There’s nothing worse than a rained-out beach day. All week the excitement builds ⏤ the sandcastles, the boogie boards, the hermit crabs ⏤ only to have the proverbial beach blanket yanked out from under you before your toes even touch the sand. Parents familiar with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood will immediately recognize ‘Inside Beach’ as the game Daniel and Prince Wednesday play in the episode that teaches kids how to channel their anger (Season 1/Episode 4, “Daniel Gets Mad”). In it, Daniel was pumped about going to the beach only to open the back door to find it pouring down rain. Naturally, he lost his mind. Remember: “When you feel so mad, that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”
‘Inside Beach’ became the imagination game they played in lieu of going outside, and it’s a fantastic way to engage toddlers in creative play whether you were actually planning to hit the beach or not. Especially if it’s raining and you are stuck inside. The concept is simple: Build a sandless beach in the living room and pretend to spend the day by the ocean. It requires only a few basic household props, although you can easily blow it out if you want, and it’s an activity kids can engage in on their own without much guidance. Since watching the episode, in fact, I’ve found my 3-year-old daughter on more than one occasion making her own inside beach and entertaining herself.
Prep Time: 5 minutes.
Entertainment Time: 20 – 30 minutes.
Energy Expended by Child: Minimal, unless you incorporate more physical beach games.
What You Need:
- Two big blankets or sheets. Ideally, one should be blue (the water) and one should be beige or brown (the sand) but it hardly matters. Remember, it’s pretend.
- An actual beach towel or two.
- Sand buckets and shovels. The ones you would bring to the beach, just wash them off.
- Yellow construction paper, scissors, and tape (or a paper plate and a yellow marker) to make a sun.
- Optional: Beach chairs, a beach ball, games, a portable cooler with snacks and drinks, swimsuits, Duplos to build a sand castle, etc. Depending on how much time/effort you want to invest in your ‘beach day,’ you can pull out all the stops.
How to Play:
Setup is part of the game so you’ll want the kids involved ⏤ don’t do everything for them. First, have them trace/cut out a sun from either a piece of yellow construction paper or a paper plate. Stick it on the wall above your intended beach spot, any large open floor in the house. If so inclined, they call also cut out clouds from white construction paper or poster board. It’s also fun ⏤ if your computer can splash onto your TV with a Chromecast or HDMI cable ⏤ to throw up a picture, or repeating video, of the ocean.
After that, help them lay out both blankets or sheets on the floor so that the water blanket slightly overlaps the sand blanket. You’ve just created your ‘inside beach.’ Now let them decide how they want to settle in for a big day under the sun. My daughter loves laying out (and straightening) blankets and enjoys putting down her beach towel next. She also has a small camping chair we sometimes set up. In the show, Daniel and Prince Wednesday scatter random seashells on the sand blanket and position their buckets and shovels so they’re ready for action.
From here, imagination wins the day. Kids can pretend to engage in all the same activities they would at a real beach. Swimming on the water blanket, throwing around a beach ball (‘toss it gently because this isn’t a real beach,’ says Daniel.), building a sand castle (Duplos or Legos make a good substitute), playing bean bags, whatever. Just don’t forget to apply some ‘sunscreen’ and stop for juice boxes and sandwiches.
It’s hard to imagine something as simple as building a pretend beach in the living room could capture a child’s imagination so effectively but it does ⏤ at least with kids who actually enjoy the real thing. ‘Inside Beach’ is not only easy to play on a whim (at it’s most basic, it’s simply two blankets) and helps children stretch their imaginations, but it also gets bonus points for needing little parental involvement. Better still, you can turn it into ‘Inside Pool’ on rainy days when the real is pool is closed, and kids won’t be so mad they want to roar.