Children and families

Bring the beach home to keep kids active

Posted July 11, 2011, at 1:15 p.m.

Summer has settled in for good this week, with long days of sun making perfect beach weather. The beach is an ideal place for kids to exercise without realizing it, because they’re having so much fun. Even if your schedule won’t let you get to the beach during the week, there are plenty of beach-related activities to do at home, indoors and out.

Monday: Indoor sandbox

Every child loves to dig in the sand at the beach, and an indoor sandbox can give them that experience every day. Find a large, shallow plastic container — the ones that roll under the bed are nice — and buy a bag of play sand from the hardware or garden store. Fill the container to within four inches from the top. Use empty plastic yogurt or margarine containers for digging and forming castles. Provide a spray bottle of water to moisten the sand for better castle building. Use a funnel to make a stream of sand and cookie cutters to decorate the castle. Have the children bury “treasures” such as small toys and dig for them with an old spoon or sift through the sand with their fingers. (Make sure anything buried is age-appropriate to reduce choking hazards.) Roll the “sandbox” out onto an old shower curtain or plastic tablecloth to make cleanup easier.

Tuesday: Backyard water slide

Take an old plastic tarp or shower curtain and set it up on a small hill. (The longer the tarp, the better the slide). This also can be done on a flat area; the kids will just have to work a little harder for their slide. Wet the tarp down with a hose, and then leave the hose on a trickle across the tarp. Dribble a line of liquid dish detergent down the middle of the tarp, and your water park is complete. Get the kids into their bathing suits and let them take a running dive and slide. Try different positions — belly, side and sitting — and see who can go the farthest. Kids who are worried about scrapes can slide on a wet towel. Don’t forget the sunscreen, and be sure to have the video camera handy.

Wednesday: Salty sunset at the beach

Start with a piece of white construction paper. Dribble white liquid glue over the paper. Sprinkle handfuls of coarse rock salt over the bottom of the paper and fine table salt over the top. Scatter drops of food coloring over the salt: blue and green for the rock-salt ocean, and red and yellow for the table-salt sky. Encourage your child to think up variations — an ocean floor with fish or coral reefs in it? Cut out fish or coral plants to glue on under the water and white clouds or sea gulls to glue into the sky. Let the glue dry and hang where the sunlight will catch the salt crystals.

Thursday: Underwater animal play

These activities do a great job to increase upper body strength. Have your children pretend to be different sea creatures. Start with the crab walk: Sit on the floor, then “walk” using their hands and feet with their rear end hanging down. Which is easier, backward, forward or sidewise? Who can go the farthest? Next, try “eel crawling” using just the arms and elbows to pull forward across the floor or lawn. String a line across the room or yard to cross under. Finally, see if they can squirm forward using just their bodies, keeping their arms tight to their sides. Is it possible to do? Can it be done side-lying? Time them over a distance and see which method is fastest.

Friday: An edible beach

Make instant vanilla pudding with your children, letting them measure and stir it. Divide it into four shallow bowls. Have them use their fingers to crush dry cereal for “sand” to sprinkle over the pudding — use a crispy rice cereal for realistic color or go wild with multicolored loops for rainbow sand. Using tweezers, have them push candy fish or gummy worms under the pudding or place colored candies or jelly beans as “shells” or “rocks” on the beach. Take pictures of each child with their creation. Chill the beaches, then enjoy!

Cathy Strasser is an occupational therapist and freelance writer with more than 25 years’ experience working in the school system. She lives in Sugar Hill, N.H., with her husband. Visit her website at www.cathystrasser.com .

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