask your young beachcomber these questions:
- Who lives at the seashore?
- Why is sea glass smooth?
- Where does driftwood come from?
- Are there plants under the sea?
- How is ocean water different from water in the faucet?
- Record your findings. Have kids sketch and take notes about their favorite discovery at the beach.
- Read all about it. Check out Beach Day by Karen Roosa, Beachcombing by Jim Arnosky, Flotsam by David Wiesner, Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Mélanie Watt and Wave by Suzy Lee.
Bonus Explorer Activity Back home, set up a mini-beach in your child's sandbox. Build dunes and sandcastles and use play figures to reenact your day at the beach.
Check out the Dawn Wildlife Champions program for free lesson plans and tools to explore the issue of oil spills, and lots of ways for your kid to get involved in wildlife education!