Surf, sand and sunshine are great, but having creative things to do at the beach can make a day trip more memorable and relaxing. Make the most of it with our ultimate list of ideas from classic castles to clever reinventions, and get ready to have one grand day out. Scroll down to get inspired. 

photo: Save the Bay via flickr

1. Make clean-up time fun.
In between all the sand castles and treasure hunting, take a few minutes to stash the trash! Using supervision (of course) to make sure kids aren’t picking up anything harmful, it’s a great way to start or end your day at the beach. Make it a game to see who can pick up the most trash—you’ll be helping the beach habitat you love and showing kids responsibility. Win, win! 

2. Create a construction site.
The beach is the biggest sandbox your kid will ever see. Add a little water, gravel or rocks, and bam! You’ve got an instant dig site.

3. Organize a few rounds of hopscotch.
You don’t need much to set up this classic game. Simply find a stick and make the game squares. Then, gather a few rocks and a few willing kids, and then let them hop away.

4. Look for animal habitats.
Turn the beach into your outdoor classroom and talk about the different habitats you can find there. Point out the grasslands, the water, and the dunes, and then follow up with a chat about the animals that live in each habitat. After the lesson, send your students off to explore.

photo: Melissa Allen via Green Owl Art 

5. Decorate some seashells.
Bring along a few markers (Sharpies work best, so this one is ideal for older kiddos) to the beach and have your kids add their own flair to gathered shells. You can choose to leave them behind to be discovered by fellow beachgoers or take them home as souvenirs. We love the adorable designs spotted over at Green Owl Art.

6. Have a limbo contest.
It’s a game that was invented on the beach. Use a long stick, an umbrella pole, or even a jump rope, and then just add music. The only thing that’ll be missing is a drink with a little umbrella.

7. Play sand Pictionary
When the tide is out, a sandy beach is a perfect canvas for Pictionary. Give this classic game a summery twist with words like firework, crab, and watermelon. Once the correct guess has been made, wait for the waves to clear the “board” and start the next round.

photo 1photo: Gabby Cullen

8. Become a mermaid.
She’s always wanted to be a mermaid. So dig a hole, bury her, and then craft a mermaid tail out of the surrounding sand. You can even let the kids make you a tail!

9. Enjoy a good beach read
It might not be the juicy novel you’ve had your eye on, but there’s something special about hosting story time in the sand. You can choose a family favorite or pick something beach-themed!

10. Melt a sand castle.
After your kids have had their fill of towers and turrets, offer up a bucket of water and a funnel (a plastic water bottle works great, too). Show your little builders how to slowly dribble the water over the towers. The castle will change and dissolve before their eyes.

photo: Nicole Hill Gerulat via One Charming Party

11. Organize a relay race.
Split the kids into two teams. Using shovels and small cups (or the largest shells you can find), have team members race back and forth from the ocean, filling their sand pail with water as quickly as possible. The first team to fill their bucket wins!

12. Do a little beach Yoga.
Take a meditative moment and do yoga to the sound of the waves. To avoid getting super sandy, stick with standing poses like Triangle Pose, Half Moon, or Warrior Pose.

13. Play musical towels.
A circle of towels easily doubles as the set up for musical chairs. Don’t forget to bring the radio or a smartphone with speakers so you can crank up your favorite tunes.

photo: byronv2 via Flickr

14. Create beautiful beach art.
This two-in-one beach activity is a perfect way for your little explorer to showcase his artistic side. Get an early start and collect as many colorful items as possible, and then give him a wide open canvas.

15. Make sand animals.
Forgo the typical sand castle and instead, challenge your budding builders to sculpt their favorite sea creatures out of the sand. Bonus points for the most imaginative sand monster!

Beach Scavenger Huntphoto: Views from the Step Stool

16. Host a beach scavenger hunt.
The beach is full of hidden treasures. If your pint-sized pirate isn’t quite ready for ocean exploration, then a land-based scavenger hunt is a great way to spend the afternoon. Start the day off with easy-to-locate items and slowly work your way toward more obscure finds, just like Katie of Views from the Step Stool did with her son.

17. Organize a beach ball relay.
Using any part of the body except the hands, two people race to carry a beach ball across the finish line before their opponents.

18. Play nature tic-tac-toe
Whether you use sticks or simply sketch a board in the sand, tic-tac-toe is an easy and fun beach game at any age. Get creative with your Xs and Os markers by using shells, sticks, and other nautical treasures.

photo: Life with Leo

19. Set up beach skeeball.
Skeeball + sand = fun. Recreate everyone’s favorite arcade game at the beach. Just dig the holes and get rolling. Thanks to Life with Leo for the idea!

20. Dig a hole.
Whether the kids are competing to see who can hit wet sand first, or if they’re making a swimming pool for the royal residents of the adjacent sand castle, digging a hole is a great way to pass the time.

21. Try to balance on a boogie board.
Get everyone lined up on their boogie boards near the edge of the water. Then, have your little acrobats stand on the board with their backs facing the water (so they won’t see the waves coming). The winner is the last one standing on a board when the water retreats.

photo: Brent Wiese via Flickr

22. Build a sand (snow) man.
Olaf may have wished for summer, but most snowmen prefer the frigid temps. Their sandy counterparts, however, love all things beachy! You can use sand toys for arms and buckets for hats, or you can look around for supplies right on the beach. 

23. Host an Olympic competition.
Turn a day at the beach into an Olympic-inspired competition. Head over to A Small Snippet to see how to set up games like hurdles, a 40-yard dash, discus throw, and more.

24. Throw sand darts
Sand darts is one game that’s always a bullseye at the beach. It’s easy to set up—just sketch a dart board in the sand and then collect shells or pebbles to use as darts.

photo: Brilliant Beginnings Preschool

25. Beach Ball Toss
Sometimes the simplest games can be the most fun. To start a giggle-inducing game of toss, all you’ll need is an oversized beach towel and a beach ball! This bright idea is courtesy of Brilliant Beginnings Preschool.

26.  Pitch a beach tent.
Channel their inner castaway and create a beach tent using found branches and a towel. Then relax and enjoy sandy fun in the shade.

And once the games are over…treat all the winners (i.e. everyone) to ice cream!

How do you keep your kids busy on the beach? Share your tips in a comment below. 

—Abigail Matsumoto & Lauren Hill