Beyond sandcastles: Games you can play on the beach

Sandcastles become magic memory makers and a line in the sand brings families together. A day at the beach can be great fun for the whole family. Here are some games to play when you go.

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  • In the summer, beaches are teeming with little kids and sand buckets just itching to build sandcastles. As kids, Drip castles were our favorite. We would use our tiny chubby fingers to "milk" the sandy water drops and build the tallest castle ever. When you have all day on the beach, sandcastles are a fun way to get creative, especially when your sandcastle becomes "condo-sized." But, when you want to go beyond sandcastles, here are some fun games to enjoy on every beach.

  • The Fox and the Goose

  • Have everyone line up, shuffle your feet while you move in a large circle cut into fourths with an "X." You've just constructed the game board and have everything you need. Everyone picks a spot on the outside of the circle. The person elected "fox" stands in the middle of the "X." You must stay on the lines. The fox tries to capture the geese one by one. Get tagged and your "goose is cooked," or you're out. Last goose cooked becomes the fox. The more people who play, the larger the circle should be. This is a great way to wear your kids out.

  • Tic Tac Toe

  • This is especially good for a rocky beach. Gather rocks and small pieces of drift wood or other objects. Divide them out with one player having all the rocks, the other all the wood. Draw a tic-tac-toe board on the sand and have a tournament.

  • Forts

  • Grassy dunes are great spots for little ones to build forts. All you really need is a beach blanket or towel and somewhere to prop it up. Kids can make a little hideaway from things they find on the beach. However, as tempting as it can be to dig a big hole on the beach, it's not recommended. We have seen children crushed and buried by the heavy sand as the hole collapses. Also, a police car may drive into the hole when it's attempting a water rescue. Also, do not climb on large logs that may roll, or play on driftwood floating in the water. Instead, stick to manageable-sized pieces of driftwood.

  • Skimboarding. This is a great one for teens. It requires a skimboard, a flat wooden board about the size of a skateboard, found at most beachfront shops. Run along the shore where the waves go in and out. When a wave comes in and is going back out throw your board, or "skim" it, along the top of the receding water. You only need an inch or two of water. Then run until you catch the board and jump right on the board for the ride. Make sure you put more pressure on your back foot than your front when skimming. Keep in mind, you will fall until you get the hang of it. Here is a video of the Slappy Squad.

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  • Capture the flag

  • This is a great game for a large open beach and a big crowd.

  • Beach Volleyball

  • . Some beaches have volleyball nets already set up. Take the time to research the beach you are visiting and see what amenities they offer. We have also used PVC and rope to create the illusion of a net. It's enough for family fun with a good imagination.

  • Shell sorting

  • . Collecting shells can be great, especially for younger children. If the beach has enough shells, you can set a child down and have him sort them by type. This is a great quiet time activity for a smaller child. Small children are happy with any shell, even a broken one. Celebrate every treasure. Pack plastic grocery sacks for shell collecting.

  • Buried Treasure

  • If you can get to the beach before your children, bury some fun treats, or old jewelry in a jar or box and draw a treasure map. Use driftwood, rocks, and other landmarks. For example, have your children "walk 20 paces" to a log, then turn due west. This can be as easy or as hard as you want to make it, and is great fun for the family.

  • Relays

  • . Beaches are often very open and fun places to run. Set up a relay with buckets and have kids on each team run back and forth from the water with a cup trying to fill their bucket before the next team does. This can also be done with a pile of shells and a bucket. Have each team take one shell to the bucket at a time.

  • Tug o' War

  • All you need is a rope or a sheet. This is a great game to play with the whole family. Divide the family into two teams, making each team relatively equal in height and strength. Then, draw a line in the sand. The first team to pull the other team over the line wins.

  • Fly a kite

  • There are normally no obstructing power lines or trees on a beach. It really is the perfect place to fly a kite. There is normally a breeze flowing over the water to help lift your little one's kite. Homemade kites are the best.

  • No matter what games you play, or what beach you're visiting, spending time with your family is very rewarding. Build a relationship with your children while you play games and build sandcastles, it will last long after the tide washes your sandcastle away.

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Shannon and Erin are a mother and daughter with lots of children and Utah and Oregon roots.

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