What Every Child Learns and Knows When Building a Sandcastle…

It is a staple of beach vacations and ours was no different.  Hours spent swimming in the ocean, avoiding jelly fish, and riding waves has to have a reprieve at some point.  This is where most parents turn to sandcastle building to give them a small window to dry out and before the kids are begging to hit the waves again, and again, and again.

It is funny to watch children build a sandcastle together.  It is a great team building exercise and it is one of those things that in an age of Twitter, Iphones, and Wi-Fi internet, hasn’t changed much over history.  The tools are the same as they were when I went to the beach, a few buckets of varying sizes, a couple plastic shovels, and some elbow grease.  What is amazing is that children, no matter their age, seem to know some instinctive things about city planning.

First is protection.  A sandcastle is no good and of no value to its sandcastle citizens without some form of protection.  There are no weapons of mass destruction employed, no sand castle armies needed. No, a simple moat will do.  Moats are needed to provide the sandcastle citizens with protection from rogue invaders from another sandcastle several beach towels away.  Moats need to be deep. Deep enough to hold imaginary alligators.  This hasn’t changed since I was a kid.  Alligators seem to be the first pick among children for protection.  I am not sure if it is their territorial nature, their appetite for imaginary invaders that take a wrong step, or if there is something innate in alligators that has given them first choice among all other animals for prime moat defenders, but all I know is that they are always the go to animal for defense.  I think piranhas are a close second.

Second Thing: Kids aren’t communist.  Life isn’t fair.  We don’t all live in the same size house and we don’t all get the same amount.  So it goes with building a sandcastles.  Children never use the same size buckets for all the houses in a sandcastle kingdom.  Some are small, some are medium, and of course the royal family has the biggest house.

Third: You can’t live in isolation.  Children never build a sandcastle without a bridge over the moat.  They know that at some point commerce will have to take place and people will need a way in and out of the sandcastle kingdom.  No man is a sandcastle kingdom to himself they say instinctively.

Fourth: Children have an eye for aesthetics.  No sandcastle kingdom is ever complete without some sort of decoration.  Whether it be seaweed, shells, or random drift wood a sandcastle kingdom would be a boring place without some sort of decorations that are pleasing to the eye.

Fifth: Government is central and important.  Whatever the political leanings are of a 5 year old, they know that government is important and that it needs to be visible to its citizens.  That is why the castle is always central in the sandcastle kingdom, the most visible, and the biggest.  I am sure that there is room for large debate as to universal sandcastle health care, the role of the monarchy in the lives of its denizens, and the prominence of  the rogue salt water party movement within the castle walls, but it is always interesting to see that the castle always sits central in the kingdom and is the most protected.

Sixth: A flag identifies who you are and means something.  It never fails.  Ever since I was a child you couldn’t be done with your sandcastle until you found something to stick at the top of the castle to signify a flag.  I think this was a sign to the other sandcastle kingdoms to signify who you are, what you stand for, and what you believe.  I just hope that they still see some meaning in our flag today.

Seventh:  All children are proud of their work.  No child builds a sandcastle only to walk away from it silenced.  They all want to tell someone about it.  Show it to their parents and neighbors.  They all want to see others work and compare it to their own.  And most of the time they want to make sure everyone knows it was them by grabbing a stick and signing their names in the sand.

Eighth: This might be the most important lesson of all: Our kingdoms are not permanent.  The kingdoms of this world are but temporary.  You can spend all day sweating, planning, laboring, burning your back, only to get your work wiped out by next morning’s high tide.  All of our work is nothing compared to the beauty of God’s creation.  We create and build in a world submitted to God’s power and sovereignty.  He makes the waves to come and go.  Vanity of vanities.

In the end, what matters the most is that we create and work not to build kingdoms that do not last, but to worship the King whose kingdom can never be washed away.  We build and create to worship the one who has given us his image to be able to do so.  We work and sweat to not simply take pride in our work, but to submit it to one whose ways are higher then our own.  We delight in the process, not the permanence of the outcome, and pay honor to the one that can never be shaken.

Upon further reflection kids need to be taught number Eight.  In their fallen sinful state, children will more likely have a God complex and go about destroying their own sandcastle kingdom like Godzilla to a Japanese city.

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About Todd Van Dyke

Father, Husband, Son, and most of all lover of Christ.
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