Who knew a 99-cent rubber duck could be such a valuable part of a family vacation?
We just returned from Hawaii and are still readjusting to life minus the sun, sand and surf. (Going from 85 degrees to a high of 10 is enough to shock anyone’s system.) As always my 3-year-old daughter had a blast spending time with grandma and grandpa, “other-side grandma” (my grandmother), her uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. And, of course, my little fish could not get enough of the beach. She loves jumping over the waves, swimming in the whitewash, and practicing her dance moves on the miles of powdery soft white sand. She also has a blast making spectacular sand creations (or at least having mommy create spectacular sand creations, which she happily crushes moments after I put on the finishing touches).
My daughter is very fortunate to have generous grandparents who over the years have purchased her every sand toy known to man. (Seriously, we need a forklift to transport all her toys from the car to the beach.) But, this trip I made a surprising discovery: Rubber ducks make wonderful beach accessories. I’m not talking about those inflatable ducks that hold a child in place in the water. I’m referring to those 99-cent colorful plastic ducks that discount stores (ours is an Infantino brand duck from Wal-Mart) have thrown in massive wire bins near the baby section. Sure, they’re cute and keep a kid company in the bathtub, but if you have ever taken them to a beach then you know how their value can increase exponentially.
Who knew a single yellow rubber duck could entertain a 3-year-old for more than an hour (on multiple occasions)? You cannot imagine the utter joy my daughter gained from whipping her duck into the waves and having it ride to shore and into her eagerly awaiting hands. I watched from a few feet away as she pumped her pitching arm, executed her release and squealed with delight as the duck—without fail—returned to her each and every time. (She has always wanted a pet dog to follow her every move and was only too thrilled to allow the rubber duck to fill in.) This routine went on for more than an hour with slight deviations. Occasionally she’d throw the duck over her shoulder, under her leg, or with her left hand. Mid-way through she discovered that she could have even more fun if she didn’t catch the duck immediately after it surfed its way to shore; rather by allowing it to ride through her legs she could chase after it on the sand.
The only downside to this game: fellow beachgoers who misinterpreted the situation and made the mistake of trying to “help” the aimlessly floating duck return to its rightful owner felt my 3-year-old’s wrath. My daughter didn’t take too kindly to their “thoughtfulness” at first, but after a little chat she discovered how much fun it could be to allow others to join in her fun. I’m not kidding; at one point there was a crowd of about 8 kids taking turns playing the duck game with that cheap rubber toy. When the kid’s parents came to fetch them each vowed that they would soon be adding a plastic ducky to their beach toy collections.
So let that be a lesson to you parents as you head off on your spring break trips to the beach. Forget about spending a boatload of money on gigantic sets of beach toys with dozens of rakes, shovels, buckets and sand molds (I’ve found kids end up using their hands more anyway). Rather, before heading to the surf and sand head to the baby section and pick up a 99-cent rubber duck (or two). I guarantee you will gain at least an hour of down time for yourself, dozens of incredible photos, and some fabulously funny memories as well.
Traveling with children in the near future? Check out these blogs for helpful tips on making your next flight a smooth one: