Keeping the kids entertained at the beach
On sunny days, the mere mention of hitting the beach is enough to launch your kids into whoops of delight. The idea usually occurs to parents living within an hour of the coast when the kids are off school.
But once you’ve finally found yourself a nice spot and installed yourself and your paraphernalia on the sand, your next thought will probably be … “So what now?” The kids sure won’t want to sunbathe!
That’s why we’ve produced this quick guide for seaside inspiration – plus a few basic safety rules for good measure.
Things to do at the seaside
Dig a hole in the sand big enough to accommodate your football or beach ball, retreat to a reasonable distance with the ball and see how few kicks you can take to sink the ball. Then the next player has a go from the same starting point. After everyone’s had their go, dig another hole and play again. The one who takes the least kicks wins. Why not use buckets and stones to keep score?
Fill the bucket game
This game can be a race against friends and family or against the clock, and is sure to build up an appetite. Each player places a bucket 10 meters from the sea and is given a cup. Once the referee shouts “Go!” they have to run back and to, carrying sea water to their buckets – first to fill their bucket wins. If there are four or more players, it can be done as a relay.
Make a car or boat
Kids’ imaginations know no bounds, so if you fashion a boat or car out of sand, it will inspire magical journeys to faraway islands where they’ll meet mermaids, pirates and talking whirlwinds. Or they might go to Aldi. You just never know.
Beaches always seem to have a breeze blowing, which makes them perfect locations for some kite flying. Coincidentally, most beach shops also happen to sell kites! Kids love the sense of control and gravity-defying that a kite brings – and once they’ve mastered the single-string kite, a stunt kite will really wow them as they dive, climb and loop-the-loop.
You know the excitement your child shows when you get out any paper bigger than A2 size? Imagine if the canvas stretched as far as the eye can see! Writing, drawing, mazes, hopscotch, noughts and crosses … they’ll spend hours happily doing them on the beach. It’s best shortly after the tide has gone out when the sand is smooth, untouched and a little damp. Remember to use stones, shells and seaweed as decorations.
If your little one loves playing with building site toys (trucks, bulldozers, diggers etc.), imagine the unbridled joy of a whole beach to play on. They’ll make roads, canals, castles … whatever their minds conjure up. Just remember to keep an eye on the trucks – even bright yellow ones can go missing.
If you have a garden, the water fight will be a summer staple. So take some buckets and prepare to get each other drenched! Salt water might damage some water guns, but simple squirters and sponges will be fine. Look out for jellyfish, too!
Not all beaches offer miles of golden sand – some feature rocky outcrops that can trap water – and marine life – after the tide goes out. And guess what? There isn’t a kid alive who doesn’t love to explore them with a fishing net and a bucket. If you’re lucky you’ll find crabs, sea snails, fish, prawns, starfish, anemones and all manner of other living things.
Beaches typically offer no shade, but the freshness of the breeze and the coolness of sea can fool us into thinking we’re safe from UV rays. But we’re not. That’s why you should coat any exposed skin (and skin that’s likely to be exposed) with sun block – the higher the factor, the better.
Sun protection clothing
Covering up your kids in UV protection swim suits is a great way to beat sunburn and skin damage. At Splash About we offer a great range of kids’ designer beachwear that’s UPF 50+ and will let your children play in comfort, whether on the beach, in the dunes or in the water.
Hats are another essential to protect children’s delicate scalps, faces and necks. Bucket hats are light and cool, or for full protection of the head and the back of the neck, the legionnaire hat puts all other sunhats in the shade.
You can pick up sun shades in any camping or outdoor shop. They’re essentially tents with one open side. Face it away from the sun and you’ll have a shield from the rays – make sure you get one with UV protection of 50, otherwise the UV could penetrate the fabric. Old-fashioned windbreaks offer some protection too, but at midday when the sun is overhead, the shadow cast will be small – and they don’t offer much scope for playing, either.
With very close supervision, you can introduce your kids to sea swimming and splashing about, although it’s preferable to have got them used to water in a swimming pool first. Check out our float jackets to find the perfect on for your little ones.
Watch the tides
Some beaches have a very gentle gradient, which means the sea level doesn’t have to rise much for it to engulf large areas – and this is what can catch out the unwary.
Popular beaches often have a flag system to warn of rising tides or other dangers. Half-red, half yellow means lifeguards are patrolling; full red means do not swim; black and white means surfing only – no swimming.
Be careful when you’re rock-pooling. Rock pools by their very presence mean that the tide is out, so it could well be about to come back in again. It’s easy for an area of rock to become an island and then for it to become submerged.
Tide tables can be found on the BBC website – it’s definitely worth checking before you go or on your phone, just to make sure.
So stay safe, get organised and have the time of your life!