Have you ever observed the look of sheer joy on kids’ faces as they play at the beach? Beaches are vast natural playgrounds for children, but what if they could act as outdoor classrooms too, providing fun immersive learning experiences?
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting that you should ditch your favourite fun beach activities. Our list is intended to give some ideas on how to extract a little bit of extra learning fun from your day at the beach by exploring some of the many educational benefits.
To make it easier to choose, we’ve grouped the activities loosely into learning categories.
List of Fun, Educational Beach Activity Ideas
Collecting shells and rocks
Encouraging children to collect rocks and shells is a really nice way for them to connect with nature and closely observe their surroundings. Every shell is unique, so they’re able to examine the differences in colour, shape and texture of each of their finds. Additionally, they can investigate the organisms that once inhabited each shell or the geological processes that helped shape the rocks. Be sure to take plenty of pictures of your discoveries. If you’re unsure about which creatures the shells belonged to, you can always refer to reference books once you’re back home.
Children can have fun developing their observation and classification skills too by sorting their finds according to size, type, or colour. For younger children, it can also be a fun ‘counting exercise’.
We can develop a practical comprehension of how the moon influences tides and marine life by observing and recording the ebb and flow throughout the day. Discuss how the gravitational pull of the Earth and the Moon creates the tides. If you have access to the beach over an extended period you can observe the moon’s current phase and track and chart how it affects the the tides over a month.
Taking part in an organised beach clean-up can be a memorable experience. Witnessing firsthand how human litter and plastic pollution are damaging the ecosystem can be profound and thought-provoking. Taking an active role in the preservation of the beach can give us a sense of responsibility and highlight the importance of living in a sustainable way. Remember, it’s extremely important to wear gloves and use the right tools when picking up litter from the beach.
From birds to crabs and the many creatures found in rockpools, beaches are often teaming with wildlife. By observing their behaviour, children can learn about each species and their place in the ecosystem. Each beach is a lively habitat filled with unique wildlife, so what you discover will vary depending on your location. We must remember though, not to disturb these creatures or their habitats and only observe them from a distance.
Keep a tally or checklist of what you see and compare it with different locations and times to spot any interesting patterns or observations. Again, take lots of photos for extra research opportunities when you get home.
Bring a magnifying glass or collect samples for a microscope
Bring a magnifying glass or collect samples for observation under a microscope. This creates an opportunity to explore the amazing intricacies of seashells or look at tiny grains of sand up close. We tried this and were blown away by the beautiful results! It exposes children to a world of wonder which is usually kept hidden from human eyes. Make sure any samples are taken with responsibility and respect for the environment.
The anticipation of uncovering a fossil dating back millions of years can be an exhilarating experience for children and adults, nurturing a strong sense of curiosity. It provides a direct link to our planet’s ancient past and can give children an idea of the earth’s geological timeline. You might think of fossil hunting as an expert skill which requires a specialist tool kit, but the best tool is sometimes just the human eye!
There are several places to hunt fossils in the UK, but one of the most well-known is Charmouth in Dorset. Guided fossil hunting tours with experts offer a great introduction if you’re unsure what to do or where to look. We’ve been lucky enough to visit several times over the years and always manage to find lots of interesting fossils!
Social & Physical
Beach themed roleplay
The beach setting provides a perfect backdrop for some fun roleplay scenarios. Children can pretend to be explorers, shipwreck survivors or even mermaids. They might pretend the beach is the setting for a big televised volleyball contest in which they are the stars. The possibilities are endless and children can use their imaginations to play out a variety of scenarios. A roleplay session can help develop their communication skills as well boosting confidence. Try and incorporate unusual found objects or landmarks for a rich, immersive experience.
The unique atmosphere of a beach can provide an ideal setting for us to take time to reflect and relax. The calming sound of waves and the tactile experience of touching sand provides a rich sensory experience. Learn different yoga poses, stretches and breathing exercises to improve strength, balance and flexibility. The environment also lends itself to sitting peacefully and just being aware of the surroundings. Children can pay attention to the sounds and sensations around them as well as being aware of the rhythm of their breathing. We’ve found that this can be a great way to calm down and relax after an energetic game. The exercise can also help us develop a deeper connection with nature and an appreciation for the environment.
For those who are usually limited by space, an expansive beach can provide excellent opportunity to enjoy a range of games and activities. Children can mark out the lines of a court in the sand and play games like volleyball, catch or even badminton if they have the rackets.
Use the sand to draw concentric circles and allocate points to each one. This makes an exciting game where a player attempts to throw objects into the target from a distance to score points.
In addition to the physical benefits of beach games, many also offer other opportunities to learn. Drawing out playing areas, keeping score, and timing opponents all incorporate some useful maths knowledge for some extra educational benefit.
Fill a bucket relay
If you’re feeling energetic, a relay race can be a great way to burn off some steam! Children can work in teams to run and collect water from the sea in a cup or small bucket, race back to their starting positions and decant the water into a larger empty bucket. The first team to fill their bucket to the top wins. Aside from the obvious physical benefits, this activity also requires a degree of coordination and planning so as not to spill the water on the way back.
Plan a picnic
Who doesn’t love a picnic on the beach? Use it as an opportunity to plan a healthy, nutritious meal. Learn various food preparation skills as well as gaining knowledge of different food groups and nutritional content. The process of preparing a picnic gets children to engage in planning, budgeting and time management. Just watch out for seagulls!
Trying to convey information in a non-verbal way can be a great way of forcing children to think creatively. Act out a variety of beach-themed prompts to reinforce some beach vocabulary or have fun making up your own prompts. One particular benefit of charades is that you don’t need any equipment to play. It can also be done in both small and large groups.
Art & Crafts
Make a sand sculpture
Making sculptures in the sand is a versatile way for children to express themselves creatively. Themes can be chosen according to ability level from simple sandcastles to animal shapes or more elaborate structures. Creating beach sand sculptures is an exercise which requires planning, patience and spatial reasoning. As the sculpture will be destroyed by the elements, it also helps children not to be too precious over their work. It frees them to experiment and make mistakes. After all, their hard work will eventually be washed away by the tide or blown away by the wind.
Design and fly a kite
Designing your own kite is a great way to include some STEM learning with your day at the beach. You’ll need to spend some time researching the best shapes, structures, and materials for making a kite. Have fun creating the artwork to decorate the kite with your own unique artwork. Once it’s ready, head to the beach and test it out. The beach is an ideal location for flying kites because of the abundance of wind. Keep in mind that flying a kite can be challenging at first, but it’s also an excellent workout for your hand-eye coordination. Watch out for other beachgoers though and respect their space.
Collect shells for an artwork
The amazing diversity in shape, size colour and texture of shells lends itself to making unique artwork. They provide a versatile medium for several types of art including collages, mobiles, jewellery and mosaics. Incorporating shells that you’ve collected gives a personal connection to the art which can enhance its meaning.
Take a sketchbook to the beach and document your experiences and observations. This can be in written form or in sketches and drawings. The beach may even inspire poetry, stories or song lyrics. Simply taking the time to appreciate the beauty of nature can inspire creative expression. Children may also want to journal their day at the beach, describing the sights, sounds and smells they experience. This exercise can give them a deeper appreciation for their surroundings and respect for the natural environment.
Maths & Engineering
Create a beach sundial
Explore the concept of time and how it relates to the movement of the earth relative to the sun by making a simple sundial. Use it as an opportunity to discuss how the apparent movement of the sun across the sky is caused by the rotation of the earth and how this can be used to tell us the time. It’s a great way to talk about astronomy in relation to timekeeping.
Build a mini raft
If engineering is your thing, building a mini raft provides another opportunity to try out some STEM at the beach. This is an activity which can also be done as a team, combining teamwork and problem-solving skills. Assemble the raft from found materials and then test it in calm shallow water under strict adult supervision. Remember to dispose of any waste afterwards in a responsible way.
Put up a beach tent
Pitching a beach tent is a practical, hands-on activity which involves following instructions and performing tasks in sequence. Children can work together to pitch the tent, working out the correct way to put it together and deciding on the best location to pitch it. As well as nurturing critical thinking and fine motor skills, it also provides a perfect shady spot to read a good book with a cold drink!
Put together a checklist of items to find and set about trying to collect them all. Items might include a particular colour of shell, feathers or sea glass. For a harder challenge, children can take part in a treasure hunt in which they have to follow clues to find the ‘treasure’. This can incorporate a number of problem-solving skills and work well as a team activity. Adapt the difficulty to the age/ability range and always remember to respect the environment and keep safe when doing activities like this.
Beach Safety Tips
Beaches are incredibly fun (and educational) places but we must also be mindful of potential dangers and ALWAYS MAKE SAFETY A PRIORITY.
Make sure children are supervised AT ALL TIMES, especially when near water. Currents and tides can be dangerous and unpredictable. If possible, visit a beach which has lifeguards on duty.
Ensure you read and obey all safety signs and rules.
Do not stand anywhere where there may be a risk of falling rocks or debris.
Check the weather conditions when planning your visit.
Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions.
Don’t dig deep holes – these can be extremely dangerous.
Clean up after yourself. What you bring with you should also go home with you.
Be respectful of wildlife and do not disturb creatures or their habitats. Do not invade their space.
Be mindful of other beachgoers. Give them plenty of space and don’t play loud music.
Don’t feed the seagulls.
Beaches are places of incredible beauty and a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. They are brimming with countless opportunities for learning and exploration. If you are lucky enough to be able to visit a beach, don’t pass over the chance to take part in some fun educational beach activities.