My son loves the beach!
Whenever he sees photos of a beach, he would tell us, “go to the beach!”
At first, I would spend a long time thinking about how I can prepare him for the beach, what materials I can bring to enhance his experience, etc. Do I bring a book? Miniatures? Toys? Lots of stuff for sandcastle building? Should I just bring our whole house?
After several trips to the beach, this is what I now believe in: You don’t need to bring much! Or anything at all even! The environment will always be rich enough.
Still, sometimes, we do need to redirect them or guide them in activities so we can do our own work. Case in point: One trip, we had to build our tent for camping, and settle our things and our food for the night. We could have included our son in our work, but it was about to rain, so we had to do everything quickly!
Anyway, that moment was when I thought about blogging what activities my son loves doing at the beach (self-directed), and some that were introduced by me that he immediately showed interest for.
Hope this blog helps!
NO EXTRA MATERIALS NEEDED:
1. TRANSFER WORK – I always say, nothing beats the “sensory bins” of nature! They’re huge, free, natural, in context, and best of all, you don’t need to clean-up after! Children who come across sand, soil, or water generally do transfer work – whether by hands, or by using pails or whatever materials they find. In my photo, for example, that’s a plastic pail he just saw on the beach. Toddlers can stay at this (usually) self-directed activity for such a long time!
2. DIG A HOLE – I found from experience that my toddler loves spotting holes! He would go in and out each time he sees one. If there’s none, dig a hole and see what your toddler would do!
3. WAIT FOR LOWTIDE – When it’s lowtide, it’s the perfect opportunity for so many things! For me, the most fun would be having the chance to let my toddler walk on water! I didn’t realize how much balance is needed to walk on water until my son started swimming lessons and he was encouraged to walk on almost chest-deep water. This is also the best time to watch sea creatures! Some of them get trapped in the shallow water so you can clearly observe them from where you sit or stand!
4. FIND SHELLS – This is the perfect opportunity for your child to observe shells – in different shapes, colors, and sizes, with or without crabs. Shells have a purpose in their environment, and that environment is not our homes. Shells helps stabilize the beach, serve as homes for tiny creatures like hermit crabs, serve as hiding places for small fish, and more. Bringing them home may mean potentially destroying that particular environment, because in nature, for every action, there’s usually a chain reaction. We use our time in the beach to see shells in their natural environment, then put them back where they belong before the day ends.
5. SAND SCRUB – Nothing more natural than sand as an exfoliant! It rubs away dead skin, and more interestingly, I’ve read that it increases circulation (by stimulating blood flow in the massaged areas). So do it for yourself, and while you’re at it, involve your toddler, too!
6. BE ONE WITH NATURE – Listen to the song of the birds, watch the sunset, rub your toes against the sand, enjoy the warm water (okay, if you are in a tropical country, that is), feel the wind everywhere – through your hair, your body, the swaying trees… These sound cliché but really, nature provides you everything you need – and never too much to overstimulate. So relax and let these natural sensory activities do the work.
7. OBSERVE WILDLIFE – Like mentioned earlier, low-tide is a great time to observe sea creatures — from fish to urchins and everything in between. But wildlife at the beach aren’t only found in the water! Sand is a great area for wildlife watching, too. You’d probably come across hermit crabs, or tiny insects burying and foraging for food! Look up and you’ll see birds! Swim (if your toddler is already in that stage) and try to look for fish! Sometimes, when we think of wildlife, we think of something major – like the big 5 of Africa! But wildlife simply means non-human living creatures in their natural environment! The beach is full of wildlife! You can spend a day observing and spotting!
8. FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT – There’s probably no better place to allow your child to run to his/her heart’s content than the beach! The sand is soft that even if your child falls, s/he’ll probably get up without even feeling slightly hurt. Your child can practice tumbling, jumping, running, walking, sitting, etc here! But don’t limit it to the sand — I find that my son finds tools everywhere to practice what his body needs. Just last weekend, he was using a narrow cement walkway by the beach to practice his balance. Sometimes, he would climb on the roots of beach trees, or walk on rocky shores. Some parents tell me they were not able to give freedom of movement from birth and are scared to start because they feel it might be late already — if you’re reading this, let me tell you — the beach is probably a good environment for a start! 🙂
Just be careful if your child is still in a mouthing stage – though if you ask me, personally, I think a little sand won’t hurt. And yes, our son has eaten sand. 😛
SOME MATERIALS NEEDED:
1. BEACH TRIP KIT – This would really depend on what your child likes or is into, but for us, I find that a pail, a few stacking cups, one or two molds, a sand sifter, and a small shovel work fine! I have a small bayong (native market tote) where I put all of them, and my son takes care of taking them out and thinking about what he wants to do with them.
2. HAND KITE/ BEACH BALL – Now that he’s older (he’s 22 months as of writing), I do include an inflatable beach ball, and a hand kite!
3. STAMP WORK – Using regular beach/sand molds (I love the ones from Daiso!), I realized that for our son’s stage, doing the actual molds is still quite tricky (and could be frustrating), so I thought of introducing it as a “stamp” instead. And it was an immediate hit! He couldn’t get over stamping. You can work with cookie cutters, too (plastic material would be best for this purpose — I would go for basic shapes especially if they’re into shapes — my son is in that stage now.).
4. TRASH TOOL KIT – Well, for us, this isn’t a MUST, but some people cannot pickup trash with bare hands, so a trash tool kit comes in handy! You can bring gloves and small tongs to pick-up trash! Toddlers love tongs, and the best part is – it’s such a great tool for fine motor skills work! You can also bring your own “trash bag” to put everything you’ve collected. The photo above is just some of the trash my son and I picked up during our camping trip. The beach we went to is not that popular, and we went during low season, so we were literally the only visitors of the beach, but still, we found lots of trash! Don’t worry about not finding any — there would definitely be trash somewhere, and instead of just complaining about our trash problem (talking about third world countries especially), we could be part of the solution! It’s such a great way to involve our children with these kinds of issues, too!
So there. Of course, whenever you can include your child in practical life work, from as simple as bringing things to the beach and packing away to something major (if possible) like pitching a tent and preparing food for your group. For our next camping trip, I actually bought a not-so-sturdy but very toddler-friendly foldable plastic table, so he can set it up by himself while we also do our work.
Hope this post was helpful! I would love to know your ideas, too! Feel free to leave a comment with your experiences and pieces of advice. 🙂