Help your child to have fond memories of a beach vacation

Summer at the beach is a wonderful place to play and have fun with your children, even if it’s just for one day. Make the most of your time there by thinking about and preparing around your child’s dominant sense. Know what aspects they will enjoy and what parts will cause anxiety, to make sure you and your child have a wonderful experience to remember.

You will find that auditory children will love to experiment with the sound in their surroundings; holding a shell up to their ear, turning their head in various directions to listen to the changes in the waves crashing or to the children playing way down the other end of the beach. They will love being able to chat while building something with other people like a sand castle. They will enthusiastically squeal as the waves wash over their feet and as they splash around in the water. They will often get upset when splashed in the face. They don’t like getting their ears wet and especially dislike the feeling of water in the ears. This can be hard for old siblings and friends to understand, and this is often the source of many water disagreements.

Visual children can find the lack of control, and the messiness of sand whether being blown or accidentally kicked on to their towels and toys, frustrating. Often they will need to take themselves off for a while to calm down, where they can watch from a distance, before rejoining the group. As you know, visual children are very aware of their clothes, towels, and beach play things. They will take great care in laying out their belongings, carefully deciding where to place their towel and build the sandcastle. They can tend to be a little bossy and will take some time to learn that the beach is a more relaxed communal environment where children share spades and buckets, and building projects.

Make sure your Taste and Smell child wears a hat, and allow them some choice with the sunscreen used. They are sensitive to the smell and feel of products on their face, so you may need to experiment with different brands and methods of application to find one that suits. Often they will prefer clothing and hats to creams and sprays. They will thrive in the family aspect of a beach day. The playing together as a group and interacting with their loved ones in the low stress environment. Once on the beach, unlike the other senses, they will tend to hang back and observe for a while. A good umbrella, and chair to sit under will be perfect to help them feel at ease. Being very sensitive to changes in environment, they will need this time to adjust. Once having done so, they will join the various beach activities with enthusiasm.

Touch is so important to tactile children that they often get frustrated when they can’t get the sand off. Bring a spare bottle of tap water to rinse their hands or fill a bucket with fresh water so they can dip their hands when need be. Try to apply sunscreen to your tactile child before heading to the beach as once they are there, it will be difficult for them to stand still. The tactile child will take great delight in playing in the openness of the beach and as soon as their feet are on the sand they will grab a shovel and start digging to create holes and tunnels and castles. It can be hard to get the sunscreen on them, so having sun protective shirts, shorts and large hats is important. Buckets, spades, beach balls and boogie boards are all things tactile children will use endlessly.

A day at the beach is one of the pleasures of Summer. Remember your sun protection and to stay hydrated.


Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of "Child Sense" and "Calm the Crying." She currently works in New York as a behavioral consultant. Learn more about Dunstan at