There’s a whole host of coastal habitats to explore this summer
Many people head to the seaside for a relaxing day in the Sun, but there’s plenty to do if you’re after more excitement, and it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce children to the wonders of the natural world.
Search for shells
Whether you want to identify the creatures that once lived in them, use them in craft projects or just admire their beauty, shell collecting is a great seaside activity that everyone can get involved with. The best time to start looking is at low tide when the largest stretch of beach is exposed. The morning after a storm normally offers the most unusual finds, as the turbulent waters stir up shells that usually rest on the seabed. A competition to find the biggest or most unusual shell will have kids dashing around the sand, and books and online guides will help you to find the former residents of your beach treasures when they’re all tired out.
You don’t have to be a seasoned birder to enjoy the variety of birdlife on display at the seaside. From waders paddling in the shallows to gulls soaring above your head, there’s something everywhere you look. Sit quietly with an identification guide and see how many species you can spot, or just enjoy their swooping flight and loud calls as you walk. If there’s a particular species you all want to find, set a challenge to see who can spot it or hear it first.
Some birds are always present on the UK’s coast, but others only visit for a season, like kittiwakes returning from the Atlantic to breed. Many species, like the Arctic tern, rest here mid-migration, so the cast of avian characters is always shifting and changing.
Crabbing is an activity sure to keep parents and kids alike entertained. Crabs like to hide under seaweed and rocks, but they can be enticed out with food and a bit of patience. Tie some raw fish, chicken or bacon and a weight on the end of a piece of string and lower it to the bottom of a rock pool or the seabed next to a pier. Wrap the other end of the string loosely around your finger and, when you feel a tug, gently lift the crab out of the water and catch it in a net. You can put a few crabs into a bucket full of water, pebbles and seaweed for a closer look without the risk of them getting their pincers around little fingers, but be sure to carefully release them when you’re done.
Shell image: Liz West/flickr