Family travel during the summer months is fun and necessary. Most importantly, traveling as a family allows parents and children valuable time to connect while exploring new things together.

Bestselling author and founder and president of Mom Central, Stacy DeBroff, says summer family adventures encourage a sense of exploration in children and form the backdrop for childhood memories. “Taking kids on family trips,” DeBroff says, “creates a powerful bonding and encourages kids to be open to new experiences that ultimately form the glue of family connectivity.”

David Rojahn, owner of the family travel oriented DTR Travel in Denver, Colorado says family travel has become an integral part of our culture. “We see more and more multigenerational families traveling together,” Rojahn says. “Many families not only see this as a way of bonding but also teaching their children about new destinations and cultures.” Ultimately, Rojahn says, a well-traveled child grows up to appreciate other people and their differences.

For many families, the beach is the ultimate destination for summer adventures. Children love spending time near the water, and there’s something about the sight of sand that sends children into automatic skipping mode. If you’re planning a trip to the beach with the kids this summer, consider mixing up the fun with a few activities that go beyond Frisbee and building sandcastles. The following ideas will help you get started!

  • Seaside Treasure Chests
    Young children love treasure chests. Have the kids collect feathers, shells, and small stones to create their own treasure chest. Bring along wooden boxes (from a craft-supply store) and glue, and help the kids decorate their treasure chest. They can keep the chest in their room to store their most treasured belongings.
  • Volcano in the Sand
    Place an empty plastic soda bottle in the sand and have the kids cover it with sand so that only the opening is exposed. Fill the bottle with room temperature water, add a few drops of liquid detergent and two tablespoons of baking soda, and then slowly pour in vinegar. Be sure the children are crowded around when you add the vinegar!
  • Driftwood Collage
    Take along buckets and challenge the kids to fill them full of interesting shells. Then take a walk down the beach and help the kids find a small piece of driftwood (one for each). Have the kids glue the shells to the driftwood to create a beach memory they can take home with them. All you need to bring with you is the glue!
  • Beach Bowling
    Pack a few extra plastic cups with your lunch supplies, and ask the kids to fill the cups with wet sand. Arrange the cups in a triangle, and voila—beach bowling! Cups and a ball are all you need for this activity.
  • Photo Memory Book
    Bring a (waterproof) disposable camera for each child, and encourage the kids to take pictures of fun family moments at the beach. When you get home, have the photos developed and help the kids create their own family memory book. Have them dictate or write captions for each of the photos. The outside of the book can be decorated with shells from the beach.
  • Stone People
    Have your children collect egg-shaped stones to make miniature people. A small box of craft supplies will keep the kids busy as they draw faces with markers and glue on hair (yarn) and clothing (scraps of material). Display the stone folk on the kids’ bedroom shelf to create lasting memories of the beach trip.
  • Buried Treasures
    Bring a small metal cookie container, paper, and some pens. Have the kids go on a hunt to find interesting beach treasures (toys, shells, stones, feathers). Help the kids pack up their box of treasures and write a note to include in the box. Have them dictate or write their names and what they like about the treasures. Then help them bury the container for another family to find! (Be sure to talk about how this is not the same things as littering!). If you like, you can mark the spot where the treasure is buried with a stick or pile of rocks.

Racing the waves, collecting sea shells, building sand castles, eating a picnic lunch under an umbrella—the beach can be a rewarding summer getaway for families with kids of all ages. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!