A simple but surprisingly engaging beach toy
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Tripsavvy / Sarah Vanbuskirk
Simple, portable design
Promotes environmental stewardship
Sand sticks to aquarium
Lid might loosen over time
The Dry Branch Sports Design Catch and Release Beach Aquarium Kit offers hours of simple, but surprisingly fun and educational, coastal recreation.
We purchased the Dry Branch Sports Design Catch and Release Beach Aquarium Kit so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Searching the shoreline for shells, sea glass, fish, and crawly critters is a time-honored beach-going tradition for many families, including mine. When I take my five (yes, five) children to the beach, we often tote buckets to capture creatures from the water and collect objects found in the sand. The Dry Branch Sports Design Catch and Release Beach Aquarium Kit takes this endeavor to an entirely new level, promoting curiosity and wonder about what will be found in each swoop of the aquarium globe through the water.
I brought this beach toy along on a family outing to see if the simple design would hold my kids’ attention. Read on for the results of our review.
The Dry Branch Sports Design Catch and Release Beach Aquarium Kit doesn’t look like much. It is essentially a clear plastic orb about the size of a soccer ball with a wide opening and handle at the top.
Though simple, it’s also well-designed. A black plastic mesh lid fits over the opening, allowing both water and air to pass. The removable cap is tethered with a cord to keep it from getting lost in the waves. A soft black handle doubles as a float—and it’s easy to see (especially as it is attached using red cording) against the clear plastic of the aquarium. My kids found this particularly helpful whenever they dropped the container in the water.
I was underwhelmed when I took this product out of the box, and honestly, I was expecting my children to be, too. Boy, was I wrong.
Overall, we found this toy pleasing to look at, light to hold, and easy to carry, open, and close. Smaller hands that haven’t quite mastered fine motor skills yet might find closing the lid a bit challenging, but my kids (ages 7 through 15) did fine with it. Our lid snapped back into place securely after repeated use, but I do worry that it might start to loosen up after a few more beach trips.
I was underwhelmed when I took this product out of the box, and honestly, I was expecting my children to be, too. Boy, was I wrong. They were enthusiastic about it from the get-go, each vying for a turn—I think in part because I was calling it their new “aquarium,” which greatly added to its allure.
What initially looked basic verging on boring to me actually kept my kids engaged for hours. Dry and wet creatures alike can be captured with this kit, as well as inanimate objects found along the shore. My 7-year-old was super thrilled that in his first try scooping it through the water, he came back with a minnow, which became his new “pet” that he carted around the beach for the next few hours.
One of my other boys had fun filling up the orb with different colored stones, bits of shell, sand, and other treasures. He kept collecting items and then watching what happened when he got them wet.
It was interesting to me that each one of my kids was using the aquarium in his own way.
It was interesting to me that each one of my kids was using the aquarium in his own way—one as a collector, another as a fisherman. A third child simply utilized the bowl as a vehicle to transport water, while another found great joy in competing over catching the “best” haul.
I found that this toy was educational without kids even noticing. I appreciated that it encouraged a sense of discovery as well as environmental stewardship, emphasizing the importance of respecting and caring for living things and releasing them back into their natural environment.
The clear plastic of the globe-like aquarium offers unbarred viewing, which invites closer inspection. Just observing and interacting with the creatures and habitats along the shore seemed to spark an interest in marine biology for my kids.
This aquarium kit is designed for children ages 3 and up. Preschoolers and young elementary schoolers alike will relish the independence and responsibility this aquarium toy affords them. However, with proper supervision and assistance, the toy can be enjoyed by younger budding marine explorers as well. What’s even better is that older kids, well into their tweens and teens, will be intrigued with this toy and vie for a turn to see what they can catch, too.
Like all things brought to the beach, this portable aquarium will end up with a fine dusting of sand; rinsing with water at the shore alone will not remove it all. It’s also difficult to get a good hold of the rounded shape while simultaneously wiping it out, which means cleaning it while still on the beach does not work well.
I appreciated that it encouraged a sense of discovery as well as environmental stewardship.
I found that there are two workable cleaning options: First, rinse off with a hose, and second, simply let the sand dry and then shake off the excess. Both methods work pretty well but require a little extra effort—as well as potentially transporting a sandy orb back from the beach.
This product retails for about $12 to $15. This may seem a bit steep for essentially a clear plastic ball with a handle and attached lid. However, this toy offers much more than meets the eye. Its clever design, ergonomic handle, and other deceptively simple features foster hours of enjoyment, making this beach aquarium well worth the price.
This very unique beach toy doesn’t have any direct competitors. There is not even much on the market that compares with this aquarium at all. The closest I found is this clear sand bucket, which like the aquarium kit, is clear with an easy-to-hold handle.
The American Educational Products toy is designed with child-safe (phthalate- and PVC-free) materials, and at around $9, it also costs less than the Dry Branch Sports Design product. However, for the intended use as a catch and release toy, the aquarium is the clear winner due to its larger size and perforated lid.
Interested in reading more reviews? Check out our list of the best beach toys.
This toy will delight kids of all ages while promoting a sense of discovery, stewardship, and an interest in nature. The Dry Branch Sports Design Catch and Release Beach Aquarium Kit is a great buy that will provide families with countless hours of beachy fun.
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