Mother and daughter happily make patterns in the sand at the beach

Why the Beach is an Awesome Playground

Planning a family trip to the beach this summer? There’s no better place for your child to get some exercise and develop important motor skills! Exposure to a variety of natural and dynamic elements – from water, sand and rocks to tidal pool animals and waves –  naturally leads to increased levels of activity in children.

Why the Beach is an Awesome Playground

Here are 10 active, no-water-required ideas for developing motor skills at the beach this summer (bonus: they’re fun for parents, too!).     

1. Dig in the Sand. Nothing triggers strength development in young children like the resistance created when digging in the sand. This activity helps strengthen fingers and toes as well as large muscles in the legs, arms and shoulders. Make sure to bring a plastic shovel and bucket to practice lifting and lowering objects, too! Other activities might include seeing who can dig the biggest hole, having a race to fill a sand hole with water by using a bucket, and digging a hole and then pushing and moving sand to cover an adult with sand.

Why the Beach is an Awesome Playground

2. Play a Game of Mini Golf. Pick up a set of plastic clubs and golf balls at your local dollar store or improvise with some old tennis balls and a couple of sticks found at the beach. Set up a few targets to aim for or dig holes in the sand to build your own mini golf course. Playing mini golf will improve your child’s striking skills and hand-eye coordination.

3. Play Beach Disc Golf. Help your child develop throwing skills by setting up targets (like a circle of shells or by digging a large hole) and encouraging her to throw the disc as close to the target as possible.

4. Have Water Bucket Relays. Encourage your child to collect water using a small cup or shell, and then race back to empty it into a sand pail. This fun activity helps improve balance, as children will try to keep the water from spilling!

5. Fly a Kite. Children love to run and test their strength against the wind, and they will have a great time tracking the kite as it sails behind them.

6. Go Beach Bowling. Bring your own plastic pins and balls or use a beach ball and plastic water bottles filled with sand. Set up the pins, choose your desired distance and get rolling to see how many pins you can knock over.

7. Play Tug of War. Don’t forget to strengthen those muscles in a game of two-person tug of war! Younger children can use an old jump rope or tie a couple of towels together. Children will have lots of fun while also improving their balance and strength.

beach treasure hunt8. Play Sand Hopscotch. Using a stick or shell, draw a grid in the sand and use shells as markers. Then, enjoy jumping and hopping while also strengthening leg muscles.

9. Play the “Parachute” Game. Playing “parachute” is a wonderful way to help children coordinate the timing of body movements. Hold two corners of a beach towel and then have your child hold the other two corners, placing a beach ball in the middle. Raise your arms and see how high you can make the ball go!

10. Go on a Beach Treasure Hunt. Put together a list (with or without pictures) and give each child a bucket. Hunt for driftwood, crabs, feathers, shells and rocks, as well as items of a certain shape or color. Enjoy watching your children move in different ways as they comb the beach for treasures!

Post Tagged: ,
Next Post:
Previous Post:
About the Author

Dr. Steve Sanders is a university professor and author who is nationally recognized for his work in early childhood physical education. Steve helps teachers provide high-quality physical education instruction that encourages a lifetime of active living. Additionally, he assisted in the development of the Primrose Schools Thumbs Up!® program and has worked with groups like Sesame Street Healthy Hearts to design physical skills development programs for children across the nation.