Best playground of all…

a pram

It’s Boatstrand and that time of year again – when tents, children, parents, aunties, uncles, grannys, grandads, camper vans, a silver cross pram and a giant inflatable pink flamingo… descend upon the little fishing pier on the Copper Coast in Co Waterford.

The pier is buzzing and children of all ages line up to be scheduled for sea life saving classes from Irish Water Safety. Class times get set and you turn up and work hard and the rest of the glorious day is yours.

So what do you do when you are waiting to be called for the class?

Because in between classes there is lots of time, time to…well, adults chat and chase children to dry them or smather them in suncream, cook, read, swim, snooze, drink tea, go fishing and chat more,  duck odd rain drops etc..  Fishing boats come and go, a fisherman works away, seagulls circle and squawl, flasks get shared around, barbecues hiss – the sounds and smells are mighty!

man work

And the children? They play and play… they invent worlds and games of their own.  I had the joy of being camped up close to an industrious bunch.  I was fascinated by them so I moved my towel closer to the action.

This is what they got up to…

a tool set

Little fingers took turns in the bucket. Sand & sea water gets moulded into oozy messes dripping between wet busy fingers, smoothing, shaping, forming perfect sand cannon balls – patting them to remove excess water, packing them tight and ready for firing.

a one mud ball


And for a target..

making target

Wet hands scrawl circles high and low on the sun dried pier wall.

The scoring they tell me goes like this –

“See the high circles , blast the outside ring and get 50 points

hit the inside ring straight on and you get 100

the lower circles –  the outside ring gives you 25 points and the inside gives you 50”

a score


making mark in the sand.jpg


A foot draws a line in the sand.

They line up with the weapons.

Negotiating to see who goes first.  “Will we do littlest goes first?” or “Eeny Meeny Miny Mo?” They stick their toes in. Sorted.

They stand in line.

Ready- Steady- Go!  – blast cannons at the wall and score!

a throw

Children of all ages simply lost in the play, in the serious business of it all, messy sensory play.

They invite me into the play cos I told them that I wanted to photograph a speedy sand cannon ball.

They demonstrated and showed me how it was done.  I found myself lost in the play too..

It was pure joyful fun.

I thought how lucky I was to have wandered in their direction. And this was just a side show to the main event.

I thought about all the learning that happens in an informal way – learning without boundaries or supervision.

Chatting, joking and making friends, adding up the scores = Language, literacy & numeracy skills.

Figuring stuff out – size, speed, texture, shape = science, art, engineering and critical thinking skills.

Playing, sharing, laughing, negotiating, taking turns = real life skills.

Albert Einstein said that “play is the highest form of research”. Rest my case.

And all in the great outdoors, the best playground of all, with the sea lapping and a gentle breeze a-stirring.

Pure magic.

What more would you ask of a summer’s day?a mud ball pact

This year, at the end of a busy week, 300+ children  received their life saving certificates from Irish Water Safety (

My daughter had me lying face down on the kitchen floor last night in prep for her finishing exam – lying on the floor “as if” I am in the water and she is saving me. I am in good hands and she is assured and confident.

My song for the week – “Seaside” The Kooks.  Check it out.


 Annual Boatstrand Water Safety week August 2017.


  1. Thank you for that wonderful description, It made me feel young again for a moment. sun sand sea and a childish wonder makes for a dream come true.


    • Thanks Jo-Anne – I am just toying with the idea of a little blog. Keeps me in the moment. Check out the earlier posts – I don’t know if I ever managed to post them – bit shy I guess.


  2. Hi, Caroline, Boatstrand is a special place…. my lads have been taking part in Swim Week there every summer since they were tiny, it’s a very important part of our summer. They have swam there in good weather & bad, in glorious sunshine with a perfectly flat sea & in summer storms with the wind & rain lashing & the waves crashing over the storm wall.
    When they were little, the social side of the beach was just as important as the swimming. They met friends they hadn’t seen in ages, made new friends, built sandcastles & dug holes……. heaven 🙂


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