Ahh, the beach! The combination of sun, surf, and sand is not only relaxing; it offers lots of opportunities for fun games and activities that get kids moving and build strength and fitness. Grab your sunscreen (and these other beach essentials) and hit the shore.
Build and sculpt with sand.
Create a sand castle or other sculpture ("snow"-man? whale? airplane?). Add shells, sticks, seaweed and other found materials. Creating and perfecting the design works both small and large muscles, especially if the sculpture is super-sized. Kids build muscles and bones by hauling water and sand back and forth from the water's edge. They stretch muscles as they reach up, over, and around their creation.
Fly a kite.
Bring a storebought kite () or make your own before you head to the beach. Open spaces and waterfront breezes make it easy to get kites to fly high. This activity is best reserved for less crowded areas of the beach, so you have room to walk and extend your kite's string and it doesn't get tangled with anything.
Design an obstacle course.
Design and make an obstacle course using sticks, shovels and other sand toys (kids can help!). Include sand piles or ditches to jump over and activities to perform at stops along the way. (This book has ideas to get you going). Think dance moves, karate kicks, cartwheels, jumping jacks, telling a joke—anything your kids will giggle at. You might even place a treasure, like a few coins or a snack, at the end of your course.
Draw pictures.Start by taking a walk to look for interesting rocks, shells, and other materials. Then have kids lie in the sand and either make an angel (like you would in snow), or trace around each other's bodies with sticks. Then they can decorate their sand portrait with the scavenged materials. Of course, you're not limited to people; sand drawings can take the form of a house, vehicle, landscape, or anything else your kids dream up.
Dance.Did you bring one of those old, bright yellow, waterproof boom boxes to the beach? Or how about an mp3 player with some mini speakers? Then a dance party is definitely in order. Or you can play musical "chairs," subbing beach towels or bases drawn in the sand if you don't have enough beach chairs with you. If you do use towels or sand bases, play the no-elimination version of the game, where bases, instead of players, are removed when the music stops. Players crowd onto fewer and fewer safe spots until they're all squished onto one. (I don't suggest doing this with folding beach chairs, since they could break and/or fold unexpectedly and pinch little fingers if too many people crowd on.)
Play favorite sports and games beach style.
Adapt non-beach activities for sea- or lake-side:
- Bowling: Use a beach ball to knock down empty cups or plastic bottles
- Volleyball: A line in the sand can stand in for a net if you don't have one
- Soccer or kickball: Mark bases or goals in the sand
- Twister: Use towels or paper plates to mark the dots
- Tic-tac-toe: Draw an oversize board in the sand and have players jump from square to square to claim them
- Mini-golf or croquet: Use shovels as clubs or mallets and make a ball from a crumpled piece of paper (or rolled socks); dig holes or mark wickets in the sand