What? No donkeys? How to create British seaside style fun at the lake…

Whenever I’m stood looking out over Lake Michigan the sheer size of it blows me away. While logically I know it’s a lake, my head can’t quite accept that it’s not the ocean. If it wasn’t for the fact that there are no donkey’s you’d quite believe you were at the seaside. Read on for great ideas for inspiring beach fun for all…

The boys and I are just back from a fantastic week at New Buffalo, Michigan. That whole stretch of ‘coast’ from Indiana Dunes through Harbor County and beyond is truly made for family fun. On a clear, warm day the beach is as good as any ocean destination and even when it’s cooler there’s plenty of fun to be had. In fact, the area reminds me very much of the best parts of British seaside destinations; sand, waves, dunes, gulls and in June possibly changeable weather!  My family and I can’t help but keep calling the lake the sea.  It is missing the donkeys and I didn’t find mini golf or gaudy arcades; it’s just the great outdoors where the children can run, explore, discover and play to their hearts content.

So, if you find yourself longing for an afternoon of sandy fun here’s a few of our favorite beach activities:

Water Wonders

I’m sure there’s nothing better than a paddle in the waves. Most little ones love feeling the movement around their feet and playing in the shallows with simple toys.  Older children, too, can happily splash and swim in the water for hours.

Obviously you always have to watch children closely around water but it is especially important when the waves are rougher and with this stretch of beach where the depth drops away quickly before evening out so you need to be extra cautious. Our first day the weather was red hot and the water peaceful, but the subsequent days were windy and the older boys took body boards along for some extra fun. These were a real hit, and will certainly be talked about for months to come.

As hard to fathom as it is for me, the Great Lakes can have rip currents and get very rough. Always check the warning flags before you head in the water.

Digging a Hole

I’ve no idea what’s so great about holes but I’ve not met a kid that doesn’t love them! For a child’s imagination the possibilities are endless. This week we’ve dug swimming pools, homed imaginary creatures, started a mining operation and tunneled our way to the World Cup. Packing shovels and buckets to scoop with helped but they were quite happy to use their hands too!

Bury Your Buddy

Of course the obvious consequence of having a large hole in the sand is that someone is going to get buried before you fill it in. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the beach and not buried someone! Is this just a British malarkey or does it happen on beaches world wide?

Build a Sand Castle…

Clearly no seaside adventure would be complete without building a sandcastle. Be it the biggest, the most ornate, one with a moat, ramparts or home to a seaweed monster, sandcastles are part of childhood legend.

Color it In!

One disadvantage of the lake over the sea is that there are no shells! We managed to find some interesting rocks, grasses and feathers to decorate but not a whole lot else… so we thought we’d have a go at coloring ours in this year!

This activity was handy for me because it helped keep the little lad busy when his brother was in the water on the cooler and rougher days. We didn’t want to leave a permanent mark on the environment or wildlife so we used food grade coloring – liquid not gel so that it was easier to mix – and stirred a few shovelfuls of sand in a bucket with a few big squirts of color until we got the desired affect. I simply tipped it out and repeated with the next color until we had enough to decorate with. Using a ziplock bag might get more even color but I didn’t want to bring single use plastic with us.

…And Knock it Down!

There’s no waiting for the end of the day or for the tide to come in with a preschooler around! We were building castles as fast as we could for the simple joy of stomping on, jumping up and sliding down them. Nothing could have made him happier.

Add a Little Science

Science Sparks was organizing the Great Science Share for Bloggers on the Tuesday that we were away so I snuck a little experiment in my case. We added twist to the old classic and built a volcano out of sand, put a small bucket into the ‘core’, and poured white vinegar onto baking soda and watched the reaction. We didn’t want to add paint, glitter or dish soap to keep it all natural so it might not have been as impressive as some eruptions but it was a fun learning experience.


Fly a Kite

I am kicking myself for forgetting our kite. The second day would have been perfect for kite flying. Next year it’s going to be the first thing in the case – kite flying at the coast with my grandparents is probably one of my fondest childhood memories.

Take your Trucks

If the bucket and spade is getting tired I find a dump truck and/or cement mixer lorry will keep the littles ones happy. No shortage of stuff to fill them with after all!


Frisbee Fun

Again, another seaside classic. Simple catch, piggy in the middle or toddler hoopla… a frisbee (or Aerobie in this case) can add a new element of fun to the day. Good for when you are trying to dry them out before home time!



After all that I think I need a rest! Please do share your favorite beach games with us. I’m hoping we’ll be back next year…if not sooner.

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