Teaching Kids about the Ocean on Your Beach Day

By Maureen Wise in Thinking Sustainably

Use your time at the beach this summer to teach your children why it's important to protect the ocean and the life within it. There's so much to know and discuss while playing in the surf and sand. Teaching kids about the ocean will give them a greater appreciation for more than seventy percent of Earth. While you're packing your bags, think about some activities to make your beach visit educational.

little girl giggling in an ocean wave

Talk about What's Between Their Toes

In my family, we always spend more time digging and building sand creations on a beach than we do swimming. So, what's notable about this grainy artistic medium? Most people know that sand is made by the churning and crushing motion of waves on rocks and shells. But did you know (thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA) that some sand is also parrotfish poop? That will get them giggling for sure!

Challenge your little ones to craft their sand kingdoms and rivers and dams out of only the natural stuff they find at the seashore. That means driftwood, rocks, shells, seaweed, and the like. This will help them understand what belongs on a beach and that the trash that you will likely find doesn't belong. This is also the perfect time to remind them that all watersheds are connected and your own local river flows into this world-wide water body, including the litter on your own street.

Discuss Tides

While you're chatting above the crash of the ocean waves, you can talk about the way the waterline moves back and forth twice every day. SciJinks, NOAA's weather site for kids, has some great activities and pages that talk about how the moon causes high and low tides. The force of the moon's gravitational pull creates"bulges" in Earth's water that we know as high tides.

Combine science experiments, space lessons, and water wackiness by measuring your high and low tide lines over a few days at the beach. Some local papers or weather apps will note the tide times for the day or week ahead.

hermit crab

Research Wildlife

Before you leave for your beach trip, research the wildlife that you might find at your specific location. Kid-oriented books like Seashells in My Pocket can get your little ones excited to hunt for critters and learn about their place in the ecosystem.

See if you can find dolphin, seal or whale watching lookouts nearby. You can peer into shallows and tide pools for crabs or starfish, or even a rare horseshoe crab. And know your sea birds! Sea gulls are easy to spot, but what about terns, knots, and sand pipers? The Audubon Society has a free app that can help you identify the birds winging and scampering around your beach umbrella.

As cool as that crab looks scuttling around in your bucket of water, it's important to remind kids that all living things have to stay at the beach. A clam will not live long in your fish tank, and ocean ecosystems hang in a delicate balance. You can use this same lesson as an opportunity to convince your youngster that shells, rocks, and driftwood should also be left behind. What if someone needs that cool conch for a home? Look for shells and objects that have become habitats for life like seaweed, algae, and hermit crabs.

Bring a Trash Bag

Finally, be prepared with a trash bag or two and a set of rubber gloves for each family member. Clean up your stretch of beach and talk about the ocean pollution you find. It's not only litter that contributes to plastic pollution in the ocean, but also the plastics and trash that get flushed or washed down the drain.

Talk about what trash you pick up, and challenge each other to give up what you find the most of (maybe straws, styrofoam, take-out coffee cups). While you're at it, can you take up the 5 Gyres challenge to Nix the 6? Five Gyres, the leading nonprofit in ocean pollution education and research, asks participants to take a pledge to boycott and refuse polystyrene products with the recycling code six, which includes styrofoam. These products are known to harm animals and are often single-use products that can be avoided.

These activities and teaching kids about the ocean is easy to incorporate to your beach time fun this summer. What other ocean facts for kids will you be talking about with the sand between your toes? Let us know on Twitter!

Image source: Unsplash | Pexels | Pixabay

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Why It’s Good

We're all responsible for caring for the environment. Teaching your kids about the ocean is an investment in the future of our ocean life and the cleanliness of seventy percent of our planet.