As you head to the beach this summer don’t forget it provides an ideal opportunity for some hands-on learning. The beach is fantastic for teaching kids about so many different things from marine biology, geology, ecology, to conservation. It’s also a great place to include some nature study as well as have lots of fun with beach games. So here is our favourite Educational Activities at the Beach for kids.
Educational Activities for Beach Days
As a marine biologist and environmental educator one of my favourite ways to learn is by hands-on exploration. The beach whatever time of the year but particularly summer provides the perfect place to incorporate some science and nature study activities that are so fun your kids won’t even think they are learning.
Below you will find some of ways to learn at the beach that your kids will enjoy.
Learn about the environment
This is my top one! The beach provides a unique environment for kids to explore that they won’t easily find at home. There are many creatures that will be unique to your area of the world. However they will be some that won’t be native and will have found their way there on the tides. Walk along and see what you can find! Look at the back of the beach are there dunes, marshes, towns. If there is a town are there any hints of what the beach was like before hand? What sorts of plants are there on the beach if any? How about the shells do they tell you anything about the sort of environment below the waves?
Even the colour of the sand will tell you a lot about the environment. Is the sand white? There will be coral reefs close or lots of shells. Yellow sand, lots of sedimentary rocks and shells are broken up to form it. Black sand – volcanoes nearby.
As you explore the beach why not fill in the Beach Explorers Nature Journal. It is a great way for your kids to keep a record of their discoveries. You can subscribe to Rainy Day Mum today and get this fabulous summer nature journal.
FREE Printable Beach Journal
Subscribe to Rainy Day Mum and receive a summer bonus of our FREE Printable Beach Journal.
Rock Pool exploration
If your beach has some rock pools then these are a perfect way to explore “under the waves” in a child-friendly manner. All you need is a simple net and a bucket!
You’ll commonly find small fish especially flat fish that live on the sea floor. There will also be different invertebrates like shrimps, anemones, crabs and shells of all different sorts.
The best time to explore is after the tide has gone out.
Explore the Strand Line Discovery
The strand line is the point where the tide comes up to. Depending on the beach that you explore this may be close to the sea, letting you paddle a little as you explore or it could be a long way away. The natural items may be local to your beach but things like coconut’s can be found in the Antarctic where currents have taken them.
A word of warning – the strand line could contain items that are dangerous like syringes always encourage a look but don’t touch if that is the case.
I think shells deserve their own category – on the beach who doesn’t love collecting them. Take a bag with you and collect a small number – then the learning at the beach can continue at home. Whether you want to use the shells in a nature study categorize them and identify them. Look out for spotter guides for shells from your area to help you do this and add them to a nature table.
Writing in the sand
Hands up who still does this write messages in the sand. It’s a fantastic for your little ones – even if they are toddlers let them make some giant marks.
If you have kids that are learning to write or have mastered letters and moving onto words and sentences. Then give them a stick practice on what they have been doing this year on a large scale. Lots of kids learn by doing and moving so it’s perfect to reinforce what happens in the classroom.
Where you are in the world will depend on how much of a tide you will see. We live near beaches where the tidal range is significant. The beaches are gently slopping so the sea can go out for almost a mile with a low tide and a day at the beach we see the difference easily. If you are unsure about the tides on the beach looking at the strand line will give you an idea of where the high tide point is. Look for the strand line that is most dense this is the normal one – higher up the beach you will find a high tide or storm line but there won’t be as much on that strand line. Observe the tide changes, record them and then discover what causes them with your child. If you are staying for longer than a day make it into a project for the holiday – combine it with a look at the strand line recording what gets deposited at each high tide.
Your child could also keep a lunar calendar and see how the tides relate to the phases of the moon.
Look for visitors to the beach
There’s so many different animals that you could see visiting the beach from sea turtles, to seals and lots of different bird life. Bring along a camera (even your phone camera will take some great pictures) and then research them afterwards.
We recently visited the North Norfolk Coast and found a colony of grey seals on the beach, a few 1000 in total all resting on the shore close enough to walk past. It was a great learning opportunity for my kids. We talked about marine mammals, seals in the UK and some biology and evolution.
There are many RSPB and National Trust reserves on the UK coast and you can often find during the school holidays activities put on for the kids to learn more about the visitors to the shore at those times of the year.
Learn to swim
So not always possible depending on your beach – but the sea provides an added advantage for your little ones that are learning to swim or even older ones that are perfecting strokes the salt content means that you float easier. Calm seas that are safe for swimming – check to see if there are any dangerous currents or other things that mean that it wouldn’t be safe if it is then get in with your children and make this the summer they learn to swim or perfect their front crawl or back stroke.
Discover what lives below the waves
Don’t restrict yourself to just the beach. Grab some snorkel, mask and flippers and explore what is under the waves as well. I can’t promise that you will see a sea turtle, but even in the waters around the UK there are plenty to see on a clear day fish, sea urchins and more.
Even if your children are not strong swimmers a life vest will help them to stay afloat and hold their hand in the water. They will be astonished by what they can see. Don’t forget to search for what you found afterwards and help your child to understand what can be found underwater in the area you are visiting.
Go Fossil Hunting
Beaches are fantastic for finding fossils, we visited Chalmouth Bay in Dorset, England and followed in Mary Annings footsteps hunting for fossils in the rocks under the cliff back in 2021 with our tweens.
If the beach is backed by cliffs chances are that the rocks will have fossils in them. But that’s not the only fossils to be found. Pebbled and shingle beaches can be a great hunting ground as well, our local beach at Felixstowe is known for having fossilised shark teeth and we have indeed found a couple whilst sitting on the beach.
If this is something that you are interested in – research the area that you are going to first and find where the best beaches are. Get a hammer and chisel sorted out that the children and you can use – always take care, especially near cliffs, and look for advice from the area experts but it’s great fun and discoveries can be made.
More Ideas for Outdoor Learning with Kids
- Make pitfall traps and see what bugs can be found in your area.
- Go Orienteering and practice map reading skills.
- Make your own bird feed and bird watch filling in the bird-watching nature journal as you go.
Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, teacher, mum, and home educator from the UK. She loves getting creative, whether it is with simple and easy crafts and ideas, activities to make learning fun, or delicious recipes that you and your kids can cook together you'll find them all shared here on Rainy Day Mum.