A Summer Guide to Beach Games for the Whole Family

A Summer Guide to Beach Games for the Whole Family

Every summer, visitors flock to the beach as they look to get away with their families. There’s no better place to take your family than Ocean City, New Jersey.

In 2022, New Jersey experienced a remarkable surge in tourism with 114.6 million visitors, a 99% return to pre-pandemic levels. Visitor spending also increased to $45.4 billion, a 98% rebound compared to 2019.

In other words, no matter how you measure it, going to the shore is an important part of what makes New Jersey thrive.

While we’re confident that you’ll come visit us sometime during the summer, we also want to help you have a blast when you do. That’s why today we’re focusing on beach games. While many consider beach activities — swimming, sun bathing or building a sandcastles — to be self-explanatory, we know that just getting the kids out of the minivan and into the sand isn’t always enough.

Therefore, we’re putting together this comprehensive guide on things to do at the beach. Included are our favorite summer beach games for thrilling family beach days. They’re fun, are mostly free — though some may require a few toys — and they’re great for kids and adults of all ages.

So don’t worry about what to do at the shore. Pack the sunscreen and beach towels and get ready to have some fun in the sun with the whole family!

Sea Shell Beach Art

Two things that kids are always excited about at the shore are finding shells and digging in the sand. So why not encourage the little ones to combine both? Task them with creating the biggest and wildest seashell art that they can. Let them know that when they’re done, you’re going to memorialize their masterpiece with a photograph that will become one of the defining documents from your vacation.

Kids are very creative, but often they need specific parameters to help them channel that creativity. That’s what makes this such a good activity. It’s not actually challenging and they can’t really do it wrong. But by telling them that you want it to be a certain size and, if they need a little help, giving them a subject to present, you’ll get them excited for the task. Now they will have a certain number of shells that they’ll need to collect. They will then have to take time to arrange them intentionally rather than just dumping them haphazardly.

Just make sure you are encouraging them for art’s sake and not pitting siblings against each other. If your kids are especially good at cooperative activities, you can even ask them to make one masterpiece rather than multiple individual works.

Sand Pictionary

Pictionary is a classic game that almost everyone knows how to play. But if you need a refresher, here’s the gist. One person is in charge of getting other players to guess a common term or phrase. They’re allowed to draw, but can’t speak or use letters or numbers. You can either divide into teams or just have one person be the drawer and have everyone else trying to guess.

The nice thing about sand Pictionary is you don’t need any equipment whatsoever. All you need is a canvas of sand and a finger. If you have younger ones who might have a limited vocabulary, cater all the clues to things they can find at the shore. You can even add a twist by playing near the waves, forcing people to work against a “tidal clock!”

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your own family rules. Once you’ve hit upon something that really works for your crew, solidify it moving forward and you’ll have your own special version for years to come.

Musical Towels

This is basically musical chairs, but with a fun beach twist. Instead of chairs, set out towels — one less than the number of players. Then pick out one of your favorite beach jams on your smartphone of portable radio. Have everyone circle the towels until you stop the music. When the music stops, everyone rushes to sit on a towel, and whoever remains standing is out. Remove a towel and play another round with those that remain.

To make it a little harder, require that players lay down on their backs on the towel, making sure that no part of them is touching sand. This will surely make for some zany struggles as players jostle for the last spot.

Crab Walk Race

Many of us probably remember the crab walk from gym class. Just like walking on all fours, except instead of having your back in the air, it’s your stomach that’s facing up. You probably remember how tough this is, so this is especially good if you have some high energy kids.

This activity is especially well suited for the beach since crash landings are common when crab walking. While gym floors may make for sore bottoms, the sand allows kids to try and move a little faster without the fear of falling over.

Kids will also love watching parents trying their own crab walk. And while parents may be likely to beat little ones at a foot race, a kid’s lower center of gravity actually gives them an advantage when crab walking, which is a nice way to even the playing field during intra-family competitions.

Beach Skee-ball

Remember skee-ball from your childhood afternoons at the arcade? A cross between bowling and shuffleboard, players roll a wooden ball down an alley in an attempt to ramp it into a number of different holes, with each hole having a different assigned score.

Well, if you have some small plastic balls (such as whiffle balls) you can make your own skee-ball alley out of sand. Just start by building a mound out of sand. Then dig some whole in the face of the mound. Next, flatten an alley in front of the mound, and include some dug out ditches as gutters.

Depending on the age of the kids, you can make it as difficult or easy as you want. Younger ones will be more than happy to try to roll the ball into the hole, regardless of the score. Older kids might want to make some more complicated rules and challenge themselves to top each other’s scores.

Beach Bowling

If you have a larger ball, try this easy variation on beach skee-ball. Simply make your own bowling alley in the sand, using the empty water bottles that you’ve been collecting over the day. Don’t fret if you don’t have exactly 10 bottles. Just work with what you’ve got. If you want an easier scoring system, count strikes as two points, spares as 1 and everything else as 0.

Sand Twister

Here is another variation of a classic board game that’s right at home on the beach. Instead of colored circles, construct your own four by four board with four different symbols, such as “x” or “o.” Then find some way to select what body part — right foot, left foot, right hand and left hand — and where to put it. Eventually, your kids will be so tied up in knots that they’ll fall into a giggling fit. Blessedly, the sand will cushion any falls!

Sand Golf

You can buy a set of plastic over-sized beach golf clubs, but even a single whiffle ball and a piece of drift wood is enough to set up your own beach links. Just dig a hole — make it bigger for younger ones — and designate a tee box somewhere else on the beach. If you want to put in a little extra effort, you can even make a few traps. Set your kids to digging some pits that will serve as hazards. You can even arrange your course so it sits next to the water, which will give you a water hazard to work with.

Just make sure you’re being mindful of your neighbors. While everyone on the beach knows that there will be kids playing, they might not appreciate being hit in the head with a whiffle ball. So try to set your hole up in such a way that everyone can have a good time without worrying about having to yell “fore!”

Frisbee Golf

This is similar, except instead of trying to get a ball in the hole, your goal is to hit an object with a frisbee. Just put a stick or an umbrella in the sand and then set the tee box somewhere else. Then you throw the frisbee towards the object, trying to do so with as few throws as possible.

The same warning applies — in fact, it might be an even bigger concern with this variation. You don’t want to set your hole up in the midst of a crowd of vacation goers and run the risk of hitting someone with an errant frisbee.

Beach Limbo

In many ways, limbo is the perfect beach activity, seeing as it originated from the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Now that kids are coming to the beach with pool noodles in hand, it is easy to convert the noodle into a limbo poll.

This is an especially good way to encourage your kids to get an inadvertent workout. Because limbo requires players to try to get under a bar by bending backwards, staying on their feet while easing their bellies under the noodle, it is a great way to work on flexibility.

Plus, like so many of the games on this list, the soft sand makes tumbles far less of a concern.

Bocce Ball

Bocce ball is an Italian classic, and generally involves a specially designed bocce ball set. However, if you just want to make your own set, the rules are simple and you can use any ball that you have on hand.

First, throw a small ball some distance ahead of the players. Next, other players take turns trying to get their larger balls as close to the target ball as possible. Typically, players have multiple balls that are color-coded. But if you’re improvising, just have each player have one ball or one smaller ball and one big one. You can make your own family rules that you can pull out for future beach vacations.

Beach Ball Relay Race

The Beach Ball Relay Race is a high-energy game that combines teamwork and coordination. Families form teams and each team lines up in a row along the shore. Participants pass a beach ball overhead and between their legs as they relay it. The objective is to be the first team to complete the relay without dropping the ball. 

Communication and cooperation become paramount in keeping the ball moving seamlessly as family members work together. The Beach Ball Relay Race fosters a sense of unity and strengthens the family bond as everyone shares in the thrill of passing the ball successfully from one end of the line to the other.

Beach Bubble Contest

The Beach Bubble Contest is a delightful and enchanting game that captivates both young and old. Parents bring along bubble wands and a container of bubble solution, sparking the imaginations of their little ones. Family members of all ages can participate in creating the biggest or most unique bubbles, engaging in friendly competition and playful interaction. 

The shimmering bubbles floating in the air reflect the joy and wonder on everyone’s faces as they chase and marvel at the floating spheres. The Beach Bubble Contest brings laughter and excitement and reminds everyone to appreciate nature’s simple joys.

Beach Towel Volleyball

This fun twist on volleyball is a great way to entertain the whole family. Beach Towel Volleyball is a fun-filled variation of traditional volleyball that suits the beach setting perfectly. Families set up a makeshift volleyball net using beach towels tied between poles or held by family members. Players divide into teams and use a beach ball or lightweight ball to volley over the net. 

The softness of the beach towels adds a unique element to the game, requiring players to adjust their techniques. Beach Towel Volleyball encourages friendly competition, communication and camaraderie as participants strategize and work together to keep the ball in play. The game’s relaxed atmosphere and laughter-filled rallies make it a memorable experience for everyone involved.

Beach Water Bucket Challenge

The Beach Water Bucket Challenge is a refreshing and team-oriented game that cools off everyone on a hot day. Parents organize family members into teams and each team lines up along the shore. A large bucket filled with water is placed at the front of each line. Each player holds a cup or small container. On the signal “Go,” the first player fills their cup with water and passes it overhead to the person behind them. 

The water is passed down the line from one player to the next until it reaches the last player, who pours it into the bucket. The objective is for the team to fill their bucket with water as quickly as possible or to have the most water in their bucket after a set time. The Beach Water Bucket Challenge encourages communication, cooperation and camaraderie as family members work together to achieve the goal. The splashy and spirited play guarantees laughter and shared joy, making it a memorable and refreshing beach game for families.

Beach Memory Game

It’s good to keep the brain busy during your free time too. The Beach Memory Game challenges family members to flex their memory muscles. Parents arrange various beach items on a tray or blanket, giving participants a brief moment to study the objects. They then cover the tray or swiftly remove the items, prompting family members to recall as many items as they can remember. 

The game enhances cognitive abilities, stimulating the brain as participants try to recollect each item. Friendly competition arises as family members compare their memories and celebrate their successes. The Beach Memory Game fosters a sense of accomplishment and teamwork as everyone works together to remember the objects on the tray.

Beach Water Balloon Piñata

The Beach Water Balloon Piñata promises a refreshing and thrilling experience that combines the fun of a piñata with the coolness of water play. Parents hang water-filled balloons using strings or rope from a tree branch or pole. Family members take turns being blindfolded and handed a bat or stick to break the water balloons. Blindfolded participants rely on their teammates’ directions to locate and strike the balloons, eagerly anticipating the following splashes and laughter. The Beach Water Balloon Piñata offers a delightful way to beat the heat and create lasting memories of shared laughter and excitement at the beach.

Fun and Engaging Beach Games for Infants and Toddlers

Fun and Engaging Beach Games for Infants and Toddlers

These beach games are specifically tailored to cater to the youngest members of your family. As they splash, giggle and explore the sandy shores, the following games will help create treasured memories for toddlers and parents alike:

  • Sandy sensory play: Toddlers are naturally curious and love to explore the world through their senses. Sandy Sensory Play is a beautiful way to engage their little minds while they enjoy the texture of sand beneath their fingers. Fill a shallow bucket or large beach container with clean sand and provide various small toys, shells and beach-safe items like plastic shovels, cups and molds. Encourage your little ones to dig, scoop and pour, letting their imagination run wild as they create sandcastles and experiment with the feel of different textures.
  • Splash and play with water toys: Toddlers have an innate affinity for water play and the beach offers an endless playground. Bring water-safe toys such as rubber ducks, small boats or colorful watering cans and let your little ones revel in the joy of splashing around in the shallow waves. You can even help them build mini sand pools where they can dip their toes and watch the waves gently fill their creations.
  • Seashell sounds: Create a magical auditory experience for your toddlers with the Seashell Sounds game. Collect a variety of seashells of different shapes and sizes, ensuring they are clean and safe for little hands. Sit in a circle with your little ones and demonstrate how to gently tap the shells together, creating unique sounds. Encourage them to explore the sounds by tapping the shells together and soon, you’ll have a captivating symphony of seashell music.
  • Beach ball roll and chase: Toddlers are full of energy and the Beach Ball Roll and Chase game is perfect for letting them burn off some of that excitement. Bring a soft, inflatable beach ball and gently roll it across the sand. Encourage your little ones to crawl or toddle after the ball and give it a gentle push-back to them when they reach it. This simple back-and-forth play will have them laughing and giggling with delight.

Special Beach Games for Adults and Teens

While many of these family beach games would be great for the whole family, we do want to point out a couple of fun adult and teen beach games. Like our games for kids, we choose games that require very little equipment, meaning you can play all of these on a budget and don’t necessarily need to plan ahead of time.

  • Acrobatic Catch Contest: This is a great game for more daring older kids who are strong enough swimmers to play out in the deeper water. Throw a frisbee far enough ahead of the person catching it to force them to make an acrobatic dive into the water. Assign others to be the judges, awarding points on a scale from 1 to 10 for such skills as “floppiness,” “mid-air posing” or “splash height.” If you have a foam football, that will work just as well.
  • Boogie Board Balancing Act: If you have boogie boards, here’s a game for older kids or adults that aren’t afraid to look foolish. The fun is using boogie boards in the exact wrong way. Go out in some of the shallow water and try to stand on your boogie board. Whoever can stay on longer is the winner. We bet no one will last very long!
  • Beach Soccer: Beach soccer is easy to set up and only requires a ball. Just make some goals out of discarded shirts. This is better for older kids and adults because the sand can make playing soccer difficult. Younger ones are prone to get upset early on. If you want to remove goalies from the game, require goals to be on the sand and not in the air. This will force players to get a clear shot on goal.
  • Beach Olympics: The Olympics bring together participants in a series of beach-themed challenges and games, including beach volleyball, beach soccer, sandcastle building, frisbee golf and beach relay races. Individuals or teams compete in a friendly manner and medals or small prizes are awarded to the winners, fostering team spirit, friendly competition and an opportunity to showcase individual skills. 
  • Beach Bonfire Games: The Beach Bonfire Games provide a magical and cozy evening atmosphere as participants gather around a bonfire during sunset. Activities such as beach charades, storytelling, ghost stories and singing around the fire create a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone. Roasting marshmallows and making s’mores add to the delight of the bonfire gathering, fostering bonding and creating lasting memories for all participants.

Book your Vacation and Start Playing

Book your Vacation and Start Playing

Now that you are equipped with a number of great and simple games, all you have left to do is book your vacation. We are your one stop site for all the best information on where to stay, how to book your room or beach home and what to do once you arrive in Ocean City, New Jersey. So contact us today and get your trip to OCNJ booked and put on your calendar. On the other hand, if you’re ready to begin booking, start right away while that perfect rental is still available.

So what are you waiting for? Your family deserves a break. Your kids are ready to cut loose. And there’s nothing that can compare to watching your loved ones smiling and laughing as they enjoy all that Ocean City, NJ, has to offer. Book your Ocean City, New Jersey vacation today!

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