Teaching preschool children English on the beach

beach written in seashells
15 Jun SAV 1 Comment

A teacher is starting with a little group (5 years old) on the beach. She has my preschool games book, stories, songs and story videos.


What to take

buckets and spades for english lesson on the beach

  • If you are teaching on a sandy beach, I would think about leaving your computer / iPad at home. Kids might not be able to see the screen easily in bright light, you'll be worrying about someone stealing it when you are off with the kids at the sea, and sand and electronics don't go well together. So that wipes out using the videos or song videos.
  • Take big, colourful objects that will be easily visible in the sand and that can't get damaged. Different coloured buckets, spades and larger plastic toys. Small animals will be lost in the sand in no time unless you take great care. Use plastified A4 colour flashcards.
  • Take something to create shade if it's hot and a beach rug.
  • Take plenty of water, suncream, bathing suits and an easy snack to keep kids going.
  • Take props for any games, such as scarves for the scarf game.
  • Take my stories, laminated and A4 size, or whatever storybooks you want.
  • Use everything the beach has to offer as props in the games. Pebbles are great for drawing on to make vocabulary items, instead of flashcards. Shells, driftwood, buckets and spades, sand and the waves may all be used as part of the lesson.


Structuring the lesson

1. Teach new vocabulary first.

Start quietly with kids in a tight circle and use the first ten minutes to show them new vocabulary with some quiet listening games. (Get my preschool games book for these.)

kids learning english on the beach with buckets, sand and objects2. Integrate the beach into the lesson, whatever the theme. Since the beach holds an endless fascination, include the beach in the lesson, so that children feel that they are playing on the beach. Take the big colourful buckets and have kids place flashcards in them, "Coco, please put the flower in the red bucket."

  • Play the 3 cups game with the sand buckets, where kids guess which upturned bucket has an animal under it. Use a pebble or shell to be the animal.
  • Have kids dig a hole and then bury the object or flashcard that you name. Then let kids find a different item, dig it up, and name it.
  • Bury an item and have kids play hide and seek, dig up your item, and name it.
  • You may have buckets and wet sand that you can build castles with. Have kids make mounds of sand and put vocabulary items on each mound, then hop over the mounds, naming the items as they go.
  • You may have shells and driftwood. Use these to make camps, put toys in the camps. Count the shells, the toys, etc.
  • Have your story characters live in the camps and enact the story there.

Here is a specific example of how to integrate any teaching material with the beach: with my first preschool story, I'm Hungry, make a meeting place in the sand. Make a circle surrounded by a wall of sand, with an opening at each side that can be the gate the animals come in through. Or use shells or driftwood to make the arena. If your beach is just dry sand and you can't make an arena with the sand, use a scarf, a rope, or a mat. Tell the story using this beach setting. It will seem more real for kids. Then, tell it again, with the kids miming the animals as you go. Then, if kids are ready, make a bigger area for them and instead of the flashcards, have the kids be the animals in the story.

With story 2, where you learn counting and more animals, have kids collect pebbles and shells and count them. Draw animals on the pebbles. Make mounds of sand and count those. Put animal flashcards into the sand buckets, space them out between you and the sea and have kids run off and bring back the right animal and bucket.

3. Movement

As the lesson goes on let children move a little more, miming, fetching things, making things that are part of the game or story.

  • Bring them back into the circle for a calm game such as "Freeze". For this, sit them down in the circle, tell them to freeze every time you say an animal. Leave them freezing for a while, this will cool them and calm them.
  • Have them mime objects in the circle
  • Make a picture in the sand of one of the vocabulary items.

4. Spelling

If you are teaching reading and writing, have kids write their names in the sand with their fingers, shells, sticks or pebbles.

5. Keep more boisterous games for the end.

Towards the end of the lesson, you may use running games. For example, put out buckets along the water, kids run to the buckets and pick out the vocabulary item you name (pebbles with things drawn on them, plastified A4 flashcard, larger toy items). Or, if you don't have items they run to the bucket and walk back while miming the item or verb.

Stand in the water and throw a big ball, the bigger the better, so it is easy to catch. Ask a question, throw the ball, the child answers and throws the ball back to you. Have kids pass the ball around the circle. When you clap, the one with the ball has to answer a question in English or do a silly forfeit like pretend to be a seagull.

origami boat craft for english lesson on beach6. Calming down

To calm kids down before the end of the lesson, take ten minutes to make an origami boat. Let kids try and sail their boats on the sea, or in the moat of your sandcastle. There are videos on YouTube on how to make an origami boat that floats.

Another trick to calm kids down quickly is to get everyone back in the circle for a drink or biscuit.

7. Ending the lesson and parents

Play a round of a game and then everyone runs and splashes in the sea as a reward. You might spend a long time in the sea and play games there, but it depends how long your lesson is, and whether parents are collecting the kids at the end, or whether you are taking them home.

If parents are showing up to collect their kids, think about having something to show them. This could be all the castles or shell pictures. Have kids tell their parents some of the words you have been learning and e-mail them a list of what you have covered. Parents find it reassuring to think that their kids are learning something and not just playing on the beach.

Kind regards

Shelley Ann Vernon

For resources mentioned in this blog please see:

ESL games for preschool book cover

Download version from Shelley


Paperback from Amazon. (Also availabe by order from your local bookstore: ISBN-13: 978-1541133396)







stories for preschoolers 1-10 

Download version from Shelley


Or Paperbacks: This download pack of ten stories is covered Story Books One and Two from Amazon. (Also availabe by order from your local bookstore: ISBN-13 Book 1: 978-1482012088 & Book 2: 978-1484052495


Hello Shelley, Thank you for your blog posts. I'm no longer teaching but your posts give my mind a needed shakeup about grammar and other aspects of English language!

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