Child Sense: Tips for making a trip to the beach enjoyable for your child

Priscilla J. Dunstan

Summer is often associated with going to the beach, and having fun with your children in the sun, surf and sand.

Understanding your child’s sensory needs will make the experience even more enjoyable.

The tactile child will take great delight in playing in the openness of the beach. As soon as their feet are on the sand they will had grab a shovel and start digging to create holes and tunnels and castles. It can be hard to get the sunscreen on them, so having sun-protective shirts, shorts and large hats is important. Try to apply sunscreen before heading to the beach as once they are there, it will be difficult for them to stand still. Buckets, spades, beach balls and boogie boards are all things tactile children will use endlessly.

For younger tactile children they will often need a place to wash their hands. Touch is so important to these children that they often get frustrated when they can’t get the sand off. Bring a spare bottle of tap water to rinse their hands or fill a bucket with fresh water so they can dip their hands when need be.

Visual children will be very aware of their clothes, towels, and beach play things. They will take great care in laying out their belongings, carefully deciding where to place their towel and build the sandcastle. They can tend to be a little bossy and will take some time to learn that the beach is a more relaxed communal environment where children share spades and buckets, and building projects.

Visual children can find the lack of control, and the sand kicked on to their towels and toys, frustrating. Often they will need to take themselves off for a while to calm down, where they can watch from a distance, before rejoining the group.

Auditory children will find the sounds of the beach very relaxing. They will love being able to chat while playing with others and building sand castles. They will enthusiastically squeal as the waves wash over their feet and as they splash around in the water. It can be difficult for them to remember to tone down their noise so they will need to be reminded, in a gentle way. They will often get upset when splashed in the face.

Auditory children don’t like getting their ears wet and especially dislike the feeling of water in the ears. This can be hard for old siblings and friends to understand, and this is often the source of many water disagreements. You will find that auditory children will love to experiment with the sound in their surroundings; holding a shell up to their ear, turning their head in various directions to listen to the changes in the waves crashing or to the children playing way down the other end of the beach.

Taste and smell children love the family aspect of the beach. They love playing together as a group and enjoy interacting with their parents in the low stress environment. Once on the beach, unlike other children, they will tend to hang back and observe for a while. A chair to sit under a big umbrella will be perfect to help them feel at ease. Being very sensitive to changes in environment, they will need this time to adjust. Once having done so, they will join the various beach activities with enthusiasm especially if Mommy or Daddy take part.

Make sure they wear a hat, and allow them some choice with the sunscreen used. They are sensitive to the smell and feel of products on their face, so you may need to experiment with different brands and methods of application to find one that suits.