There aren't many better ways to spend the day with your children than by the sea. Even if the weather isn't sunny and hot, the ocean offers a variety of activities ranging from educational to relaxing. Pack a bag with sunscreen, hats, healthy snacks and lots of water for your day on the seashore. Other items to bring include field guides, binoculars, warm clothes and plastic bags for any sandy or wet treasures your kids find, and for trash.
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Exploring tide pools is a great way to teach children about nature's diversity. Check a tide schedule and plan your seaside visit around low tide. Read your children a book about tide pools before you go, such as "Ocean Soup: A Book of Tide-Pool Poems" by Stephen Swinburne. Books can pique children's interests and provide them with background on what to expect and look for. Pack rubber boots or waterproof sandals, and bring a field guide to identify sea creatures. When the waves recede, get down and examine the pools of water. Most teem with life and, depending on your location, you may see anemones, coral, crabs, mussels, fish or even an octopus. Use your field guide to help children name the animals that live in the pools. Tread lightly, as coastal habitats can be delicate.
The sea shore is home to many varieties of waterfowl and other birds. Pack a field guide, a pair of binoculars and a camera. See how many different species your children can find and identify. According to Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology, birds that live around beach areas are sometimes desensitised to people. This can lead to great photo opportunities. If your children want to try their hands at bird photography, use an autofocus setting and keep the camera away from salt water and sand.
Pack a bucket full of shovels, scoops, plastic utensils and cups and your children can spend hours making sand castles. Younger children may just want to dig in the sand. Older children may enjoy creating a more complex castle. The Family Education website offers tips for successful castle building. First, create a base of very wet, tamped-down sand. Build a tapering tower of sand by stacking thick, flat patties, then create walls, smaller towers, ramps and arches around the tower. Bring a spray bottle to keep your castle from drying and disintegrating.
Break up your day at the beach with games. Younger children may enjoy making footprints in the wet sand or searching for bird or animal tracks. Older children can draw a giant tic-tac-toe board in the sand and use coloured rocks or shells to play. Play a game of frisbee or set up a disc course with empty water bottles.
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