Whenever our family visits the Puget Sound area, the kids and I tend to spend a lot of time beach combing. Beach combing is the pastime of walking lazily along a beach or rocky shore, and collecting interesting items such as seashells, bits of driftwood, and odds & ends that have washed up with the tide.
Aside from the fun of finding beach treasures, it’s also an opportunity to teach children about ocean life. Beach combing during low tide reveals tide pools and a whole range of small underwater creatures that kids can see close up.
If you’re an inlander planning a day of summer beach combing with your kids, these tips will help make the day an enjoyable experience.
When beach combing, it’s important to dress for both the sun and the weather.
Shorts and tee shirt are always a good combination. In the cooler beaches of Oregon and Washington, bring plenty of lined wind breakers or hoodies since the wind can get chilly at times. The choice of footwear worn depends on the type of beaches you’ll be exploring. Most kids find that flip flops or Aqua shoes are great for sandy beaches. Old tennis shoes are best for rocky beaches since they can hold up to damage caused by barnacles.
And, even when it’s overcast, always remember that the sun can cause nasty sunburns, especially on the face, the back of the neck and tops of the feet. Our kids usually wear hats when beach combing, and slather up with sunscreen several times during the day.
Bring the right supplies
While beach combing is supposed to be one of those mindless activities, it never hurts to come prepared with a few supplies:
1. A decent sized bucket: You can’t beach comb without a bucket. Skip the kiddie sand buckets though, and bring instead a nice 2 gallon bucket which will be large enough to carry all those shells and treasures, flip flops, and sunscreen. My only rule is that the kids have to be able to carry the bucket themselves back to the house. This prevents them from loading up with about 20 pounds of rocks.
2. A small trowel: Trowels or small shovels will help dig up partially buried shells, bottles, and other treasures. Small trowels also allow parents to safely pick up live sea creatures for a closer look.
3. Camera: Beach combing provides a great photo op that you won’t want to miss.
4. Pocket sized first aid kit: Band-Aids and alcohol wipes will help to cleanup and protect scrapes.
5. Pocket field guide: If you aren’t familiar with sea life at all, a small pocket guide can help you identify the sea life your kids might see in the inter tidal zone.
Have fun without hurting the wildlife
Around the Puget Sound area, beach combing means walking carefully to as to avoid crushing the wildlife. We’ve come across huge beds of sand dollars and sea anemones that we’ll walk around instead of through to avoid stepping on anything. Also to avoid is the temptation to keep live sea creatures “to bring home”. These creatures won’t live for long out of their ocean environment, and are best left alone. There’s plenty of empty sea shells on the beach to find without grabbing one that’s currently occupied.
A final note: sea shells smell nice and beachy for the first couple of hours, but turn somewhat rank by the next day. Before loading up those beach combing souvenirs in the car, it’s best to rinse them thoroughly and let air dry in the sun before packing.