How a trip to the beach can inspire independent learning

Reading Time: 5 minutes


The beach is the perfect place for outdoor exploration with ample opportunities to encourage independent learning. Home to mini beasts, plants, birds and providing habitats like rock pools, young learners can have fun getting active and exploring the world around them.


Spending time in natural environments such as coastlines enables children to explore their senses as they are surrounded by a variety of textures, smells, sights and sounds creating an ideal setting for all types of learners.


A trip to the beach can also support children’s learning at school. The National Curriculum for England references ‘animals including humans’ and ‘living things and their habitats’ within the programme of study for Key Stages 1 and 2. The aims that are highlighted for Science include:

  • “Describe and compare the structure of a variety of common animals (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, including pets)
  • Explore and compare the differences between things that are living, dead, and things that have never been alive identify that most living things live in habitats to which they are suited and describe how different habitats provide for the basic needs of different kinds of animals and plants, and how they depend on each other
  • Identify and name a variety of plants and animals in their habitats, including microhabitats
  • Compare and group together different kinds of rocks on the basis of their appearance and simple physical properties”


If you are planning to visit a beach, either in the UK or abroad, here are five engaging activities to keep your young explorers engaged and learning this summer!


Discovering Mini Beasts


GeoSafari® Jr Aqua Magnifier

GeoSafari® Jr Bugnoculars

Rock pools are the perfect place to discover mini beasts! When the tide goes out you can find all sorts of creatures such as barnacles, musselsshore crabshermit crabs, shrimps, prawns, starfish, sand hopperscommon whelkdog whelk and razor shells. The plants and animals that live in rock pools have adapted to live in challenging conditions such as changing water temperatures and oxygen levels. Take a close up look of your discoveries by pouring some sea water into a clear container and carefully placing your finds inside. Make sure the container has air holes and that you treat your finds gently. What details can you see?

Once you have finished observing your creatures make sure you return them back safely to where you found them.


Did you know…?


-Hermit crabs move into ever larger shells as they grow

– Mussels are commercially grown on ropes, as well as harvested from wild growing populations

-Sand Hoppers are also known as Sand Fleas because of their amazing jumping abilities

– Whelks are collected for food, and taste wonderful with vinegar and white pepper.

-A crab can regrow a leg or a claw if it loses one


Searching for treasure


GeoSafari® Jr Great Excavations Turtle

Primary Science™ Metal Detector


Young learners can become pirates for the day by searching the shores for treasure! Lots of things can be found within the sand including rocks, shells,
coins and fossils! A metal detector is a great way to help find these hidden gems! Use a sieve and magnifying tool to help identify your findings.

What will you find?


Did you know…?


  • With the exact location withheld, over a six-year period amateur enthusiasts found over 900 silver pennies on an Anglesey beach. Dates of the pennies ranged from 1272-1307 and while most were English, there were also coins from Scotland, Ireland and some European countries.
  • Runswick Bay, just north of Whitby is an excellent destination for any beachcomber. Nominated England’s best beach for beachcombing in 2007, the beach and its surrounding cliffs are constantly revealing ancient fossils, lost jewellery and semi-precious stones.
  • Westward Ho! on the North Devon Coast is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and turns up some great finds for beachcombers. When the tide goes out, two shipwrecks are visible in the sand.


Underwater discovery


GeoSafari® Jr Subscope™

GeoSafari® Jr. Underwater Explorer and Magnifier


Almost ¾ of the earth’s surface is covered with water and the seas around the UK are home to thousands of plants and other wildlife! Often unseen there are different habitats underwater that are home to all kinds of species from tiny sprat to great white sharks! Take a sneak peek underwater and magnify hidden habitats with tools such as Subscopes and Underwater Explorers. You can try this in the sea, rock pools or even a big puddle of water. Try drawing what you see, how does the view change when you use a Subscope? Can you find anything that isn’t alive such as shells, beach glass, rocks or fossils?


Sand Play


Sand Moulds

Dino Construction Company™ Vehicles


Everybody knows that the beach is the ideal opportunity to build a sandcastle, but there are also lots of other creative ways you can use sand as a building or sensory material! Sand Moulds are a great way to reinforce letter recognition as young learners can spell their name or simple words in the sand. The
Early Years Foundation Stage framework encourages sand play as a practical activity to enjoy the sensory experience of making marks in damp sand
and to prompt children to ask and respond to questions. Playing with sand is an open-ended experience that invites children to use their imagination. This can be supported by using sand toys, asking questions about what they are doing and allowing time for children’s sand play to come to a natural end. Play vehicles such as Dump Trucks or Mixers that feature moving parts are ideal for encouraging an early understanding of cause and effect.


Active Play


Smart Toss™ Early Skills Activity Set

Alpha Catch™ Phonics Game


One of the great benefits of visiting the beach is the amount of space, the sand also provides a soft landing, making it the perfect place for outdoor active play games including catch and relay racing. Physical movement combined with early learning skills are great for kinaesthetic learners and aid the development of gross motor movements, muscle control and coordination. This type of play also aids bilateral integration, the ability to perform actions using both sides of the body simultaneously, and impacts a child’s ability to read and write.


“The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky”


–   Margaret McMillan, campaigner for children’s and worker’s rights and founder of the first open-air nursery in the UK.




The interesting facts shared within this post are courtesy of: