If you are holidaying in a
coastal town, don't just be satisfied with sightseeing and ticking off
the beaches in your itinerary; spend an entire day or days, beach
bumming. Some beaches in cities and big towns come with their own tourist attractions particularly for children, like the ubiquitous merry-go-round and giant wheel, not to mention the pony rides. Some of them go to the extent of having video game parlours in the
immediate vicinity. Though we may look askance at this incongruity, for
such attractions are often desirable and fun. But many times queuing up
for these joy rides to wait your turn can take the fun out of it and
dampen the spirit.
On the other hand, if you find a quiet beach, far from the madding crowd, children
may possibly get bored with the monotony of the elements, unless of
course, you can think up ways to keep them amused. Fortunately, there
is no dearth of fun beach activities that you can indulge in, the only thing limiting them can be your imagination!
Hands on sands
To begin with, don't forget to carry the spade and pail paraphernalia; needless to say, this is a must to build sand castles. Children will naturally rake in the sand, wet it with water from the sea, and try to pat shapes in it, but try
and see if you can learn up the basics of sand sculpting to lead them a
little higher into the art. It calls for a keen application of mind to
figure out how to sculpt a building or castle with towers and windows
and can be a very educative experience. Smaller children can etch lettering and do line drawings in wet sand.
And even if you do not suggest so, kids will have sand all over them and bury their feet and torso under the sand; do not discourage this as it is quite therapeutic!
Swimming and playing in the water is the most obvious thing to do when on a beach, but be sure to get a
change of clothes. Admittedly, it is fun to splash water on each other,
but you could try games like catching ball while standing in the water.
It can be fun and an excuse to keep dunking in the water! But a word of
caution: be aware of the waves and tidal currents to avoid any untoward
incident. One often reads about young and over-enthusiastic boys
drowning in seemingly harmless seas, because one can never really gauge
the force of the tides. In Alibag, off Mumbai, the Colaba Fort stands
smack in the middle of the sea. When the tide is low, people can walk
all the way or take a ride in a horse-cart to explore the fort, but
they have to turn around well before the tide starts rushing in. You
have to be aware of the tides or at least watch the tide chart to be on
the safe side, when it comes to the sea.
Even as an adult you cannot resist collecting sea
shells. That is one treasure you can carry home to cherish your visit
to the beach. Beachcombing is an interesting pastime. In the process of
scanning the sands you will come across colourful sea shells and
pebbles, of course, but also myriad insects scurrying in and out of
holes in the sand.
Collecting sea shells is a great activity in itself, but don't indulge
in it idly; try to tell the difference between conches and cowries.
Looking for marine treasures in this vast treasure trove in the hope of
getting something exquisite will keep the children exceptionally busy, while keeping boredom at bay.
Another interesting activity could be to take a pen and paper and make
an exhaustive list of all the interesting things you see on the beach from the looming lighthouse to the indiscernible fishing boat over the
horizon. You'll be surprised at what you see. You can then compare
notes with the list of others and have a delightful discussion on it.
This exercise will help to bring children
closer to coastal life and its rhythms. Talk to the fisherfolk and
learn more about their craft. In Cochin, the fishermen tell you all
about the local fish and gladly let you handle their beauteous Chinese fishing nets to gather a catch. You can then approach the numerous fish stalls with
your fresh catch and they will treat you to the most scrumptious fried
seerfish, catla or tuna, as the case may be.
Make it a point to go to the beach before sunrise to witness
day-break. This is also the time, unlike the sunset, when there will
hardly be a soul on the beach. It is really something to see the
darkness of pre-dawn dispel gradually with the first peek of the sun,
changing the black hues through grey and blue, and then onto the bright
colours of the day. You may also witness fishermen at their morning
activity of setting out to cast their nets. Maybe you can hitch a ride
on their boat if they are not venturing too far and for too long. They
will gladly oblige. Hear the bird sounds bringing the place truly
Bird-watching on the beach is different from
that in the greens and gardens. For one, the species of birds here are
different; they are mainly water birds. Secondly, they are not on
trees, but either on the waterfront and hovering over or walking on the sand. Children
will love to spot the wagtails with their bobbing tails and the
chirruping sea gulls. They should be encouraged to keep a diary or a
log book of what they observe. They can always refer guide books or the
Net back home to verify or learn about their observations. Similarly,
if you are going to spend the day on the beach, watch the tides to see
when they rise and when they ebb.
Playing ball on the beach, whether football or volleyball
is absolutely thrilling, but for that you have to be in a large group.
If not, you can play frisbee with your family. And then when it is time
to take rest, just pitch up an umbrella and open up your picnic hamper. Loll around, laze, put on your walkman and listen to music, curl in with a book, or just snooze. Pig out at the many food stalls
with their fresh fish catch or on bhel puri - the original Mumbai beach
fare, or shop for seashell knick knacks or trinkets.
There is more to beaches than just sand and water; all you need to do is to explore the innumerable possibilities. What can you think of?
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- The Indiaparenting Team