The time-honored tradition of loading down a car and heading out for a day on the beach has not always been my favorite. I hate sand. I don’t particularly like sun. And I most definitely do not enjoy lounging around in a wet bathing suit. But as every adult ever is prone to telling anyone younger than them, tastes really do change, and now I’ve come to embrace the beach’s shortcomings and try to enjoy the time my loved ones enjoy spending there.
When people think of the beach, they think of relaxation and vacation and enjoyment. However, there are tons of educational benefits to a day at the beach. Here are some of the ideas our Tutor Doctor blogger has come up with…please feel free to add to our list in the comments section!
Pack a Lunch
I’m conflicted about bringing food to the beach. Sure, picnics are healthy and cost-effective compared to food you can buy at restaurants. However, picnicking on the sand means sand gets into your food. (Did you know that the vast majority of mummies from ancient Egypt show significant wear on the teeth due to the fact that sand got into most of their food and ground down their teeth?) However, in the spirit of trying new things (even a little extra sand in your sandwich), I’ve begun partaking in beach picnics. For younger beachgoers, this provides plenty of learning opportunities. Planning a menu that is healthy and portable is a great lesson in nutrition and in practicality. Have your child help you make the shopping list, prepare the food, and pack the cooler for a lesson in life skills, reading, and basic math. Showing the applicability of the lessons learned in school (but why do I have to learn fractions can quickly be answered when it comes time to divvy up a pie) can help encourage further learning and reinforce the importance of what has already been learned.
Bring a Book
Sure, the beach is a place for swimming and lounging and building sand castles, but it’s also a great place to catch up on some reading. Bring an umbrella and some beach chairs for prime reading set-up. It may not be a good idea to read War and Peace while on the sea shore, but lighter tomes (my pick yesterday was Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin, a light-hearted satire) are great beach fare. For younger readers, try picking up a short book about the beach, or maybe one that features facts about sea creatures or sea birds. Not only will your child get to practice his or her reading skills (and maybe learn some cool facts along the way), but modeling this behavior for your child will also demonstrate that one of the purposes of reading is for entertainment. I think the reason many people read at the beach is because it provides a welcome break from technology and distractions and allows you to settle in and really enjoy a story. I recommend leaving the Nook or Kindle at home (after all, sand in technology is never a good combination) to avoid the temptation of Angry Birds.
She Sells Sea Shells by the Sea Shore
The one thing I’ve always liked about the beach is finding things on the shore. Whether it’s beach glass, sea shells, or even (on a few memorable occasions) horseshoe crabs, there’s something exciting about beach combing. Not only is a walk on the beach good exercise (after all, being on the hunt for treasure is a great motivator to walk that extra mile in the morning), but it can also be educational. Talk to kids about how the things they find are created. Driftwood and beach glass provide a great lesson in the forces of nature. This great article from USA Today provides some information on beach glass to add some education to your vacation. This can also be a great way to demonstrate how different subject areas come together. In this case, art and science. As children enter junior high school, the division of subjects can often make it seem as though subjects are separate rather than interrelated. This gap in schooling should be addressed by parents as often as possible by showing the connections. For children who are struggling in a particular subject area, showing the link to a subject area in which he or she is successful can be particularly helpful.
Structurally Sound and Aesthetically Pleasing
For all those budding engineers and builders out there, building an elaborate sand castle can be a great exercise in understanding materials, load bearing walls, and having fun in designing a structure and then building it. For artists, sculpting with wet sand or decorating a sand castle can be a great exercise in creativity and resourcefulness.