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12 best beach toys for making a splash this summer, from beach balls to underwater cameras

From a classic bucket and spade set to frisbees, these are this summer’s must-have beach toys for kids

Rebecca Moore
Monday 07 August 2023 17:22 BST
<p>Handy storage bags got extra points, so did games that can be played at home too</p>

Handy storage bags got extra points, so did games that can be played at home too

Whether you’re planning a beach getaway abroad or on home turf, the seaside is one of nature’s best playgrounds – and if days spent on the sand are on the agenda, it pays to pack plenty of clobber to keep the kids entertained.

Of course, it depends on who you’re planning on entertaining. Toddlers and pre-schoolers, for example, will inevitably need more consideration than older children who are happy running, swimming and burning off excess energy.

Either way, purely relying on a bucket and spade to keep their attention for the entire day may not be the best port of call. So, we have taken it upon ourselves to find a mixture of the best toys, games and beach accessories to keep them busy up until the tide comes in.

While we have found some of the classic paraphernalia you’d associate with the seaside – think beach balls, kites and, yes, a bucket and spade set – we’ve also found some brands making waves in other areas. From educational toys to open their mind, to weather and waterproof play mats and dolls, there really is something for everyone.

Personally, we loved the group games as, in our mind, the beach is a great place to make some of life’s best memories, so any game that encouraged a little bit of family interaction – with a bit of friendly competition thrown in for good measure – was a huge hit with us.

Basically, we’ve tested toys galore and all to find the best in terms of entertainment, cost, child-friendly design and that were able to travel from car to sandy shores.

How we tested

Our four-year-old, six-year-old and 12-year-old helpers were more than happy to head to the beach and try out a variety of beach toys. We looked for toys that would engage a variety of ages and particularly those that got us burning off some energy.

We considered cost and durability as we wanted toys to last beyond a solo trip to the coast. Fun is the order of the day, so we wanted toys that encouraged happiness and laughter. Also high on the agenda was portability, so handy storage bags and handles gained extra points, and games or toys that can be used at home too got a big thumbs up. These are the ones that really made a splash...

The best beach toys for 2023 are:

  • Best overall – Quut triplet beach set: £20,
  • Best for day-long beach stays – Sandever BTR 160 beach tennis racket set and net: £74.99,
  • Best card game – Zatu Games dobble beach: £13.95,
  • Best for portability – Waboba backnine, Normadic disc golf: £18.05,
  • Best for durability – Liewood Dante beach set: £38.77,

Quut triplet beach set

  • Best: Overall
  • Material: Plastic
  • Age range: 3+

Belgian brand Quut really has reinvented beach toys, and the result is pretty impressive. The Quut triplet beach set is a day-at-the-beach in a bag, keeping our four, six and 12-year-old testers well occupied on the sand. Inside the handy fast-drying netted beach bag you’ll find a triplet, ringo and a sand shaper. The triplet, which is an unusual shape is part shovel, part rake, part sand sifter, and when combined with ringo you have your own throwing game of quoits.

Quut’s products are so at home in kids’ hands and we found it really opened up all of our testers’ imaginations. Made using durable, recyclable plastic, which is BPA, latex and phthalate free, this set will be your beach buddy for years to come.

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Sandever BTR 160 beach tennis racket set and net

  • Best: For day-long beach stays
  • Material: Steel and mesh
  • Age range: 3+

If you’re setting up camp for a lengthy session on the sand, take your beach games status to the next level with this beach tennis set. In the bag you’ll find two rackets and a ball, alongside all the components to make a net. With fears of children getting tangled in the net and poles going in upside down, we needn’t have worried, as this was incredibly easy to set up – with instructions and little diagrams on the bag itself, genius.

The set is wonderfully portable, coming in its own carry bag so it can be taken on weekends away, or holidays on sand or land. The rackets have a comfy grip, while the ball is specifically designed for the beach and travels quite slowly for those learning the ropes, which was great for our 12-year-old tester. You’re sure to be the envy of fellow beach dwellers, and it’s a great activity for kids drying off from a dip in the sea.

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Zatu Games dobble beach

  • Best: Card game
  • Material: Paper
  • Age range: 4+

If you’re not familiar with the observation game dobble, then as our 12-year-old tester attests “it’s addictive”. And we were delighted to learn that there’s a beach version which not only comes in a handy travel bag (instead of a bulkier tin), but also boasts waterproof cards – making them perfect for family holidays.

Inside the bag there are 55 round cards with 50 symbols, and every card will have one matching symbol. In this edition all the symbols are beach related. Up to eight people can enjoy this game of speed and observation, while it’s recommended for ages six years plus we’d suggest players should be a little older as they’ll need a sharp eye and quick reflexes to win.

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Waboba backnine, Normadic disc golf

  • Best: Portability
  • Material: Plastic
  • Age range: 3+

What do you get when you combine golf, boules and some frisbee throwing? Answer, backnine from Swedish brand Waboba (who invented the original "ball that bounces on water").

Recommended for players aged eight plus – although the whole flock had a go with this – the game is started by throwing the target ring to set the course challenge. There are four “Wingman” discs to be thrown and the first player to land on or inside the ring wins. Sounds simple? While the concept may be, it’s actually rather challenging. Our competitive 12-year-old tester was committed to the cause and was the first to complete the mission.

Backnine is a great beach challenge for the family, and it’s super portable coming in its own carry bag. On a windy day, it could be extra tricky so we’d suggest playing on a calm day.

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Liewood Dante beach set

  • Best: Durability
  • Material: 100% silicone
  • Age range: N/A

You’ll be the envy of the beach neighbours with this modern set from Nordic brand Liewood. This squishy silicone set includes a durable bucket, mini spade and four fun beach moulds, which our young testers found wonderfully tactile. Thanks to the silicone composition you can say goodbye to cracked plastic buckets, plus, as all items are malleable they’re easy to squeeze into your beach bag. There’s a selection of colours and patterns to choose from, we opted for the “dino mix” and our testers loved making the shapes in the sand (almost as much as they enjoyed stamping on them afterwards).

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Vilac diamond kite

  • Best: For windy beach days
  • Material: Plastic, nylon
  • Age range: 3+

Unlike many of our suggestions, a beach activity that does require a bit of wind is the classic kite. A nostalgia-inducing pursuit, when the conditions are right, flying a kite with kids is one of life’s simple pleasures. This 60cm x 60cm beauty diamond-shaped kite, with its fun fluttering tail, provided plenty of entertainment for all of our testers (and the adults too!). For the best experience, you’ll want to use at quiet beach times, particularly as our energetic testers loved running with it. Obviously lightweight, it comes in its own handy carry case with handle.

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Hape monster digger truck

  • Best: For simple design
  • Material: Plastic
  • Age range: 18m+

All kids seem to have a fascination with diggers and sand, and what we love about this example is that there’s a useful hand integrated into the design for easy carrying. While there’s no “button” to release the bucket, that didn’t seem to phase our mini testers who loved pushing, scooping and dumping sand with this digger truck from Hape. It’s simple in design but incredibly sturdy making it a great beach buddy.

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Cry Babies fun n sun Ella

  • Best: Role play
  • Material: Plastic
  • Age range: 18m+

Has your child ever taken her favourite dolly to the beach only to be full of regret when it comes back full of salty water and sandy hair? Here’s an answer… the fun n sun Ella doll. One of the latest additions to the hugely popular Cry Babies range, she was born to be at the beach. While it wasn’t an easy feat getting our two “mummies” to share, they were fascinated to see the two extra strawberries appear on her swimsuit when wet, and the freckles appear on her nose when in the sunlight.

She comes with six themed accessories; a swimsuit, sun hat, sunglasses, swimming float, flip flops and a dummy – it’s worth bagging all the bits together to avoid lost property! Like all the dolls in the Cry Babies collection there’s a function for real tears by pressing her head, but we did find it took a bit of adult brute force. And a word of advice to the parents – you’ll want to give her a rinse under the tap or a post-beach bath once Ella has been in the sea to get her back to looking her best.

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Learning Resources geosafari jr. underwater explorer boat and magnifier

  • Best: For outdoor learning
  • Material: Plastic
  • Age range: 3+

The beach is the ultimate outdoors classroom, and this geosafari jr. underwater explorer boat and magnifier encourages kids to learn more about what lies below the water’s surface. All three of our testers loved looking through the glass bottom of the boat in the rock pools and shallow water. The floor is magnified three times, so our budding marine team could get a better look at what’s beneath. It’s also equipped with a handy floating mini life preserver wrist strap to keep it from floating away. And once the science lesson is over your kids have fun floating toy boat to play with – there’s even a moving steering wheel and propellers too.

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Bigjigs Toys woodland animal skittles

  • Best: Wooden toy
  • Material: Wood
  • Age range: 24m+

Bigjigs has been crafting beautiful wooden toys since 1985. And this set of six skittles – owl, badger, deer, cat, bear, and rabbit – have been lovingly made from FSC-certified wood and designed with sweet illustrations and ear detailing. The set is definitely high quality and weighty enough to handle a bit of coastal breeze.

All of our testers enjoyed knocking these over with the wooden ball – a simple yet captivating game for all ages – and our younger testers continued to use their imaginations playing with the animals’ characters after. While the set isn’t heavy, it would be great if it came with its own handy bag as we sourced our own to avoid loss. After use, simply dust off the sand and you’ve got yourself a lovely skittle set for the home too!

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Spin Master aerobie sonic fin outdoor football, blue

  • Best: Throwing game
  • Material: Foam, plastic
  • Age range: 3+

Learn to throw like a pro with Spin Master’s sonic fin. You’ll want plenty of space when playing this at the beach, so it’s worth finding a quiet patch. One for the adults and older kids, it took a while to get to grips with throwing the sonic fin, but once we got the hang of it, it became quite the competition – particularly for our competitive 12-year-old.

When thrown correctly, listen out for the whistle and watch it fly, and you can adjust the fins to increase the spin rate for extra speed and distance. Because of the hollow middle – or technical term gyroscopic core – the extra air means this travels further and higher.

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Brainstorm Toys 50cm mega inflatable globe

  • Best: For STEM learning
  • Material: Plastic
  • Age range: 4+

Inflatables are a must for a day shoreside, but this isn’t your typical blow-up beach ball. Created by Brainstorm Toys, the brand is known for its range of fun, educational and interactive STEM toys, and this 50cm mega inflatable globe is a prime example.

Throw the globe and scratch up on your geography at the same time with this high-quality political globe. Designed with longitude and latitude lines, we tested our 12-year-old reviewer to identify continents, countries, capitals and oceans plus there are some game ideas included on a sheet of paper if you need some inspiration. Of course, once the lesson is over, it’s a great size to throw around.

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The verdict: Beach toys

We’re big fans of Belgian brand Quut and its triplet beach set is perfect for younger beach dwellers offering multipurpose activities. For older kids, we highly recommend the Sandever beach tennis set which takes a little while to set up, but is a great activity to play on the sand.

Keep your little ones safe during playtime in the sun with the best sunscreens for kids


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