In this day and age of computer-savvy kids, iPod-tuned-out teens and easy burn-out, good old-fashioned family fun at the beach can be just the ticket to bring everyone closer together. I've had so many family reunions at the beach, I've started naming starfish.
Ah, a field trip to the beach. Soul food and family time. There’s no greater good. In the spirit of creating family memories without all the hoopla of our modern age, here are classic beach activities, (mostly) no purse strings attached.
1. Sand castle contests
Pile it up high and sculpt a castle fit for royalty. Then challenge your family members to do the same and have an objective person be the judge.
2. Body surfing
Fling yourself on a wave and ride it board-free to the shore. It sounds easy, but can be surprisingly challenging. Stay safe by body surfing in areas where you can touch easily. With little kids, you can make the lapping waves fun by sitting in them and letting the water gently toss you ashore.
Inspiring big-wave body surfing photos from Hawaii: http://www.surfermag.com/photos/surfera-team/daveybdysrfing05/
Safety tips for body surfing (from a UK site, but many apply to any beach):
3. Beach soccer
Shed the shin guards, shoes and kick the soccer ball down the beach in a family-friendly game of soccer with sand as your field. This leisure sport seems to be gaining popularity as there’s an annual tournament for kids ages 9 to 18 from around the world: North American Sand Soccer Tournament.
4. Row, row, row your boat
Boating, kayaking and canoeing are all great ways to experience the beach with your family. Water activities are half the reason we scramble to the beach anyway. Bring inflatable rafts, rent a paddle boat or kayak, or take an excursion that’s often available at popular beach destinations.
5. Picnic on the beach
Eating is its own activity, especially with families. At family reunions, it can often feel like a circus. Yet some of the best family conversations take place while gathered for a meal. The necessity of eating, the pleasure of food itself, along with the social nature of dining together all make beach picnics great as a mellow, yet bonding, family activity.
6. Rock stacking
A time-honored art going as far back as Stonehenge (probably farther), it’s easy to take rocks and make art formations, assuming you’re at a beach with rocks. I’ve recently discovered the Zen-like satisfaction of stacking rocks and found that there are many rock stackers who make it a big part of their lives. Give it a try.
7. Skipping rocks
How many skips can one rock make? That’s for you to find out. Grab a handful of as many skipping rocks (round-ish, flat-ish) as you can, angle yourself toward the water, and toss each stone so it bounces, leaps or skims across the surface just right.
The Brits call it stone skimming. The Irish call it stone scuffing. The French call it ricochet. There’s even a stone skipping association. Join the multitudes of people who skip beach rocks and develop your own, unique technique.
8. 50-yard splash dash
Mark start and finish lines in the sand, just above the surf line, have someone stand at the finish line as objective judge (if your family members are competitive) and go for the gold. You can adapt this to a relay race, handing off driftwood as a baton. Reward all "winners" with ice cream!
9. Kite flying
A family staple at the beach, kite flying has been around since the dawn of kites. Want to find any kind of kite, learn its history and see how it operates? Check out this Encyclopedia Britannica award-winning site on kites. (Note: The kites.org site is low-tech, but the information is highly valuable for kite-lovers.)
10. Playing Frisbee or catch
Nothing beats a classic. Something as simple as a driftwood bat knocking a ball out of the sandy ballpark or a Frisbee gliding smoothly into your hands turns the beach into your own, personal playground.
Did I miss a great family beach game or activity? Post a comment at the end of this article and let me know.