Learn + Play Beach Days| Unschooling

Some of the Best Dreams are made in the Sand and Sun

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.

homeschool kids bonding at beach
Brother and Sister Playing Happily Together is Always Good Learning

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.

children learning about fish in homeschool day at beach
Getting an Up-Close Experience with A Fish Caught in Net
  • 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. 

Baskets full of Beach Treasures

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!

Lazy Rainy Day Play Doh Experiments That Are Incredibly Easy

Some days I have no patience and a zero mess tolerance. These simple Play Doh creations are extremely easy to make, have simple and safe on hand ingredients, keep my children engaged in a creative sensory learning environment, and is hassle free when it comes to a quick clean up!

close up of boy holding homemade play doh and step by step instructions of how to make it

Since we have adopted a less is more attitude lately we don’t have a lot of toys or extras around the house. This minimalist lifestyle has not hindered us a bit. In fact, we are able to find so many different ways of getting creative and find most of our time happy and discovering outside. Unfortunately, rainy days happen even in paradise and this mama doesn’t always have a plan or patience to quite deal with 3 energetic little ones, especially when there is something I am obsessing over to get done.

You don’t need a plan, patience, or a lot of time

to get your kids in a good place of engaged, creative learning so you can sneak some time for work, relax, or play. I personally end up doing all three every time we do these fun experiments. The kids and I get to connect through fun sensory play together before I sit and zone out watching them and wonder at their ways, before finally letting them have at it while I do housework, write, or catch up with my photography or blog.
All it takes is finding some simple kitchen and/or nature ingredients and gathering a few household supplies.


  • Large Mixing Bowls
  • Rubber Spatulas
  • Bed Sheet
  • Beach Toys
  • Sensory Toys (beads, sticks, etc)


  • Flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Baby Powder
  • Sand
  • Oils ( coconut, olive, baby, etc)
  • Clear Handsoap
  • Conditioner

Does that look like a lot of ingredients to you? Pick 1 solid and 1 liquid and have at it. I find myself looking at all the perfect moms and there perfect play-doh recipes on pinterest and I love them for all of the amazing inspiration they give me… BUT

I’m just not that bright, colorful, perfect mama everyday

engaged learning and hands on fun with homemade play doh
Hands on Fun

But my kids don’t care how pretty play-doh is. They care that we made it. They care that we get to play with it together. And most of all they care that they are free to make messes, build, and destroy their creations at their own whims.

We started with our large mixing bowls and rubber spatulas, 1 solid and 1 liquid.Our first attempt and favorite was inspired by this post for 2 Ingredient Fluffy Cloud Dough from Southern Plate. Since I’m not usually one for measuring but prefer to go by eyeing and testing I figured we couldn’t go wrong with this recipe.

For this soft fluffy fun stuff all we did was throw corn starch in a bowl then add some cheap conditioner and start mixing. It always starts off a little crazy and you will think you surely did something wrong. Once you start seeing it clump together just start kneading with your hands and Viola. Play-Doh. I’m not sure if this is magic or science but we are going with both for now.

My daughter picked pink strawberry suave since she is slightly obsessed with pink and my son picked a blue suave conditioner that smelled like ocean breeze. These actually weren’t bad and made the end result a soft, cool to the touch, faintly sweet smelling concoction of fun.

Some of our experiments did not turn out as easy but were still pretty manageable. Like I said, you will come to a point in most of these recipes where you wonder how this will work. When we mixed corn meal and baby oil it was pretty sticky at first. Then we added some hand soap and it was worse. Until it wasn’t. The oils will absorb after enough kneading and even this ridiculous mess of yellow that seems to be completely covering my hands worked up nicely. 

The possibilities seem pretty endless when it comes to experimenting and playing. We loved making pumpkins, snowmen, animals, and shapes. The kids especially loved when I made something and they could destroy in some hilarious new way.

To make sure to keep it an easy to clean and stress free environment for you, just throw down a bed sheet. Our wrinkly sheet from the garage was a wonder and shook out easy outside. Bonus if it is raining for sweet mother nature will clean up the rest for you. It is also extremely easy to sweep off a tile floor.

Snowman made out of homemade play dough, photography of childhood imagination
Snowman in July … Why Not
beach toys for play with diy play dough, creative childhood play
No Shirt, No Shoes, No Worries .. Just Play Kinda Day

The point of this post isn’t to show you how to make play-doh though. It is to let you know that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be a little messy and unmeasured and you still can’t fail. Because what it is really about is finding a brief moment to step away from “the rest” and connect with the kids.

For me on this day I was having a rough go. I’m not sure we even got dressed. I had a few million things that I wanted to accomplish and felt the weight of it all with the pressure of being cooped up inside on this rainy day. When I started taking it out on the kids I knew I needed to cope with what I could. The world would wait like always.

20 minutes and a few things thrown together from around the house and I was in a much calmer state of mind. The kids were engaged and happy and I was able to chip away at the mountain of wants, needs, and goals that will always be there.

To look back and see the pictures of my smiling happy babies I get so emotional. Once upon a time I wouldn’t have been able to step out of whatever situation I was obsessing over and would have resented the time the kids were taking from me. I am so grateful for the days I am strong enough to look at a situation and know it can wait just a few minutes.

image of a smiling happy boy
smiling happy girl with bright beautiful blue eyes

Because these smiling faces right here are what it is all for anyway.