How to Keep Your Kids Busy at the Beach

How to keep your kids busy at the beach? Wait, what? Isn’t the beach one of the most entertaining places on earth for kids of all ages? Yes, yes it is. Most days all you have to do is step out of your Topsail Island oceanfront rental and onto the beach, and they are as happy as clams.

But then there are those days where you need a few extras (parents, you know what we mean). So just in case you have a day or two like that during your Topsail, NC beach vacation— we’ve got you covered with these fun, family-friendly beach activities for the kids and kids at heart.

Here are some of the easiest and most popular games, activities and classic beach fun to keep your kids happily amused while you sit back and soak up the sun.

Sand Play

Beach Treasure Hunt: A beach treasure hunt is fun for all ages. You can either hide objects, toys or coins in the sand for the kids to find, or you can keep it even simpler by creating a list on paper or in the sand of things they need to find and retrieve from the beach.


Build a Sandman: Forget about building a snowman, build a sandman instead! Use wet sand to create your base and then get creative with the rest. Sunglasses, goggles, flippers, flip flops, beach towels, and other beach accessories make perfect accents.


Bury Each Other in the Sand: What child doesn’t love the opportunity to bury their sibling in the sand? …Or friend, or parent… (if you’re down with that). Goggles or sunglasses might be helpful as a preventative measure for keeping sand out of the eyes. Then it’s time to switch places!


Oil Drilling: This is a classic beach activity where kids have 5 minutes (or any time period you choose) to dig a hole in the sand. Whoever has the deepest hole when time’s up is the winner. Just remember to fill up any holes you make in the sand when you’re done! You don’t want anyone to get hurt or provide any dangerous obstacles to sea turtles and their hatchlings.


Sand Angels: This is a fun activity for the littlest ones to enjoy. Sand angels are made the same way as snow angels. You can even add a few shells for decoration.


Sand Drawing: Kids love to draw and the beach can be their canvas. Have them draw pictures in the sand using their hands, sticks or shells. You can draw a frame first that each child has to draw their picture inside or have them start from scratch and you can judge the best picture.


Sand Hopscotch: Draw a hopscotch grid on the sand and use shells as markers. Kids love it!


Sand Sculptures: You can get really creative with these—sculpting turtles, aliens, or anything you want. Decorate with shells and pebbles for added effect.


Sandcastle Building: Make it a team competition between two different sandcastles, or give the kids a time limit to finish their own masterpiece. However you do it, sandcastle building is fun for all ages.


Easy Beach Games

Beach Scavenger Hunt: Supply each child with a list (it can be written or drawn with pictures) and a bucket in which they can collect their treasures.


Bucket Ball: Use some buckets and a tennis ball to have kids take turns aiming and tossing the ball into the buckets, or you can buy the commercially produced game and bring it with you to the beach.


Fill a Bucket Relay: Place small plastic buckets away from the water, one bucket for each person or team. The aim is to be the first to fill the bucket with water from the sea, using only hands to carry it. (Younger children can use cups or sponges instead of their hands.)


Parachute” Games with a Beach Towel: 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!


Sand Bull’s Eye: Draw three circles in the sand and collect some stones and shells. Players have to throw the stones into the circles for points (one for the big outer circle, two for the middle circle and three for the center circle).


Sand Pictionary: Write down a list of beach objects on separate scraps of paper (sand castle, ice cream, crab, etc.). Fold them up and put them in a bucket. Set a timer for 1 minute. One child picks out a piece of paper from the bucket and has to draw in the sand the object that is written on it. The other kids have to guess what is being drawn. After each correct guess the drawer then picks another bit of paper and keeps drawing as many objects as they can in 1 minute. The drawer scores a point for each drawing that was correctly guessed by the other kids. Another child then becomes the drawer and does the same thing. This can also be done in teams of 2 or more—the drawer from each team reads the same bit of paper and tries to get only their teammate to guess, racing against the other team.


Seek and Retrieve: Assign a part of the beach as a boundary, and tell everyone who’s playing to bring back the most interesting thing they can find within the boundary area. Bonus points for whoever gets back first.


Squirt Ball: Bring water guns and a beach ball to the beach, and draw a line in the sand for each team. Place the beach ball between the two lines. Players have to use the squirted water to get the beach ball over the other team’s line.


Classic Beach Activities

Beach Volleyball: Beach volleyball is so fun. Enjoy a mixed game of kids and adults or divide up teams any way you choose. For the smaller kids, a beach ball and a towel are great substitutes for a net and volleyball. Try to count the number of times they can get the ball back and forth.


Beach Frisbee Golf: Try substituting a game of regular frisbee with frisbee golf for a new twist. 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.


Bocce Ball: Bocce ball is an easy game 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!


Bubble Blowing: Don’t underestimate the entertaining power of a simple bottle of bubbles. The beach is the perfect wide-open space for kids to blow, chase, and pop bubbles. So easy, so fun!


Frisbee: The beach is a nice open space for a good old-fashioned game of frisbee. It fits easily in your beach bag and can be played on the sand or partially in the water. Just be mindful of anyone near to you so you don’t become a nuisance or accidentally hit them.


Kite Flying: Let’s go fly a kite! This is a classic beach day activity. Even if it’s not a windy day, kids love running while pulling a kite behind them. Many of Topsail Island’s local sports outfitters and shops sell kites, so check them out.


Limbo: Play a beach-friendly version of this game by improvising with a pool noodle, jump rope, paddle, or beach towel. This one’s not just for the kids, either. How low can you go?


Musical Beach Towels: This is just like musical chairs, but instead you’re using beach towels. Make sure there’s one less beach towel than number of people playing. Start up the music from your phone and when it stops, each person must sit on a towel. Whoever is left without a towel is out of the game. Remove another beach towel and continue playing in this manner until the winner is revealed.


Tidal Pool Exploring: Topsail Beach has pockets of tidal pools left behind when the ocean waters recede at low tide offering the perfect opportunity for kids to play, explore and observe.


Tug of War: Using a jump rope or some beach towels tied together, stand at the water’s edge. Divide the kids (and adults) into two teams as equally (and fairly) as possible. 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 on the signal let them tug away until one team is triumphant.


Love these beach games and activities? You can find more here and here.

What are your favorite family-friendly beach games and activities for the kids and kids-at-heart? We’d love to hear them!



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