MTS has officially kicked off spring break. While some families head out of town on vacation, others prefer a nice and relaxing staycation right here in the Jacksonville area. If you want to get out of the house but not “go” too far, here are a few ways you and your child can explore and play along our beaches (or any beach for that matter!)
Comb the Beach
Nature is the biggest toy store out there, and everything’s free! For a child, the smallest things can provide the greatest joys. Bring a plastic jar to fill with shells, sea glass, sand dollars, sharks teeth, or rocks. Challenge your child to organize her collection in different ways — by size, color, or type — to give her practice sorting and classifying. Make a list of natural and man-made items you could find on the beach, and start a scavenger hunt. Playing detectives or pirates hunting for loot can add an imaginative dimension to the activity. Combing the beach with older children? Take a time machine back to some of the first residents of the First Coast. Imagine your stepping into Timucuan times. How did the Timucuan Indians sleep along the seashore? How did they eat? What were their shelters made of? This can tie history, imagination and fun together. Perhaps, even spark an interest to take home.
Build a Castle
Who can resist digging, stacking, burying, sifting, and shaping sand? Building the tallest structure or collaborating on a construction project such as a town will introduce physics concepts and give your child practice communicating and cooperating.
Take a Walk
Take a stroll along the beach. Let your kids take turns leading the way. Have them use a compass to figure out which direction you’re heading. Younger kids can feel empowered by simply pointing “This way!” and having the family follow. While walking on the beach, talk about what you see in the air or sea. Don’t forget to look down; you may see trees or another of nature’s secret wonder along the shore.
Imitate What You See
Can your child become a fish, gull, or crashing wave? Encouraging dramatic play on the beach will stimulate her imagination and develop her observation skills. Don’t forget to join in!
There’s no end to the number of beach balls and kites available. Bring a few playthings along to offer exercise and develop coordination and good sportsmanship. Draw a tic tac toe or hopscotch board in the sand.
Take some time to watch birds or study fish. Count the different kinds, and talk about what they look like, how they move around, and what they eat. You might want to give your child a small net to catch a starfish or fish and help him put them in a jar to observe. Let the child connect to the beach and to themselves through the wonder of words and pictures by bringing a nature journal with you to the beach.
Follow up at home with a trip to the library to research an interest from a journal entry.
If you run across trash along the beach, join in and clean up! Helping pick up trash (with close monitoring) will not only teach your child the value of community service, but also develop within the child respect for the environment.
Whatever your beach itinerary, be sure to stay safe — in the sun and in the sea.
We would like to add more ways to play in sand to this list! What other ways can one play in the sand?