Fun and active beach games for kids

Turn those fun beach days into something a bit more special.

Looking for fun and free ways to enjoy the summer sun and shore without taking along the entire toy cupboard? Read on for our top active beach games for kids…

There is no doubt that South Africa is home to some of the most gorgeous beaches globally. And it is no surprise that many families flock to the beach for the holidays, with most of the country experiencing warm sunny days throughout the year. When it comes to keeping children entertained, we know that it often unleashes hours of imaginative, active play if you offer children the opportunity to play with sand and water. But if you really want to turn those fun beach days into something a bit more special and make your next family vacation unforgettable, try these six fun children’s beach games! 

Beach obstacle course

This game offers a great alternative to swimming in the sea and will encourage your children to be active and use up plenty of energy.

If your kids love the idea of obstacle courses at home, a beach obstacle course is just as fun. It’s an ideal opportunity for your children to enhance their gross motor skills, says Roxanne Harrison, mom of three girls, aged 8, 6, and 4. “You just need to think out the box a little and create a circuit of activities/obstacles for your kids to complete in one go.” The mini obstacle course can be as small or as big as you want it to be, depending on your child’s age, energy level, and space on the beach.

Some ideas include:

  • Draw a circle in the sand that your kids have to run around
  • Build sandcastles your kids must jump over
  • Draw 3 squares in a row (like hopscotch) that your kids need to hop across with one leg
  • Build a tall sandcastle to bash down
  • Leave spades on the ground which your kids need to use to dig a large hole
  • Use buckets to run with and fill with water, sand, and so on.

Colour collecting

Children of all ages can play this game as it encourages colour recognition and counting, and concentration.

Choose a few colours, such as white, green, brown, and/or yellow, and draw a few large circles on the beach with a stick. Then, ask your children to collect as many objects in that particular colour as possible and put them into the various circles. You could turn this into a race for older children and time them. Whoever collects the most objects in a set amount of time wins!

A beach treasure hunt

This game is not only exciting; it also encourages problem-solving, concentration, and determination – depending on how hard/easy you make the hunt. And, of course, there’s nothing better than winning a prize for finding the treasure.

Please bring a few of your children’s toys to the beach in various sizes (or you could use natural elements such as seaweed, shells, and sticks) and spend some time burying them in a section of the sand. Older children might also like the idea of searching for ‘treasures’ among the rock pools. Once your children have found all the treasures, reward them with something special such as a swim in the sea, a delicious snack or ‘prize’ which might be a small toy you’ve bought. TIP: If you have some time to plan for this game, you could even draw a small map with clues and help your children follow the clues to find the hidden treasure.

Beanbag ‘shot put’

Games that focus on aiming and throwing are ideal for promoting hand-eye coordination. They’re also great for improving posture, building strength in the arms and shoulders, and helping your kids experience the difference between using the left and right hand.

Bring bean bags or a few balls from home, and use the space on the beach to see how far you can throw the items. The person who throws the furthest wins the game. Another idea is to create a target – either by using a small rock, a bunch of seaweed, or a group of shells and encourage your child to aim and hit the target with the balls or beanbags.

Dumbing and building

This game is a real hit with boys and girls, as well as babies and toddlers who aren’t walking yet. It also allows you some time to sit and watch your child under the umbrella as it’s a relatively quiet activity that doesn’t require too much running around.

Bring your kids’ construction vehicles, such as diggers, tractors, and trucks, to the beach and let them use them to dump beach sand into the buckets to help build sandcastles. Rather than simply using a spade, which can get boring after a while, this takes ‘building sandcastles’ to a whole new level! You can also show your kids how to build mini ramps out of the sand and let the vehicles slide down the ramps and into puddles of seawater.

Shaving cream fun

This game scores an A+ for being one of the best sensory activities your child could do. As the sand and shaving foam squish and squelch together, it engages most of the senses all at once, including sight, smell, touch, and sound.

All you need is a bottle of shaving cream and some beach sand, and you’re good to go with this one. When you arrive at the beach, collect some beach sand in a bucket (fine, dry beach sand works well for this), and let your child mix the shaving cream with the beach sand. It’ll form a type of squishy putty/playdough that kids adore. Candice Tehini Blignaut, mom of twin boys aged 3, discovered this game when her boys were younger, and it’s remained a firm beach favourite, even as the boys have gotten older. “They love the feeling of the putty and can make shapes out of it quite easily using their buckets and spades,” she adds. It’s a great beach activity because it’s a little different, and as the parent, you don’t need to stress as much about the mess!

For rainy days

Collect plenty of shells with your little ones when the weather is good, and make certain you save them for the rainy days at home. Candice uses all the shells she collects with her boys as playdough moulds for days at home when the weather isn’t great. Or they collect white shells and spend time painting them and/or sticking them onto paper to make special shapes or patterns.