Parent survival (& learning) guide to a family day at the beach!

The Beach is an awesome place to spend a day!

You packed the sunscreen, water bottles, sand toys, towels, change of clothes, lunch, snacks, book (that you probably won't get to read), children, and another responsible adult and you are ready to head to the beach for a relaxing day of fun in the sand and surf. But, did you know that a #dayatthebeach is a great place to learn? Both math and reading skills can be practiced while enjoying the sun and sand!


A little preparation can make the end of the day as great at the middle. Start the night before by #reading books about the beach at bedtime! Then you can connect pieces of those stories with your child at the beach the next day: "Look it's a crab - just like in the story last night! I wonder his name is Sammy like the crab in the book!"


Here are some more tips to help make the day sparkle like sun on water!

Step 1: Prepare for the day

  • Divide the sand toys between two separate bags. (Put one in a trash bag to keep it hidden.) Give the kids one bag on arrival and keep the other for when the first argument breaks out about who has what toy. You will be an instant hero!

  • Pack more drinks and snacks than you could possibly use and that will be just about right. Fresh air and sunshine always make children extra hungry and thirsty. Plan ahead to not need the snack bar.

  • Pack a quiet bag with some books, 5 crayons per child (markers do not work well at the beach) and paper. Bring this out in the afternoon for a 20-minute “no feet off the blanket” quiet time.

  • Pack one plastic container with a lid per child. No treasures go home that do not fit in the box and you’ve already picked the size of the boxes!

Plan for the end of the day before you leave:

  • Plan with the end in mind: Have beds ready to go before you leave for the beach so you can gently place them in bed at the end of this fun-filled and tiring day.

  • Pack loose clean clothes for the trip home. Baby powder helps you brush off stuck on sand.

  • For the ride home: Keep one small cooler separate and packed in the car for the ride home with: wet washcloths packed in plastic bags to cool off sunburns, one small drink per person, one small snack per person, a story on CD/DVD to play in the car on the way home.

Step 2: Work on reading skills!

  • Build vocabulary. Point out things you see and talk about them: sand, ocean, shore, tide, lake, dig, tunnel, moat, dune, flood, pail, shovel, fish, shell, clam, crab, dock, rocks, jetty, boardwalk, sunscreen, towels, goggles, float, raft, kite, boat, surfboard, lifeguard, and more. Ask questions and explain the things you see!

  • Make up a story! Be pirates searching for treasure or oceanographers seeking the next ocean life form or be shipwrecked on this beach and searching for clues as to where you are! Your children will love it when you are silly with them and you will be building their imaginations and vocabulary to make them better readers and writers! (Don't think you are creative enough? Take some ideas from movies and books you know and make them work!)

Step 3: Do some math work!

Counting, grouping, sorting, and describing (shape, size and texture) are all math concepts!

  • Count Everything! Steps, shells, fish, flip-flops, trips to the potty, boats, umbrellas

  • Sort! Shells by shape or kind, stones by color, buckets by size

  • Group! Shells in one pile, stones in another, seaweed in a third

  • Describe! Is the shell round? Smooth? Rough? Bumpy? Green? Soft?

Step 4: Play games with your kids!

  • Bury the adult’s feet or even the entire adult

  • #Sandcastle challenge: Whose is most decorative? Tallest? Biggest?

  • Ring Around the Rosie: hold hands and circle up, sing the song while you circle around and all fall down in the water

  • Tug of war with a beach towel

  • Ball toss: dig several holes in the sand and practice throwing balls (or shells) into them

  • Dump, fill, pour: Take some plastic cups or a milk jug to fill with sand or water

  • Have a crab race: Sit in the sand, lean back on your forearms and lift your body off the sand. Walk on your hands and feet like a crab (sideways) and race with your kids

  • Frisbee, ball, kites, jump the waves, splash, sand angels, build a moat, dig for buried treasure

Step 5: Prepare for the trip home.

A little extra time spent in the morning before you leave will make the ride home much nicer at the end of the day. Shower the kiddies off if you can and, once dry, sprinkle liberally with baby powder and brush away the remaining sand, then dress them in comfy clothes for the ride home. If you followed our list, you have “cleanish” children to put in the car, snacks and drinks saved for the ride, cold compresses for sunburns, quiet story tape to listen to, beds ready at home to collect sleeping children, and a limited amount of “treasures” to bring with you. You are all ready for sweet dreams after a fun family day at the beach

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