Any place, indoor or outdoor, can be a classroom or a learning space. Learning is always happening every day, with the right opportunities, contextual learning can occur anywhere. Here are some helpful tips for traveling and learning on the go with little hassle and small amounts of "stuff".
Photo taken at Wildwood Crest, NJ in August, 2021.
Taking kites to the beach is fun, beautiful, offers loads of learning opportunities, and most kites barely take up any space in your bag as many of them fold up or come in a manageable carrying case.
Have you ever noticed that when you go to the beach the contraptions for people to take all the "things" are getting bigger and bigger? There are now 6-wheel trolleys to pile all your stuff on, push with all your might through the hot loose sand, and get down to the perfect spot, spend 45 minutes unpacking, setting up, realize you need to reapply sunscreen already, you're soaking wet from the heat and sweating, huffing and puffing. I have never seen any parent or mother happy to carry and haul all this unnecessary stuff. Have you ever seen anyone smiling while performing this terrible task? I normally see parents fighting, kids just carrying one thing, dropping stuff on the way, if you try to bend down to pick it up everything on the top of your carefully stacked pile falls to the ground. And someone always brings something to the beach that "can't get wet" or "don't let that get sandy." It seems like we are putting a lot of stress on ourselves to try to set up our living rooms on the beach.
After much deliberation, I thought, "I am at the beach, my children want to have fun and I want to enjoy myself too. What are the essentials that also inspire play, movement, fun, action, and rest?" I immediately considered the hierarchy of needs. Shelter, food and water, and love are the basic needs, and while self-actualization would be an awesome thing for everyone at the beach to possess, for this beach trip (and this entry) it will have to wait.
Basically everything we need we already have and should be able to easily manage and carry with one arm. This cuts down on stress, hauling, fighting, arguing, angry glances, resentment, and losing stuff. One small tote has proven efficient because we have the proper gear for the situation. It can get sandy, wet, it dries easily, we have solutions for wet things or things that should stay dry or clean, we have food and water, we can pack up quickly in case of an incoming high tide or storm. Our children can also easily carry one small thing or bag but so far that hasn't been necessary.
Foldable rectangular bags make a great way tote just the right amount of necessities to the beach. There is the perfect amount of space for reusable water bottles, a beach blanket, wet bag with dry clothes inside so children can change out of wet clothes if needed, a bento or snack box, a foldable water bucket, a few frisbees, sunscreen, sunglasses, wooden spoons, and 3-5 stainless steel buckets. We also have a sun shade that fits conveniently into a small carrying bag.
These foldable, canvas bags are awesome for the beach. They can be carried by one or two people with the way the handles are situated. I also have one small reusable bag that can fold up and go in my pocket, it can get wet, it dries quickly, I can put things in there so I can find them quickly. I can also carry it over my shoulder if I need to in case the kids find a lot of beautiful shells and fill up an area of the foldable bag. Or I can carry the dry things home in the bag after a long day at the beach when everything else is now sandy and wet. No problem.
Food and Drink: We got our stainless steel water bottles from #1000HoursOutside. They are durable and lightweight, they also have handles that can be attached or woven handles. They are easy to spot and we have customized ours so we can quickly identify them. They come in several colors and two sizes. I also have an EcoVessel that has two spout options so that I can put loose tea in, I can pour from the mouth, or a small spout. These are now covered in local, independent shop stickers to show our support for our friends back home. These water bottles are temperature controlled and can keep liquids hot/cold for many hours. They don't get sand in the lids easily and they hold up pretty well in all situations. We have a few foldable, silicon lunch boxes and metal bento boxes. We often fill each section with bitesize foods and bring along silverware so the food pieces don't get sandy. We can also fill one tray for each child and they can eat as they please. We use our reusable bucket as a sink and put some eco friendly foamy soap on our hands or fingers, and rinse them off into the bucket. We just use Castile soap in a foam soap dispenser for quick hand cleaning. Then we use cloth napkins to dry our hands. We have cloth wraps for silverware and straws. They each have a different pattern so we know which one is ours. They roll up and tie and can be thrown in any bag on the go for eating anywhere when you aren't home.
Sand play: For sand play we have 3 frisbees which we use for sport and for digging, baking, making pies, and trenching for castles. We have some old wooden spoons that are used in our mud kitchen at home on the regular, they once lived lives in the real kitchen but split, broke, or were just worn and needed to be replaced. Stainless steel buckets or pails are awesome. The ones we have do not have any sharp edges, they clean out easily and wipe clean in a jiffy, they are the perfect size for water, sand, digging, stacking, pouring, dumping, and building. A foldable water bucket is great for kids or adults to go get more water. We fill it in the ocean and then bring it back for building, castles, trenches, moats, or just getting the sand wet.
Why do we use bamboo spoons and steel buckets? They are durable, eco friendly, strong, and they are real tools that we use every day. So often we see discarded and broken plastic toys on the beach. I have stepped on so many pieces of plastic shovels I can't even count. We don't have to buy "beach toys" every year, we use what we have in our mud kitchen at the beach. We use our imaginations and create our sand kitchens. We build castles, we use our hands, we scoop and fill with buckets. I have never bought sand toys, I haven't thrown tons of sand toys away every year, I haven't gotten my finger stuck in a cracked shovel or rake since I have had my children. We have had no broken toy injuries at the beach. My children love the ocean and marine biology, they want to be marine biologists and ocean conservationists and so we practice earth-friendly lifestyles, as much as possible.
Shade and rest: We have an SPF sunshade pop tent. It offers great shade and is compact for traveling. We purchased a large and several small #SandCloud blankets/towels and they have been one of the best purchases of my life. They are made of woven Turkish cotton and they dry quickly, they don't collect sand, they brush or shake off with ease, and 10% of proceeds go towards marine biology research and ocean conservation. They also roll or fold and are smaller than beach towels when in your bag. We always have our sturdy, sun-protecting hats with us. They are handmade from grasses in Ghana and we found them with @SunriseVibe1 on Instagram, while she was selling them at Rodale Institute for the Earth Day on the Farm event earlier this year. I, personally, have my trusty Rodale cap and my husband was sporting his Rising River Brewery hat to support our friend who is starting a local, independently owned brewery in town where they will soon be hosting events and live music.
Family members fly kites with children. Handmade kites are flown with joy and love. People of all ages enjoy running on the beach, smiling, and filling the air with different colored kites. Wildwood Crest, NJ.
Kites and wings: There is nothing better than flying kites at the beach. There are some beaches that have regulations about flying kites but the beach that we went to recently, and the one we go to every year, does not have regulations about where or when to fly a kite. We had a family kite flying day this year so all the cousins and aunts and uncles brought down kites of all shapes, sizes, and colors and some even made their own box kites. We have a small squid kite that folds into a tiny bag and also acquired a thin framed Star Wars kite that can be stored in a skinny sleeve. They both fit in our tote bag. This year we had a few younger cousins along so we also packed some sets of fabric butterfly wings and capes. Children that were too small to hold the kites or wanted to run around and not get strings tangled put wings on and jumped and played with arms outstretched creating a multi-layered, colorful dance of joy.
Small, to-go bags: The reusable Honest bag dries quickly and can be dumped out. We store our dry clothes in here, possibly a book or two, a wallet, sunscreen, and sunglasses. It has anything we need that we would like to stay covered or separate from other things in our tote bag. I also have a SandCloud woven bag to keep my blanket in but instead I carried my books, sunglasses, keys, phone, and wallet in there. Our wet/dry bag is a zip up bag with a special material that doesn't allow water to get through. The outside is cloth and the inside is waterproof. We like to keep a dry set of clothes for the kids in here and then sometimes they change or take of wet suits at the beach in our sunshade, they can easily put wet clothes in the bag after drying off. It also signifies what needs to be washed when we get back to the room/house/apartment etc. We also kept a few masks in here just in case we were leaving to go indoors or to a crowded outdoor setting. We have auto-immune diseases so we always keep a mask on us, just in case we need it. Along with our small bags, we have a 6"x6" laundry bag that we keep with us so we can throw in any used or dirty masks. This can also be tossed in the washing machine upon arrival back where we are staying.
Don't forget your hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, and most of all, don't forget to have fun and take time to rest and relax. The beach has been so much more enjoyable since I stopped lugging all this extra stuff that no one needed. As soon as we get to the beach the kids just drop everything and run to the water. The feeling of relief when the weight is left at home is really satisfying.
So if you are headed to the beach with children, or even just yourself, consider, "What is the least amount of necessary things I can take with me for a relaxing and safe trip?" Something for security, shade, food and drink, fun, and relaxation. There are still a few weeks before most children go back to school so for all the late summer vacations, minimize your hassle and maximize your enjoyment.
All content here is my own point of view and reflection. Take what you need and leave what you don't need. We took a week break but should be back to normal starting next week.
Thanks for stopping by.