Fun Things to Do at the Beach with Kids: Family-Friendly Activities Guide

Taking the family to the beach offers a chance for kids to explore new environments and engage in activities that combine education with entertainment. With the vast playground of sand and surf, a beach outing becomes much more than a passive day at the shore – it becomes a canvas for creativity and adventure. Families find an array of activities that can cater to any age, making the most of the natural elements at hand.

Children building sandcastles, flying kites, playing beach games, and splashing in the waves

Children have the opportunity to learn and play through beach activities such as collecting shells of various sizes and colors, which subtly educates them on biodiversity. Constructing sandcastles fosters creativity and problem-solving skills, as they learn to design and construct with the elements. For the more active and adventurous, kite flying harnesses the power of the coastal winds and provides a fun challenge in aerodynamics and physical coordination.

A family vacation to the beach is not just about relaxation, but also forging family bonds through shared experiences. As kids engage in a scavenger hunt for coastal treasures or paddle at the sea’s edge, families create memories that last. Simple joy can be found in the laughter and excitement of playing hopscotch etched in the sand or hunting for the elusive pieces of sea glass and driftwood for a take-home reminder of their seaside venture. These activities provide not only amusement but also foster an appreciation for the natural beach environment, which can be a valuable lesson in environmental stewardship for kids.

Essential Beach Gear for Kids

Colorful beach toys scattered on sand near a bucket and shovel, with a beach ball, inflatable float, and sunscreen nearby

When planning a beach day with the young ones, safety and entertainment should top the list. Essentials include UV sun protective swimwear for all-around skin defense, coupled with at least SPF 50+ sunscreen to shield their delicate skin from harmful rays. A sun hat and sunglasses with proper UV protection are imperative accessories, ensuring extra coverage during peak sunlight hours.

For comfort, a spacious beach blanket or a fitted sheet can designate a play area on the sand. Little ones can take refuge from the sun under a beach umbrella or pop-up canopy tent, which provides a reliable barrier and a cool, shaded spot for breaks.

Age Group Recommended Gear
Toddlers Sand play sets, inflatable water wings
3-6 years Buckets and spades, floaties
7-12 years Bodyboards, kites, and beach balls
Teens Paddleboards, snorkeling sets

Accessibility on the beach is child-friendly with the help of a daypack or a dedicated beach bag to keep all items organized and within reach. Economic choices are manifold; many beach toys such as buckets and spades provide affordable amusement. Beach gear like bodyboards and floaties are typically available in a range of prices, making them accessible regardless of budget.

Remember, the essence of bringing kids to the beach revolves around creating memorable experiences, safely under the sun. Tailor the gear to the child’s age and interests, and a joyous time by the sea is practically guaranteed.

Entertainment on the Shore

Children building sandcastles, flying kites, and playing beach games while families relax and enjoy picnics on the shore

With an array of activities tailored for enjoyment, the shore provides countless opportunities for building memories. From constructing elaborate sandcastles to engaging in spirited beach sports, the waterside is the perfect backdrop for family fun.

Building Sandcastles and More

The art of building sandcastles is a cherished beach activity that fuels both creativity and engineering skills. Families can indulge in this sandy endeavor by bringing along buckets, shovels, and various molds to construct their seaside fortress.

  • Sandcastle Constructing: Make use of intricate molds for towers and walls.
  • Moat Digging: Carve out a protective water-filled moat surrounding the castle.
  • Detailing Work: Collect shells and rocks to adorn the castle and give it a unique look.

For those looking to add a competitive element, consider hosting a sandcastle-building contest with prizes for categories such as the tallest, the most creative, or the strongest build.

Beach Games and Sports

Beach games and sports are excellent ways for families to stay active while enjoying the sun and sand.

  • Beach Ball/Volleyball: Engage in friendly matches using a lightweight beach ball.
  • Frisbee: Enjoy casual tossing or a more structured game of Ultimate Frisbee.
  • Relay Races: Split into teams and compete in races involving running, hopping, or even balancing a beach ball.

Setting up a series of games like tic-tac-toe in the sand or hopscotch can add a playful and physical aspect to a day at the beach without the need for any extra equipment.

Creative Beach Arts

The beach offers a natural canvas for artistic expression in many forms.

  • Scavenger Hunt: Plan a scavenger hunt where kids can search for various beach treasures like shells, sea glass, or uniquely shaped stones.
  • Sand Drawing: Use sticks or fingers to draw pictures, write names, or play games like tic-tac-toe on a larger scale.
  • Nature Collage: Collect different elements from the beach and create a collage on a flat area or cardboard.

Acknowledging the delicate beach ecosystem, it’s important to encourage children to practice leaving no trace, ensuring all creations are ephemeral or collected without harming the environment.

Water-Based Activities

Children playing in the shallow water, building sandcastles, and flying colorful kites on the sandy beach

Water-based activities at the beach provide children with engaging ways to explore the aquatic environment, from the shallows where waves lap the shore to the more immersive experience of encountering marine life.

Swimming and Splashing

Children often find joy in the simple pleasures of swimming and splashing in the ocean waves. It’s important for guardians to always supervise children, especially in areas with stronger currents, to ensure safety while they swim and play. Beginner swimmers should start in shallow water, where they can enjoy the gentle push and pull of the waves under careful watch.

Snorkeling and Marine Discovery

Snorkeling offers a closer look at the underwater world where children can observe marine life in its natural habitat. Tide pools and calm, clear waters are ideal spots for beginners to start. With snorkel gear, kids can discover colorful fish, sea anemones, and other creatures usually hidden beneath the water’s surface. It’s both an educational and exhilarating experience for young explorers.


Beachcombing is a water activity that doesn’t require getting wet but involves the water’s edge where waves retreat and leave behind treasures. Children can scour the sand for shells, sea glass, and driftwood, especially after high tide when the sea has deposited new finds. This activity encourages observation skills and an appreciation for the diverse materials the ocean offers.

Education and Discovery

Children explore tide pools, collect seashells, and build sandcastles. A family flies kites, while others play beach volleyball and learn to surf

Beach trips offer valuable opportunities for children to engage in educational experiences while exploring the natural world. They can learn about various marine animals through wildlife encounters and study different ecosystems during tide pool explorations.

Wildlife Encounters

The beach is an excellent location for observing a wide range of animals in their natural habitat. Children can watch sea birds like seagulls in flight or search for patterns in the sand that reveal the presence of crabs. They might even spot dolphins frolicking in the distance. These encounters provide live illustrations of lessons in biodiversity and conservation.

  • Educational Value: Understanding animal behavior and habitat.
  • Suggested Activity: Creating a journal of observed wildlife.

Tide Pool Exploration

Tide pools are natural wonders that serve as microcosms of ocean life. When exploring these pools, children can find diverse marine creatures such as starfish, sea urchins, and small fish. This hands-on experience teaches them about intertidal zones and the delicate balance these ecosystems maintain.

  • Educational Value: Learning about marine biodiversity and ecosystems.
  • Suggested Activity: Sketching tide pool creatures and noting their behavior.

By engaging in these activities, children gain a deeper appreciation for the marine environment and the importance of its preservation.

Family Amenities and Attractions

Children building sandcastles, parents relaxing under umbrellas, colorful beach toys scattered on the sand, a gentle ocean breeze, and a clear blue sky

Virginia Beach offers an array of family-oriented amenities and attractions designed to cater to the enjoyment of both parents and children. From interactive boardwalk activities to serene park visits and engaging local performances, families have plentiful options for creating memorable experiences.

Leisure at the Boardwalk

The Virginia Beach Boardwalk is a hub of family-friendly activities. The area is well-equipped with playgrounds and amusement park attractions to keep children entertained. Visitors will find a variety of miniature golf courses, providing a fun challenge for all ages. The boardwalk is lined with shops and eateries that welcome families, ensuring an enjoyable and stress-free outing.

Visits to Nearby Parks

Families can explore several parks that offer a blend of natural beauty and recreational facilities. Parks in the Virginia Beach area often feature:

  • Picnic areas
  • Walking and biking trails
  • Playgrounds for children

These sites are ideal for families looking to unwind and spend quality time in a natural setting. The presence of family-friendly attractions like petting farms allows children to engage with animals and learn about farm life in a secure environment.

Experiencing Local Shows

Virginia Beach has a vibrant cultural scene with shows that cater to families. Live performances, from music concerts to children’s theater productions, are regularly held at various venues throughout the city. These shows are thoughtfully produced, often with an aim to:

  • Educate children through engaging storylines
  • Entertain families with skilled performances

By attending these shows, families can enjoy quality entertainment and foster a love for the arts in children.

Dining and Treats

Kids playing in the sand, building sandcastles and collecting seashells. A picnic blanket with colorful snacks and drinks. Seagulls flying overhead

When spending a day at the beach with the family, incorporating a variety of dining options and treats can enhance the experience. They can choose from a selection of snacks that range from refreshing to indulgent, ensuring that there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Packing a Picnic: A picnic is a longstanding tradition for beachgoers. Families may pack sandwiches, fresh fruit, and vegetables for a well-balanced meal. It’s crucial to keep food safety in mind, using coolers with ice packs to maintain proper temperatures.

Ice Cream Delight: No day at the beach is complete without ice cream. They can visit beachfront vendors for a classic cone or a cup of assorted flavors. It’s a delightful way to cool down and take a break from the sun and sand.

Portable Snacks: Easy-to-carry snacks like granola bars, popcorn, and trail mix provide energy without the need for utensils or plates. For a refreshing option, chilled slices of watermelon or grapes are perfect for a hot day.

Hydration Station: Staying hydrated is essential. They should bring plenty of water, or for a flavorful twist, chilled fruit-infused waters or iced teas are a tasty alternative.

Grilling by the Shore: Some beaches allow grilling. Families can grill hot dogs, burgers, or even vegetables for a heartier meal. It is important to check the local regulations beforehand and always practice safe grilling.

Families are reminded to dispose of trash properly, maintaining the beach’s natural beauty for others to enjoy. While the focus should always be on safety and cleanliness, incorporating these dining and treat options will surely make a beach day with kids memorable and enjoyable.

Souvenirs and Memorabilia

Colorful beach toys scattered on the sand, a bucket filled with seashells, and a kite flying high in the sky above a bustling boardwalk

Collecting souvenirs at the beach is a fun way to preserve memories. Families often search for shells and sea glass, which come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. Gathering these natural treasures provides a physical memento of time spent by the sea. It’s essential to check local regulations as some beaches limit or prohibit the collection of certain items to protect the ecosystem.

Crafting with Beach Finds:

  • Shell Decoration: Children can paint and decorate shells, turning them into ornaments.
  • Sand Bottles: Layer different colors of sand in clear bottles for a visual souvenir.
  • Driftwood Art: Driftwood pieces can be transformed into wall hangings or sculptures.

When collecting, here are key points to consider:

Consideration Description
Respect the Environment Minimize the ecological impact by taking only what you need.
Safety Ensure that the items collected are safe and free from sharp edges.
Permanence Seek out durable items that will last as keepsakes.

Children might enjoy creating a souvenir box back home to display their found treasures. This not only serves as memorabilia but also as an interactive way to recall their beach adventures. Additionally, they may engage in Beach-themed Crafting Sessions, using their collected items to make creative pieces like photo frames or custom jewelry. This activity not only develops their creativity but also buoys their connection to the beach experience.

Beach souvenirs are reminders of the fleeting moments on the shore and bring a tangible aspect to the cherished memories made.

Photography and Keepsakes

Children collecting seashells and taking photos with disposable cameras. Keepsakes like sand-filled bottles and handprints in the sand

At the beach, capturing memories through photography offers a tangible way to freeze the joyous moments with children. Beach photography should capitalize on natural lighting, especially during the golden hours of early morning or late afternoon when sunlight is softer. One strategy is to wait for overcast conditions, which provide a natural diffuser for the harsh sunlight and enhance photo quality. Parents are encouraged to adopt a patient approach, taking candid shots as their children engage in play, which often results in more authentic and treasured photographs.

Tips for Beach Photography:

  • Shoot during golden hours for soft lighting
  • Use cloud cover to your advantage
  • Capture candid moments for authenticity

Keepsakes complement photographs by holding physical memories of the beach day. Encouraging children to collect shells, smooth rocks, or sea glass can later transform into a craft activity like making a Beach Jar. This not only preserves these souvenirs but also serves as a fun display that encapsulates the essence of the beach experience.

Beach Keepsake Ideas:

  • Collect and store shells in a clear jar
  • Create artwork using found sea glass
  • Assemble a driftwood sculpture

Together, beach photography and crafting keepsakes enable families to retain a piece of their beach adventure, providing them with physical and visual mementos that can be cherished for years to come.

Seasonal Events and Festivals

Children building sandcastles, flying kites, and playing beach games. Families enjoying picnics, beach volleyball, and live music. Colorful umbrellas and beach tents dotting the shoreline

Beaches are not only summer destinations for sandcastle building and swimming but also play host to various seasonal events and festivals, adding an extra layer of excitement to a family beach vacation.

Beachgoers can participate in Easter parades and arts and crafts shows, taking full advantage of the pleasant spring weather. Families often engage in these colorful festivities, which often include interactive activities for children.

One of the highlights is seeing the skies lit up during 4th of July celebrations. Beaches often become the front row seats to spectacular fireworks displays, with kids gazing up in wonder at the shimmering lights.

The off-season can bring quieter beaches and the opportunity for local cultural events. Communities might organize beachfront harvest festivals, where the bounty of the sea is celebrated.

During the winter months, some beach towns create holiday-themed experiences, with activities ranging from meeting Santa Claus to tours showcasing festive lights.

Season Festivals and Events
Spring Easter Parade, Arts & Crafts
Summer 4th of July Fireworks
Autumn Harvest Festivals
Winter Holiday Themed Tours, Santa Visits

Families planning a beach vacation can enrich their experience by aligning their trip with these events, ensuring both kids and adults have a memorable stay filled with more than just the traditional beach activities.

Planning Your Day

Children building sandcastles, flying kites, and playing beach volleyball with colorful beach toys scattered around. A family picnicking under a colorful umbrella, while others swim and surf in the ocean

When heading to the beach with kids, a structured plan that marries fun with safety is crucial. It ensures that all activities are age-appropriate and that precautions are in place to manage the beach environment effectively.

Age-Appropriate Itineraries

For preschoolers and toddlers:

  • Morning: Start with sandcastle building, which is a gentle activity ideal for young children. They can use buckets and shovels to mold the sand, stimulating their creativity in a manageable way.
  • Midday: Engage in calm water play in the shallow end, under close adult supervision.
  • Afternoon: Wind down with a relaxing shell collecting walk, where children can find treasures to take home.

For young children:

  • Morning: Begin with more active beach games like tag or beach soccer, which utilize their higher energy levels.
  • Midday: Introduce a nature hunt to provide a structured exploration of the beach.
  • Afternoon: Participate in a supervised treasure hunt, which can be pre-planned with small trinkets for kids to discover.

Safety and Convenience Tips

General Safety:

  • Always keep a first-aid kit on hand for minor injuries.
  • Apply and reapply waterproof sunscreen with a high SPF to protect children’s sensitive skin from harmful UV rays.


  • Preschoolers and toddlers should always be within arm’s reach, especially near water.
  • Young children should be monitored closely, with designated adult supervision at all times.


  • Bring a pop-up tent for shade to provide a safe, sun-free area for children to rest.
  • Pack plenty of water and snacks to keep everyone hydrated and energized.

By adhering to age-appropriate activities and safety protocols, parents can provide a memorable and enjoyable beach experience for their children.

Off-Sand Adventures

Children building sandcastles, flying kites, and playing beach games under the bright sun with colorful umbrellas and beach toys scattered around

While the beach offers plenty of fun in the sand and surf, families can enhance their vacation experience by exploring off-sand adventures. These activities allow for a break from the beach while still making the most of the coastal setting and nearby attractions.

Local Attractions and Landmarks

Myrtle Beach, a popular vacation destination along the East Coast’s Grand Strand, boasts an array of local attractions that guarantee family fun beyond the beach. At Broadway at the Beach, visitors can explore unique shops, restaurants, and entertainment options including Ripley’s Aquarium where marine life dazzles all ages. For those seeking thrills, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk presents the SkyWheel, a giant ferris wheel offering panoramic views of the coast.

Long Beach also offers distinctive landmarks, such as the historic Queen Mary ocean liner, which is permanently docked and open for tours. Families can immerse themselves in history and take part in seasonal events hosted on the ship.

Hiking and Nature Trails

For families craving a dose of nature and scenic views, the hiking trails near beach areas provide a perfect family adventure. Myrtle Beach State Park offers serene trails through maritime forests, perfect for spotting local wildlife and bird watching. The Sculptured Oak Nature Trail and Yaupon Trail guide hikers on a journey through the park’s natural ecosystems.

On the West Coast, Long Beach boasts proximity to nature reserves with trails for all experience levels. El Dorado Nature Center, just a short drive from the city, features trails that wander through forests and wetlands, a vibrant escape from the bustling beach environment.

Evening Activities

Children building sandcastles, flying kites, and playing beach games under the setting sun with colorful beach toys scattered around

With the vibrant sunset as a backdrop, evening beach activities create the perfect setting for families to wind down. Warm sunny days give way to cooler evenings, suitable for relaxed gatherings and gentle exploration by the shore.

Sunset Barbecues

Sunset barbecues offer families an idyllic time to synergize dining with scenic beauty. They can set up a barbecue grill on designated beach spots, where safety allows, and cook their choice of foods. It’s vital to remember safety guidelines:

  • Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby in case of emergencies.
  • Monitor children and ensure they are at a safe distance from the heat source.
  • Dispose of coals and trash properly after the barbecue to protect the beach environment.

A beach barbecue is more than just cooking; it is about creating lasting memories. Families can enjoy their meal while sunbathing is replaced by stargazing, with the calming sound of the ocean waves.

Nighttime Beach Walks

Nighttime walks along the beach introduce families to a new, serene seascape. Here’s how to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:

  • Bring flashlights or wear headlamps but try to keep them pointed down to prevent disrupting wildlife.
  • Wear proper footwear to protect feet from sharp shells or hidden obstacles.
  • Stay aware of the tide to avoid becoming cut off from the main beach area.

Night walks can be magical, with the chance to spot bioluminescent plankton or listen to nocturnal sea creatures. Finding treasures such as seashells can be especially exciting for kids when discovered under the cloak of evening.

Adventure and Recreation

Children building sandcastles, flying kites, and playing beach games under the bright sun with waves crashing in the background

The beach isn’t just about relaxation; it’s a playground for adventure and recreation. Families can engage with local wildlife or indulge in a variety of sports and activities that cater to different age groups and interests.

Animal Encounters

Beaches often serve as a habitat for diverse marine life, providing children with the opportunity to observe and learn about different species in their natural environment. Guided tide pool tours allow them to safely explore and discover sea creatures such as starfish, crabs, and anemones. Additionally, some beaches offer the chance to watch for dolphins or participate in seabird spotting activities, turning a day at the beach into an educational experience.

Sports and Recreation

The wide expanse of sand and sea presents numerous sports and recreational opportunities for children. They can try beach volleyball or soccer for group play which not only is fun but also encourages teamwork. For thrill-seekers, activities like bodyboarding or taking lessons in surfing can provide an exhilarating experience, with safety as a priority. Recreational facilities near the beach may include attractions such as a skywheel, offering panoramic views of the coastline, or classic family entertainment with beachside bowling alleys. These activities provide diverse options for physical exercise and family fun.

Beach Etiquette and Conservation

Children building sandcastles, flying kites, and collecting seashells. Signs promoting beach cleanliness and conservation efforts

When visiting the beach with children, it’s essential to instill a sense of respect for the marine environment. Beach etiquette involves understanding the impact human actions have on the coastal ecosystem and modeling responsible behavior.

Beach Rules:

  • Leave No Trace: Ensure they pack all their garbage, leftover food, and personal items when leaving. Garbage can be harmful to marine life if left behind.
  • Respect Wildlife: Teach children to observe animals like seabirds and marine life from a distance without disturbing them.

Conservation Efforts:

  • Ecosystem Awareness: Explain to children the importance of dunes and how they protect the inland areas from waves and flooding. Instruct them to avoid trampling over dune vegetation which is crucial for coastal stability.
  • Driftwood’s Role: Driftwood should be left in place if found; it provides habitat for birds and other wildlife and contributes to beach stability.

Sustainable Practices:

  • Reusable Materials: Encourage the use of reusable water bottles, containers, and utensils to minimize plastic waste.
  • Conservation Activities: Participate in organized beach clean-ups or encourage children to pick up litter during their visit.

By teaching children beach etiquette and conservation, they become stewards of the environment, ensuring beaches remain vibrant for generations to come.

Accessibility and Accommodation

When planning a beach day with children, considering accessibility ensures that everyone can enjoy the seaside experience. Many beaches now offer features to accommodate guests with mobility challenges.

Wheelchair Access: Some beaches, like Virginia Beach, provide boardwalks with ramps leading down to the sand. These are paired with beach wheelchairs available at no cost. Beach wheelchairs typically feature large, wide wheels that can navigate the sand without sinking.

Parking: Accessible parking spaces closer to the beach entrance are often provided to minimize the distance to the sand. Visitors should look for designated parking signs.

Facilities: Public restrooms and changing areas may have accessible stalls and features. Checking ahead for their availability can make the visit more comfortable.

Accommodations Near the Shore: Beachfront resorts, such as The Sparhawk Oceanfront Resort in Maine, may offer accessible lodging options. Ensuring a nearby place to stay can enhance the experience for families who require rest periods or easy access to personal amenities.

Affordability: Access to the beach and its amenities is typically free or low-cost, although some resorts and private beaches may charge a fee. It’s best to research beforehand to find options that fit the family’s budget.

Families should always verify the current state of beach facilities and services before their visit, as these can change due to renovations, weather, and seasonal operations.

Local Culture and History

Exploring the beach with children offers a valuable opportunity to engage with local culture and history. The seashore is often dotted with remnants of the sea’s past, such as shells and driftwood. These items are not only fun to collect and observe but also act as storytellers of the marine environment and human history in the area.


  • They come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, and each can be unique to certain species of marine life.
  • Collecting shells can lead to discussions about the local marine biodiversity and the traditional uses of shells in indigenous crafts and trading.


  • Often found along the shore, sculpted by the ocean and time.
  • It serves as a natural canvas to understand the effects of natural forces, like tides and currents.

By engaging with these natural artifacts, children learn to appreciate the nuanced history that shapes the coastal regions they visit. Parents and guardians can encourage children to imagine the life of a seashell or the journey of a piece of driftwood, which may have traveled great distances, telling a story of the ocean’s vast network and its historical trade routes. Beachcombing becomes an educational adventure, providing insights into the past while fostering a connection with the region’s cultural heritage.

Families can further enrich their experience by visiting local museums or cultural centers that offer historical context to the items they find at the beach, thereby deepening the understanding of the area’s local history and culture.

Stephanie Creek