21 fun and active games for kids to play on the beach

21 fun and active games for kids to play on the beach

While beaches may not come to mind as Canadian tourist destinations, Canada is home to some of the world’s most stunning beaches, several of the most notable of which you can find in our list to the right. And that list represents only a smattering of the gorgeous beaches this country has to offer.

Beach holidays can be wonderful family getaways if you’re prepared. Of course, sand and water are a combination that invite free play and will trigger most kids’ imaginations to create fabulous, undirected games and activities.

But having a list of engaging ideas in your back pocket might mean the difference between them wanting to pack it in after only an hour at the beach and not being able to drag them home after several.

The following fun beach games are great for kids and will also help them develop basic movement skills.

1. How Low Can You Go?

Nothing beats good-old digging in the sand. Get your kids to see how deep of a hole they can dig and when they’ve dug as far as they can, see if an adult can fit in the hole or see how long it takes to fill the hole with water. Please remember to fill in any holes you dig in the sand when you’re done playing for the safety of other people using the beach.

Required: shovels and varying levels of attention span

Skills developed: lifting and lowering objects

LEARN MORE Playing helps kids be more successful at school

2. Mini Golf

Let your child bring out their inner Phil Mickelson and spend a day at the sandy links. Pick up a plastic set of clubs and balls at your local dollar store or improvise with what you have on hand at the beach. Set up a few targets to aim for or dig holes in the sand to practice your child’s short game.

Required: a set of clubs and balls

Skills developed: striking, coordination

3. Beach Frisbee Golf

Substitute a plain old game of frisbee with frisbee golf. Set up targets using items you brought to the beach (could be a picnic blanket, an umbrella, a towel, or you could even dig a hole in the sand to aim at). Take turns trying to throw your frisbee as close to the target as you can. Make sure smaller kids are allowed to stand closer to the target than the bigger ones to keep frustration levels to a minimum.

Required: at least one frisbee

Skills developed: throwing

4. Water Bucket Relay

Kids love relay races, and at the beach the old egg and spoon race can be replaced with a water bucket relay. Give each child a plastic cup, spoon, or large shell and have them run to the water, fill their carrying implement, and race to empty it in a bucket. Kids love the challenge of trying to keep the water from spilling before they get it into their bucket.

Required: a bucket and carrying tool for each child

Skills developed: balance, agility

5. Let’s Go Fly A Kite

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a child who doesn’t love to fly a kite. Even if there isn’t a lot of wind, kids can run with kites and have a great time watching them fly behind them. Kites can be purchased in toy stores, dollar stores, or made by kids before the beach day.

Required: a store-bought or home-made kite

Skills developed: running

Three adults and two kids run across the beach as one of the adults flies a kite above them.

6. Limbo at the Beach

The limbo dance originated in Trinidad in the 1800s. Bring it to the 21st century with a fun beach version. With two people holding the ends of a pool noodle, jump rope, or boat oar, have each child take a turn trying to go under the “bar” with their backs facing the sand. After each child has succeeded at a certain height of the bar, lower it again and again. If you can play music without disturbing other vacationers, pick a selection of fun beach tunes.

Required: an item to use as a bar and music (optional)

Skills developed: balance, falling, and tumbling

7. Beach Bowling

Line up empty bottles or bring your own dollar store plastic pins and balls. The best part about beach bowling is that you don’t have to rent shoes that have been worn a few hundred times. Remember to let the smaller kids line up closer to the pins.

Required: a set of pins and balls

Skills developed: throwing

8. Beach Volleyball

Depending on the ages of the kids playing, a real volleyball and net can be set up. For the smaller set, a beach ball and a towel are great substitutes. Try to count the number of times you can get the ball back and forth.

Required: a ball (some beaches have nets set up)

Skills developed: volleying, throwing

9. Tug of War, Beach Style

Using a skipping rope or towels tied together, stand at the water’s edge. Divide the kids (and adults) into two teams. Make sure the middle of the rope is right over a line drawn in the sand. Hand the ends of the rope to each team and show them how to pull. Be prepared to end up in the water!

Required: a skipping rope and strong muscles

Skills developed: balance

10. Squirt Ball

Kids can work together or compete against each other in this fun game. Give each child a beach ball and squirt gun or spray bottle and have them stand across a line drawn in the sand. Each child has to squirt their ball with all of their might to get it across another line down the beach. Run to the water’s edge to refill squirt guns if water runs out or to begin the game again.

Required: squirt guns and beach balls

Skills developed: running, hand/eye coordination

11. Sand Hopscotch

Bring the popular hopping game to the beach! Using a stick or rock, draw a grid on the sand and use rocks or shells for markers. If the sand is hot, don’t forget your flip flops or water shoes.

Required: nothing to bring along other than a bounce in your step

Skills developed: hopping, throwing

12. “Parachute” Games

Kids love parachute games. Adults love parachute games. So grab a large beach towel and a beach ball, hold the ends and sides of the towel with the ball in the middle of the towel, and see how high that ball can bounce. Aim for the sky!

Required: a beach towel and beach ball

Skills developed: lifting and lowering, motor control of hands and arms

13. Slithery Snake Game

Have two kids or adults hold the ends of a skipping rope down on the sand. Wiggle the rope slowly or quickly depending on the age of the children and have the kids jump over the rope without getting touched by the “snake”. Warning: this game may trigger squeals of fun.

Required: a skipping rope

Skills developed: hopping and jumping

14. Bubble Blowing

A beach is a great wide space to blow and chase bubbles. And if the bubble juice spills on your bathing suit, simply head for the water to wash yourself off. The dollar store is a great source for multiple shapes and sizes of bubble blowers and bubble juice, or you can make your own bubble blowers and juice at home before you head to the beach. And we’ve got an activity [PDF] you can make part of your play.

Required: bubble juice and blowers

Skills developed: running, jumping, motor control of arms

A family sits on a blanket on the each. The daughter plays with a sand toy while her father blows bubbles.

15. Bocce Ball

Bocce ball is so simple for all ages to learn and to play. A “jack” or target is thrown on the sand. Players then throw their weighted balls and the one who gets their ball closest to the target wins a point. The game continues until a certain number of points are reached. If you don’t own a bocce set, improvise with rocks and other beach treasures. Just always make sure no one is walking by when it’s your turn to throw!

Required: bocce set or beach treasures

Skills developed: throwing

16. Build an Inukshuk

What could be more Canadian than building a beautiful inukshuk? Have your children gather stones or sea glass of various sizes and let them build their own landmark. The tallest inukshuk ever recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records is over 37 feet tall but odds are good that your children will probably produce an item slightly smaller in size.

Required: tones and/or sea glass

Skills developed: coordination

More fun in the sun

Tried all of the above and still looking for more? Okay, you guys are totally winning the beach Olympics! Here are some more ideas that offer a bit of a twist on the typical beach activities and are a fun way for kids of all ages to play.

17. Beach Treasure Hunt

Supply each child with a list (can be a written list or a list with pictures) and a bucket in which they can collect their treasures. Have your kids hunt for driftwood, shells, rocks, crabs, something round, something blue, a feather, etc. The list can be as long or as short as you feel your child will be able to handle.

Required: a bucket in which to collect the treasures; a prepared list of items

18. Sand Angels

Canadian kids definitely have experience in the art of snow angels. Transfer those skills to the sand and make summer angels. Sure the kids will get sandy but that’s half the fun!

Required: no aversion to sand in your hair

19. Do You Want to Build a Sandman?

Another chance to transfer your winter skills to the beach! Instead of a snowman, build a sandman! A sandman can be decorated with pebbles, shells or rocks for eyes and mouths. Children can use their creative skills to use other beach treasures such as feathers or seaweed for their sandman’s noses, arms, clothing, etc.

Required: the knowledge that you’ll get a little sandy – plus a bucket, shovel, and beach treasures

20. Sand Castles / Forts / Animals

No trip to the beach is complete without digging in the sand. But why limit yourself to building sandcastles (though castles are always fun, too)? Let your kids’ imaginations run wild and ask them to make a creation of their own. If you’re building close to the water, make sure you get photographs of all creations before the tide comes in.

Required: shovels, buckets, sticks, and any other items that could be used to make a fun sand creation

21. Picasso in the Sand

Using a stick, hands, shovels, or rocks, have kids draw a picture, a word, or letters in the sand. Or use treasures collected on the beach to make a drawing.

Required: a drawing implement and a creative mind

Whether you’re heading to the ocean or the lake, pack some basic beach toys, hats, and sunscreen, and prepare to have fun (and don’t forget the healthy snacks and water to keep them energized and hydrated).

Enjoy your beach trip and please send us a postcard to tell us how it went. Or save a stamp and leave us a comment below; what worked and what didn’t. And if you have any outdoor game ideas to add to our list, let us know.

And for 6 more creative beach activities — that don’t require any apparatus — click here.

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62 responses to “21 fun and active games for kids to play on the beach

  1. I have two additional ones, but I’m aware that one of them only works on a beach that is tidal (e.g. the difference between high tide and low tide is clear. I now know that not every beach has much of a difference). I’m in the UK and the first one that we used to do was called a Tide Fight. In groups you build as big a mound of sand as you could, you put something on it (like a flag or, in the 1980s, a child) and you wait for the tide to come in. The tide will wash the mounds away and which ever team still have their flag on top when the other team’s lag have fallen, they win. You have to pay a bit of attention to where you think is the best place to do this, so that you neither have to wait too long for the tide or not have barely any time before the sea consumes your mound, but that’s just a judgement call. We did one recently and lots of onlookers stopped to see who would win our contest. Good for long, Cornish beaches.
    The second one is a Helter Skelter competition. Again, you can divide into teams (or you can just do one if you are a small family on a beach) and you build a mound of sand. Then you make a pathway for a ball (you can use any small, smooth ball that does the job, but we use a golf ball) that goes around and around your mound so that the ball can roll from top to bottom. If you play this in teams, the winning group is the one that makes the ball take the longest to consistently roll from the top to the bottom.

  2. That is a nice job, I found many kids’ games on this website. I really like this website

  3. I also appreciated the amount of writing and resources that were provided. It made the information easy to understand and follow. I will surely be sharing this blog with my friends and family.

  4. Wow.. It’s very interesting blog and I just like these all ideas. These games are very interesting to play on beach. I will share this blog with my friends so whenever we will plan for outing, we can read your blog. good Job!

  5. These ideas are great thanks. We’re renting a house with a private beach next week and we will have 6 kids ages 2-8. So all these ideas are perfect for this trip since we don’t have to worry about other people around, just the safety of our children.

  6. All your ideas are superb and of course i will tweak them according to risk level based on child’s age and also annoyance to others is another big factor as well. Totally creative and awesome!

  7. I admire the effort in this article, but before any parents do some of these, please consider if they’d Be annoying to the other people around you on the beach. Bubbles floating toward the water great. A bubble gun or machine puts out a ton of bubbles. If they are blowing right at someone else, that’s not ideal. Also, golf balls? And relay races sound fun and practical. If parents remind kids not to run right past some poor person laying on a towel and getting a face fun of sand.

  8. I agree with some of the comments. The hole game is a little dangerous if you are trying to dig a hole as deep as you can. As long as there is adult supervision, it should be fine. I dig holes at the beach everyday, and I am perfectly fine. I recommend these beach games:
    1) Beach Volleyball with a real net
    2) Skim-boarding (For older kids)
    3) YOLO Boarding
    4) Inflatable Pool float Unicorn or Swan
    5) Droopy Sandcastles (If you don’t know what that is, you basically get a bucket with sand and water in it and get some of the wet sand out and droop it)
    6) Doing Gymnastics into the water (Such as cartwheels, front walkovers, and back walkovers)
    7) Going kind of deep and swimming under the big waves. *Adult Supervision Required* (Be careful, Maybe for 12 and up)

    1. I love your ideas! So cool!
      Me and my brother recommend some of these games!
      -Burying yourself in sand (get someone to help you) Up to your waist
      And shape the sand like a mermaid
      -diving under waves
      – get goggles and go close the sand (underwater) and find
      Some shells!
      – play music softly and get an umbrella and towel and lay with your eyes closed

  9. Thank you for sharing such wonderful information.
    Here are some additional beach games list for kids.
    1) Bury a friend
    2) Beach ball hot potato
    3) A river at the beach
    4) Slithery rope snake

  10. There are some new games that I have not played till now and surely I will try these games in the future. I love to play cornhole game, washers game and a Disc golf game with my family and friends in my free time. You can add these games to your blog as well.

    Rest, a very nice blog & keep posting such informative blogs in the future as well.

  11. Not to be that person but in my opinion the first activity about digging is not really safe for children. Because when they are digging they might get in their hole to get it deeper and the sand might collapse on them. Just putting that out there.

    1. It’s called supervision… digging in sand is no more dangerous than playing in water. Watch your kids and everyone has fun.

    2. That is literally the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. What child doesn’t want dig in the sand?? Obviously depending on the age of the child would easily determine the size of the hole.

      I cannot imagine that you’re unable to understand that anyone would abbreviate the game according to its players.

  12. Hello. I love how low can you go and added a twist on it. I call it home sweet home. There are challenges such as comfiest, lowest, and most spacious. I do not recommend digging a very deep hole though because my brother could not get out one time. Thanks tho!

  13. I love your game ideas and we’ve played a bunch of them now! We love the wooden spoon game most but now have run out of categories to play with. Where did you come up with your categories and do you have any others to pass along? Thanks for your fun ideas!

  14. I was hoping I could see martial arts summer camp or a basketball camp. I have 2 boys and these two is their favorite sports. But the activities on your list is pretty interesting. I think we need a family meeting and show this to our boys. Thank you, Susan, for a wonderful post.

  15. We do beach and board games at least once a year.

    One game that I think has the perfect theme for this is High Tide, a push your luck game where you move your chairs closer to the waves on the beach as the tide is coming in.

    Also, Walk the Plank usually comes out at some point.

  16. There’s a game called octopus in which one child is a tagger and he/she calls octopus. Everyone runs and the tagger tries to get them. Once the tagger/octopus caches someone and they are seaweed and they can tag people but they can’t run around.

  17. My kids have enjoyed playing catch with a velcro paddle and a tennis ball. the tennis ball is soft and you throw it back and forth to another person and the paddle has velcro on it to catch the tennis ball. Very fun and the ball is not hard like a softball or baseball. You can buy these at walmart or other beach stores.

    Also, as a kid I would search for periwinkles. They are small shells that as they come in with the waves, they immediately bury themselves into the sand but if you are quick you can catch them and put them in a jar with sand and you have something alive from the ocean. They are also edible, though very small. You often find the small shells on the beach but catching live ones are really fun.

    Also, looking for black shark teeth in the sand. It is fun to get small and large ones!

  18. Please don’t encourage digging holes in the sand. Sand hole collapses are life threatening dangers that too many people are unaware of. The damp sand of the sand walls dries quickly when exposed to the sun and will suddenly collapse trapping anyone in the hole. Lifeguards don’t have an effective way to quickly rescue people from the sand and brain cells begin to die after a few minutes. Unfortunately I learned this lesson from my sons sand accident.

    1. We’re very sorry to hear about your personal experience, M.G. We don’t want to minimize your experience, but we don’t think that the kind of sand castle building and sand activities that we’re talking about here are going to create holes so deep that they are potentially catastrophic.

      1. I was referring specifically to the first suggestion “How Low Can You Go” where it is suggested parents have their children “dig a hole as far as they can”. The professionals who have researched this problem have stated “a hole in the sand should never be deeper than the knees of the shortest person there.” If this article is going to continue to promote digging sand holes for the safety of others it would be helpful to remind people to fill in any hole they dig at the beach before leaving.

          1. lol dont bother. you can die crossing a rd these days. tired of people whinging about everything that can hurt you. my son lost his arm riding a motobike. Should i yell at all the mums and dads encouraging their kids to ride bikes? No.

          2. While it’s true that we don’t want to become too risk-averse – kids actually benefit from risk taking because that’s how they learn capabilities and limits and rules – we don’t ever want to make light of personal tragedy, Arid.

            And we can certainly take some responsibility for the safety of others after we’re done with our activities. That’s about being a good citizen.

          3. It may seem like a far-fetched risk, but I cringed, too, when I saw #1 on the list was to dig a super deep hole and see if an adult could stand in it. I live on a small island off NC USA, and we have deaths and injuries every year from tourists digging deep holes that collapse on them or people fall into when walking the beach at night and get injured.

            It’s helpful info if you aren’t familiar with sandy environments, as it is a real danger.

            Also, Arid, no one was whining, or yelling at anyone. Perhaps if you exercised a bit more caution your child would still have both arms.

          4. It’s in the paragraph right before the list, Susan. “Please remember to fill in any holes you dig in the sand when you’re done playing for the safety of other people using the beach.”

          5. Wow advising kids to dig deep holes in the sand supervised or not is quite foolish and dangerous. You were given the facts and best information by M.G. and still no warning of collapse.

  19. i was searching for some really interesting beach games and here is the place where i got exactly what i wanted…..thnksss….

  20. I was looking for an article with some beach game idea for the kids and that article is something like that. You have taken the time to make the list and I think you cover almost all beach game. Thanks for sharing mate.

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