Top Reasons to Take Your Kids to the Sea (and no, it’s not to drown them)

ocean photoWho doesn’t love the sea? With its crashing waves, salt spray in the air, gulls crying overhead, the sea is a smorgasborg for the senses, and that’s even before you dip a toe inside.

Family trips to the sea can help you build a healthy life. 

Growing up, I did not live near the sea. I lived in land-locked Ohio (not close to the lakes), then land-locked Kentucky, then land-locked Indiana. You don’t even want to know all the other land-locked states I’ve lived in as an adult. But I still developed a passion for the sea. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces and my parents told me when I was young that Pisces meant fish. I remember saying to myself, I’m a fish! Yeah, that feels right. I love swimming!

My parents regularly took our family swimming at our cousin’s house or city pools and sometimes on long treks to the beach. I vividly remember splashing together and playing silly games like Marco Polo. When I was young, I seriously thought I might grow up to be a dolphin

More than that, I knew I wanted to be active, preferably swimming, whenever I could. Research shows that children who are active tend to grow into active, healthy adults. With the advent of television, video games, and mobile electronic devices, it becomes even more important for parents to encourage physical activity in their kids. Trips to the sea, whether it be the ocean (my fave!), the pool, a river, or a lake (or the somewhat scuzzy pond in the back forty—if you’re brave enough), are a fun-filled way to encourage activity and family unity at the same time.

Regular family outings (especially those involving water!) create memories that last.

ocean photoMy childhood family often swam at Lake Cumberland where my Omama and Opapa owned a cabin. I passed many a fond summer there building close ties with my sister, our cousins, and extended family. At the end of a day water-skiing, my legs felt wobbly like jello. But I quickly learned that if I skied the next day, they felt better. I also learned that the steep hike down to the dock was a lot easier than the trudge back up, except of course, when Omama rang the dinner bell.

Over the years, Opapa taught me to fish, telling me to shout “Fish on!” when I felt a tug on my line. When he told me this, I shouted “Fish on!”

“That’s right,” he said.

“No! Fish on!” I shouted.

He laughed and helped me reel my first catch in. We spent many mornings together on the lake before sunup, motoring slowly along overhanging cliffs, listening to what he called water music. I’ll never forget the wonder in his eyes when we heard the lilting, echoey sounds. As an adult, I realize that wonder was for me. Those early-morning jaunts on the water were for me. And for my sister and cousins, when they had their turns.

Opapa is gone now and Omama, too. I miss them. But they left an indelible mark on my life through the unwavering love they shared for each other and for us, shown in so many ways, our time at the lake being just one.

Time spent at the sea provides a great chance to teach important skills

child swimming photoWhen I started having children, I wanted to share my love of the sea with them. I took them swimming at a very early age. Learning to swim is a requirement in the Roberts family. Kind of like breathing. If you want to do one, you better learn to do the other.

I’d read that small children know to hold their breath underwater and will try to make it to the surface. I’d also read that dunking babies and hoping for the best builds character (just kidding). Actually, exposing infants to water play with their parents helps them not panic if they later happen to fall in. I practiced water exercises with my children. Interestingly, the exercises we tried did not seem to upset them at all. They simply held their breath and paddled, staring at me through the water. When I pulled them out, they snuggled in and did not cry.

My children have all loved the water and learned to swim at an early age, not just because we visit swimming spots often, but because I feel it’s a safety requirement and go out of my way to teach them or see that they have lessons.

The sea can reveal our strengths and weaknesses

When my oldest was young, we lived in California, close enough to the beach that we took a trip there at least once a month (hooray!). She was about a year old and a little unsteady on her feet. When we’d arrive at the beach and set up our towels and snack bags, she’d drop to her knees and crawl as fast as she could toward the surf. She was a lot faster at crawling than walking back then.

This passionate drive to get to the crashing sea as fast as she could kind of sums up her personality. She’s always been fearless and ready to jump into life, sometimes without looking.

The sea often reflects part of ourselves back at us, and I don’t mean just our reflection.Sometimes it stirs up the fearful side of us—what’s under there? Sharks? Jellyfish? Portuguese Man-o-wars? (We’ve had painful experience with those!)

We might tiptoe at the edge of the water, afraid to dive in. Or maybe, the sea brings out our reckless tendencies. Are we so eager to swim amid rocking waves that we venture out alone instead of with a swim buddy? (When I’m near a beach, I love to get up early and swim, even if no one else is out there. Not so smart, but hey, I’m not always smart. Just don’t tell my husband I admitted that.)

Whether near the ocean or land-locked at home, my heart is always with the sea.


“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”
― William James

What are your favorite sea-related memories?

R.H. Roberts explores her love of the sea in her middle grade fantasy novel, Sparks, which features a daring girl who discovers she and her family are actually sea sprites, hiding among humans because her parents testified against an undersea crime ring. Find out more at her Books and Stories page.

  • Allison Culling Andrasko

    I am grateful to a wonderful mom who raised us near the sea. I miss it so. My tangible memories of being on a beach and in the ocean out in a boat making eye contact with seals, whales, otters, and yes that big tuna I helped my grandpa haul up onto the boat and gave it a good whack or two on the head, have sustained me. I lived an ocean life in my youth. Those memories linger not as a dream but my reality.

    • RHRoberts

      Oh, I love those details, Allison. I can just see an ocean full of curious creatures coming to see you.