Britain’s beaches play host to a plethora of natural life from starfish, crabs and all kinds of bizarre critters, and they are all just waiting to be discovered by curious little beachcombers. While children adore exploring this stimulating habitat, there are a few considerations that should be taken into account to treat the seaside ecosystem with respect and stay safe, warm and dry for a happy day out.
When is it best to go rock pooling?
Rock-pooling is an activity that can take place all year round, but it is recommended that you go from late spring to early autumn. Try to pick a warm, non-windy day so that stepping from rock to rock is less dangerous and it will be easier to find what is swimming in the water as the surface will be calmer, making it much simpler for the little ones to investigate.
What do you need for rock pooling?
Really you just need a net, a bucket and a good eye! The bucket can be filled it up with sea water and then if you find any creatures that you or the kids want to look at more closely, you can pop it there and see it in more detail. A small torch can also be useful – to check out those dark nooks and crannies.
5 ways to go rock pooling safely
- Wrap up well
While our rugged British coastline makes for a beautiful landscape, it can also be a harsh environment for children’s sensitive skin. Make sure your child has appropriate footwear, such as wellies or waterproof shoes with good grip on the soles for clambering around slippery environments. A sea breeze can be chilling even when the skies are blue, so pack hats, scarves and plenty of light waterproof layers which can be easily removed if necessary.
- Bring a kit
Your child can make the most of his discoveries with a few essential pieces of kit such as a magnifying glass or binoculars to inspect your discoveries more closely, a notebook to keep a rock-pooling log, a little tub to collect empty shells and some wet wipes or antibacterial gel to keep hands clean before tucking into a celebratory, post-hunt ice cream.
- Do not disturb
Rock pools are carefully balanced ecosystems that survive against the harsh elements of the tides and coastal weather. Every living being in this environment, from seaweed to tiny barnicles and crabs relies on each other as sources of food and shelter so it’s really important to try not to upset the balance by removing plants or other forms of life. Discourage your children from disturbing large rocks or removing living creatures, check shells are empty before collecting them to take away and always put overturned rocks back carefully.
- Keep safe
Always supervise your children when they are investigating the shore and check the tidal currents as they can be surprisingly quick to pick up. Watch out for slippy rocks and seaweed on the ground and be vigilant about not picking up any discarded glass or dangerous rubbish that can sometimes be found on the shore.
- Make it an adventure
Scrambling around the beach, searching for animal life and other hidden treasure will feel like a real adventure to your child, and you can add to the excitement by bringing in an element of storytelling. If you discover a shiny shell or piece of driftwood ask your children where it could have come from; a hermit crab who had abandoned his home and moved into an old shoe? A piece from the hull of a sunken pirate ship? Work together to create fantastical stories about your beach-combing discoveries, gifting your child with magical memories of his day at the beach for years to come.
10 Rock Pooling Essentials for Children
1. This kit includes 24 seashore identification cards, a magnified collection jar, fishing net, notepad and pencil plus full instructions. Ideal for ages 6+ >> Flights of Fancy About the Seashore: Rock pools and Beaches Nature Kit , £14.68, Amazon
2. Explore secret underwater habitats in 5X magnification. This water-resistant extendable seascope with built-in torch and ruler lets you explore underwater life in ponds, lakes, rock-pools and more – without getting wet. >> GeoSafari SeaScope: See Underwater, £29.95, Wicked Uncle
3. In this mini explorers bag you will find a seaside spotter book, bucket, mini-spade, net, specimen pot and magnifier – ideal for toddlers and pre-schoolers >> Little Pals Seashore and Rock Pool Explorer Kit, £24.95, Amazon
4. This book is bursting with hands-on activities, fascinating experiments and amazing facts to discover at home or on the shore by the award-winning wildlife blogger (and author of Rock Pool: Extraordinary Encounters). This book also has tips on how to how to find this mysterious sea creatures and discover what you can do to protect them. >> Beach Explorer: 50 Things to See and Discover £10.99, Waterstones
5. With non-slip soles this durable Neoprene shoes offer protection from slips, sharp shells and hot sand – meaning children can enjoy being near the coast and water to the maximum. >> Splash About Splash Shoe with firm Sole,£13, Kidly
6. Forget batteries near water with this hand-powered flashlight – just perfect for the eco-friendly explorer. Made from bamboo and plant-based plastic. >> Hape Hand-Powered Flashlight, £18, Souzu
7. An essential for rock pool enthusiast and explorer. This basic magnifying glass has an ergonomic handle and offers 2 enlargement options and an integrated mini-magnifier with 3 to 4 enlargement options. >> HABA by Terra Kids Magnifying Glass, £14.99, BeesyBox
8. This Rock Pooling Kit contains everything you need to start surveying the UK’s rocky shores contained in one convenient kit form the NHBS. The kit also includes a fully-illustrated and laminated identification key produced by the FSC (Field Studies Council) which covers the main animal and plant groups found on British rocky shores. Ideal for ages 7+ >> Rock Pooling Kit, £32.99, NHBS
9. Keep toddlers and little one dry with a waterproof puddle trouser or suit. We love the selection at Frugi as they are all made from 100% recycled materials >> Puddle Buster Trousers in yellow, from £18, Frugi
10. Most kids love gathering shells left strewn on the beach after the receding tide. This informative guide uncovers the secret history of each common shell, revealing not only which marine creature once inhabited it but the unique challenges of its watery habitat it had to solve. >> Shell Life on the Seashore by Philip Street, £7.99, Amazon