Hunting for treasures at low tide along a favorite beach is one of life's simple pleasures for tots, teens and adults alike.
There's so much to see, smell and discover in nature's giant sandbox -- scampering crabs, colorful seaweed, seagulls, jellyfish (take care, they may sting) and all those shells. If you're lucky, you'll find lots of shells to gather and take home for a lasting souvenir of the day.
Here are some simple lessons and activities you can do with your young kids and grandkids when you get home.
For folks who aren't hitting one of the coasts this summer, look for bags or baskets full of shells at neighborhood tag sales and thrift stores. Some specialty toy and craft stores sell them, too.
-- If you have just collected shells at a beach, wash them in a bucket with mild detergent and set them out in the sun on a towel to dry. Use old toothbrushes to scrub the sand out of crevices.
-- Let school-age kids try a science experiment with broken pieces. Place a piece of shell in a jar and cover the piece with vinegar. Let set overnight. Did the piece of shell disappear? Explain that shells are composed of calcium carbonate. The acid in the vinegar dissolves the compound.
-- Sort the shells into piles according to type and then find their names online or in a field guide. Challenge your preschooler to arrange the shells from each pile in rows from largest to smallest.
-- Talk about how the surfaces feel and use adjectives
-- Create a bowl full of memories, and keep it on an end table or on the center of your dining-room table for everyone to enjoy. For a dramatic display, use a large, low pasta-serving dish with edges. Fill it half full with clean sand, and arrange shells and other seashore finds on top. Set flat shells, such as scallops or clams, upright in the sand. For added attractions, tuck in a travel postcard, a trip photo in a small Lucite frame and a tiny sailboat or other purchase from a souvenir shop.
Donna Erickson's award-winning series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit donnasday.com and link to the new Donna's Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families."