Sand everywhere including in the food and diapers, a 2-year-old screaming bloody murder when you try to put on the sun screen, and the ball flying away after three minutes… Going to the beach with a toddler can be a challenge. (Yes, I have certainly been there!) But it can be fun too! I have built sand castles, jumped the waves, gone treasure hunting and many more activities with my children at the beach. Sweet memories!
Here are 16 ideas on beach activities for toddlers that I think parents will enjoy too. (I did, at least!)
16 Fun Things to Do at the Beach With Your Toddler
Building Sandcastles or Sculptures
Building sandcastles is a classic beach activity that toddlers love. Have your toddler scoop wet sand into buckets, pack it down, and then carefully overturn the buckets to create towers. Use seashells, sticks, or rocks to decorate the castles. This activity encourages creativity, fine motor skills, and imagination. Make sure to supervise your toddler to ensure they don’t venture too far into the water and that they don’t put any sand or objects in their mouth.
My kids have loved creating a moat around the castle and leading water to it from the sea through a small “river”.
Of course, you don’t have to build castles. Your toddler can build sculptures, replicas of their favorite toys, faces, or just about anything!
Set up a limbo stick by having two adults hold a pool noodle or a long inflatable toy horizontally at a low height. Encourage your toddler to walk or crawl under the stick without touching it. Lower the stick after each successful round. This game helps develop balance, coordination, and motor skills. Be cautious not to lower the stick too much to avoid accidental falls or injuries.
This is a fun game for all ages, including siblings and parents. I bet your kids will love to hold the stick while You try to walk under it!
Water Sensory or Sand and Water Sensory Bin
Fill a shallow container with water and add various safe waterproof toys, such as rubber ducks, floating balls, or colorful bath toys. Let your toddler splash, pour, and explore the objects in the water.
A bit messier – but hey, we are at the beach – is to use both sand and water. You can create, for example, three or four different bins: one with water, one with half water and sand, one with moist sand, and one with dry sand. Let your toddler explore their sense of touch and play. You can also make a sensory pile that contains various objects like shells, seaweed, and rocks.
You can also use these buckets to hide objects and let your toddler guess in which bucket you hid it. Then, take turns hiding things.
This activity stimulates sensory exploration, hand-eye coordination, and language development.
Water Balloon Toss
Fill small water balloons with water and play a gentle toss game with your toddler. Stand a short distance apart and toss the balloons back and forth, encouraging your toddler to catch them. This activity promotes hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills and provides a refreshing way to cool down. Make sure to use soft, child-friendly water balloons to avoid any injuries upon impact.
Shell or Stone Hunt
Take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline with your toddler and search for seashells or interesting stones. Encourage your child to collect different shapes, sizes, and colors. Discuss the shells or stones you find, and help them identify the creatures that used to live inside.
This activity promotes observation skills, patience, and an appreciation for nature. Ensure your toddler stays close to you and avoid picking up any sharp or potentially dangerous objects.
Bring a small bucket of water and a large paintbrush or sponge to the beach. Encourage your toddler to “paint” on the sand by dipping the brush in the water and making patterns or drawings on the surface. This activity fosters creativity, encourages fine motor skills, and is a mess-free way to explore art. Remind your toddler not to drink the water! 🙂
Beach Ball Games
Inflate a beach ball and engage your toddler in various games like rolling it back and forth, kicking it gently, or playing catch. These activities enhance gross motor skills, coordination, and social interaction. Keep an eye on your toddler to ensure they don’t accidentally run into other beachgoers or venture too far into the water.
Sea Creature or Beach-Themed Scavenger Hunt
Create a list of simple sea creatures or other beach-related items commonly found at the beach, such as seagulls, crabs, seashells, rocks of certain colors, and seaweed, and go on a scavenger hunt with your toddler. Help them spot the items on the list and check them off as they find each one.
This activity promotes observation skills, vocabulary development, and a sense of exploration. Keep your toddler away from any live creatures and supervise their movements near the water.
Water Splash Pad or Inflatable Pool
If available, bring a small portable splash pad to the beach. Set it up in a shaded area and let your toddler splash, run through the water jets, and play with floating toys. This activity provides a safe and contained water play area, promoting sensory exploration, gross motor skills, and coordination. Always monitor your toddler’s movements to prevent slipping or accidental falls.
Set up a bowling alley in the sand by arranging empty plastic bottles or beach buckets in a triangle formation. Give your toddler a lightweight ball or a rolled-up pair of socks to roll towards the pins. Help them count how many pins they knock down and cheer for their successes.
This game enhances hand-eye coordination and counting skills and offers a fun challenge for toddlers. Make sure the bowling area is clear of any obstructions and keep a safe distance to avoid any accidents.
Play Water Tag and Jump the Waves
Help your toddler adjust to the water by playing “water tag”. Have your child chase waves into the water and then run away when the waves come crashing back. Combine it with jumping waves together and holding hands. Play together with your toddler for some perfect beach exercise!
Fly a Kite
Flying a kite is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the beach with your toddler. This is an excellent beach activity for toddlers together with an older sibling.
Create Beach Art
Use items like shells, seaweed, and rocks to create beautiful beach art with your toddler. This is the perfect follow-up game after the scavenger hunt. Or, combine it with building a sand castle and decorate the castle.
Musical Play with Towels
Play a game of musical towels by laying out towels in a circle and playing music. When the music stops, everyone has to jump onto a towel. Remove one towel each round until there is only one person left.
I have only done this once at the beach. While it was great fun, I felt a little bit awkward because the kids got quite loud, and I felt that we disturbed other people at the beach. But if you can get your kids to do this without yelling or signing out loud, or you can create some space from other people, it is a lot of fun!
Dig a Hole
Digging a hole is a great way to pass the time and let your toddler explore the sand. My toddlers and older kids have always wanted to stick their feet into the hole and hide them. The cooler sand is nice, and you can hide, for example, the whole leg or legs, or even most of the kid, and take fun pictures.
Teach your toddler about the importance of taking care of the beach by cleaning up trash and debris. This may sound boring, but at least my toddlers have been very keen to help out at home when allowed (but not forced) to do chores, so making it a project to clean up the beach together can actually be something that really engages your toddler.
Fishing or Crabbing
Grab a small net and bucket, and let your child try fishing in the shallow water. Let them keep their catches in a bucket for a while, but then free the sea creatures together.
If you are somewhere where it is possible to catch small crabs, bring a sausage or other cheap meat and a kids’ crabbing line. You can also easily make your own crabbing line with a line and a peg. For bait, I have always used pieces of hot dogs, and it works like a charm. I am sure you can buy better (more expensive) baits, but I don’t think it is necessary.
Phew, these were beach activities for toddlers that I have tried and enjoyed over the years. Do you have any other activities to add? Please share your tips below! 🙂 Or let me know if you will try any of the above ideas.
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing is based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians that you find here. They write or review all health-related articles.