The weather is warming and the beaches are beckoning. You need a little self-care time, and your kids could use a break at the beach, too. In fact, heading to the shore actually proves to be quite healthy and beneficial for your kids in a number of ways.
Here are three reasons science suggests that you should scoop up the kids and bring them on a beach getaway this summer.
1. Being active at the beach releases endorphins.
Being active releases endorphins, which is why you feel so good after working out. Well, working out on the sand or in the water is an even more intense workout, since it's much harder to walk on sand than other surfaces and, of course, the water offers resistance.
So bring some fun games for the kids to play at the beach, such as Spikeball or bring a bunch of buckets for a water bucket relay race. You can even bring along a frisbee, a football, a soccer ball, a volleyball or some ping pong paddles and a small, soft bouncy ball. Whatever you decide on, make sure it's a game or sport that'll get their blood pumping.
And, the good news for you: They'll be so tuckered out after playing in the sun all day, they (and, therefore, you) will sleep soundly that night.
2. The ocean has calming effects.
The fact is that the ocean calms everyone down, and if your children have been working their tails off in school and during afterschool activities like sports, some time by the seaside can feel rejuvenating.
According to research from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, for example, "blue space" like oceans, lakes and rivers, actually has greater positive effects of people than "green space" like parks and lawns. In another more recent study, a team of researchers from New Zealand and the U.S. found that people who live in sight of water actually have lower levels of psychological stress.
More specifically, in a 2011 study, researchers at Washington University and UC Irvine found that trips to the ocean actually reduce stress, increase creativity and ease feelings of depression and anxiety. Beach trips are overall restorative for psychological well-being, the research found.
3. The sunlight can be beneficial, and it just plain feels good.
The sunlight, of course, means more Vitamin D. And Vitamin D provides a number of benefits. It's good for your children's bones for healthy development, it's great for lowering blood pressure, it supports the immune system and it can lower the risk of heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
And beyond all that, the sunlight simply feels good. That's because sun increases levels of the chemical serotonin, which is known as the feel-good "happy chemical."
4. Playing with water helps kids learn.
A wealth of research suggests that playing with water is actually a form of sensory play that enables children to learn how the world works, helps them to develop tactile processing sills, balance and strengthen their bodies, develop motor skills, work on problem solving (what toys will sink, and what will float?), and learn about physics.
“Young children are drawn to water,” Pamela Taylor, an early childhood development instructor at Grant MacEwan College in Toronto, Canada, told Today’s Parent. “They’re curious about it. It’s a universally appealing play material with unlimited possibilities."
And don't sweat it if you can't afford to take the kids on a beach vacation right now either! You can have a "beach day" right at home in your own backyard. Here are some ways to get the kids active and around water for the same sort of effects:
- Set up the same aforementioned games in the backyard to get the kids' blood pumping.
- Have a pool day (and, if you don't have a pool, consider a blow-up version!).
- Spend a day watering the plants outside for a different kind of water play.
- Turn the sprinkler on in the backyard for some fun.
- Have a family relay race in the yard.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.