Beach days can be much more than just play and relaxation in the sun. There are a multitude of ways to make it a learning experience for your toddlers and preschoolers.
After tons of research into trying to find curriculum for unschooling, I realized that was quite an oxymoron, and I would probably have to look at this homeschooling thing another way. Thus begins my story of hoarding all the knowledge from as many different homeschooling stories, families, scenarios, and learning methods as I can find.
One little curriculum I am very glad I purchased is called The Peaceful Preschool and it has a multitude of great ways to incorporate playful learning into your days.
I went with the Ocean Guide because I have always been a beach baby myself and I don’t plan on ever being too far from the ocean for too long.
Here is some of the ways I use the simple curriculum to teach my babes phonics, counting, fine motor skills, large motor skills, practical life skills, and art all at a leisurely day at the beach and evening at home.
Just playing in the sand and sun is a great way to get out the energies of my always overly energetic children and to build bonding relationships.
It also builds on
- Physical development: Children playing with sand and water are practicing eye-hand coordination and using fine motor skills to scoop, sift, funnel, and pour.
- Social and emotional skills: The beach is such a great place for my children to practice cooperative play and sharing. It also helps them explore and enjoy the sensory experience of manipulating fluid and solid materials. Digging in sand or splashing water also provides an acceptable way for them to vent anger or frustration when the cooperating gets a little too tough.
After letting them have some much needed wild and free time where I get to sit back and see what kind of things are coming to them naturally we had some guided play time. There are lots of fun ways to promote learning without them knowing they are doing anything but playing.
- Phonics Tracing letters in the sand, arranging shells into letters, pointing out and finding things around you and their letters ( what do you see that starts with B)
- Counting seashells or other treasures, asking them to build 3 sand castles, or dig 5 holes to put 2 seashells in. Count the people around you or point out that there are 3 girls, or 6 other children swimming. Finding numbers is easy. Sneak in a few counting exercises throughout your time on the beach instead of all at once so they don’t get burnt out or catch on to your sneaky teachers ways.
- Fine Motor Skills will come naturally at the beach. Try giving them funnels and measuring cups, burying small items in the sand or asking them to place seashells on sand castles, build shapes and letters or numbers with shells or small toys
- Large Motor Skills Fly a kite, building sand castles, play with beach balls, have them put on their own floats and go for a swim, pretend to fly like a seagull, or inch across the sand like a sea turtle
- Practical Life Skills have them help pack the beach bag and decide what should go, fold the towels, discuss beach safety, have them apply sunscreen themselves or say the body parts of where you are applying and why it is important, pick up trash found on beach and take home to recycle or throw away, check the tides and discuss low tide and high tide
Our favorite afternoons on the beach are simple strolls collecting treasures. We love to bring a basket and find as many different varieties of specimens as possible. We also collect sand to bring home for lots of different play and science experiments.
Once home we will look through ocean encyclopedias or use the home computer to identify all the fun things we found.
After we know what we are working with we mix a cleaning solution of warm water and dish soap or a touch of bleach and grab a toothbrush or straw cleaner to scrub our treasures clean.
We use the shells, sea grass, broken bits of coral, and other fun treasures as painting and art materials, for wind chimes, fun class materials for forming letters, numbers and shapes.
Baking the sand makes for a great science and kitchen lesson in one. Learning about temperature safety, while learning kitchen etiquette and cleanliness, hypothesizing about how long it will take to go from wet to dry, and guessing whether it would burn or not, were all part of the fun in drying and sanitizing the sand for future play.
On this day we glued some of the sand we prepped to a piece of paper and then painted the ocean and sky. We also glued some small pieces of shells and seaweed after it was all dry. In retrospect we should have painted first then glued the sand but that was part of our learning process and I didn’t mind that I got to explain that to them as we learned it together.
Learning at the beach is really quite easy and there are so many options. I like to take it slow and not do to much in one day, or push to much at one time as it seems to fustrate everybody and take away from the learning and just plain happiness of the experience.
So grab up your kiddos and get to the beach for a great day of playful learning!
Let me know some of your favorite beach day activities and if you homeschool I would love to hear how you incorporate learning in your nature play!