Five seaside activities that teach kids about nature
30 July 2014 | Rachel England
The seaside isn’t just a daytrip destination, it’s a great British institution: shielding ice creams from seagulls, getting wet sand in your shoes and feeding countless two-pence coins into amusement arcade penny slots is part and parcel of growing up on this fair isle. But plastic buckets and spades aside, the British coast is a thriving ecological wonderland and a day spent pottering around by the sea can teach kids valuable lessons about nature and the world they live in. Here are five ideas to fuel their imaginations.
Tidepools are teeming with life, and depending on your location you could expect to see anemones, crabs, mussels, tiny fish and even octopi. Take a field guide so you can identify your findings, scout out a tidepool during low tide and prepare to get up close and personal with these amazing little creatures. But tread lightly, as coastal habitats can be delicate.
More secluded coastal regions (away from the hustle and bustle of sunseekers and holidaymakers) are home to an amazing array of British birds – it’s not all about seagulls! Pack a picnic and a pair of binoculars, and see how many interesting feathery friends you can spot.
Create beach art
The beach is home to a spectacular array of natural art materials – shells, seaweed, driftwood, not to mention the manmade trinkets that wash up on the shore (pieces of Lego are still washing up on Britain’s beaches nearly 17 years after a container ship dropped its cargo in 1997!). Challenge your kids to create an arty mural in the sand with the bounty they collect, and take the opportunity to highlight how rubbish and plastic items are bad for the coastal environment.
Great fun for kids and surprisingly addictive for adults, too, is there a more British seaside activity than crabbing? It’s cheap and easy (here’s a great how-to guide) and provides a fantastic glimpse into the fascinating goings-on of underwater life. Plus, kids will learn a valuable lesson about conservation when their captured crusties scuttle back into the sea.
Play with the tides
The sea can be a bewildering concept for little ones – just what exactly makes the tide lap against the sand? And why does the sea seem to move throughout the day? If you can, arrive during the morning’s low tide and plan to stay long enough for your kids to see it slowly creeping up the beach. Use simple language to explain the role of the moon and gravity in tidal changes, let them play ‘tag’ with the waves and use markers made of sticks to track the sea’s progress.