Beach Essesntials With Babies & Toddlers

Now that we have a daughter, and she is a little older, we go to the beach 3 or 4 times a year.  It’s a relatively easy trip to plan and something our whole family can enjoy.  It’s not even summer yet and we’ve already been twice this year to nearby destinations.  Before we had our daughter, I was at the lake or on a beach almost every other weekend during the summer months.  Life prior to baby was definitely more carefree and spontaneous.  Before baby, planning was simply:

Friends: “Beach this weekend?”

Me: “Sure!”

After baby, as simple as I try to keep the planning and packing, the car is still loaded up to the brim, and then there is the logistics of actually getting to the beach involved.  A 6 hour drive is no longer 6 hours as we need to stop more frequently for diaper changes and melt downs.  We try to time the bulk of the drive during nap times for our sanity but that means the actual vacation time is cut short since driving is done during the middle of the day.  After finally arriving at the beach, how long we stay is dictated by baby’s needs and many times I might not even get a chance to go in the water, tan or walk along the shore.  Please don’t get me wrong though; I’m not complaining.  These beach trips are treasured family adventures and I love seeing my daughter enjoying the gorgeous outdoors.  I’m just noting the complications going to the beach now entails for me after becoming a mother.

mother and toddler playing in sand at beach

Earlier, as a lead up to Mother’s Day, I had written about my 3 unexpected pregnancy challenges, but like Melissa, restrictions were top on my list of (expected) pregnancy challenges.  Jet skiing was definitely something I gave up after I became pregnant.  I also didn’t go boating anymore and eventually stopped going to the lake and beach because I didn’t want to wait or watch alone by the shore.  My friend, who owned the boat and jet skis, didn’t really understand my overly cautious stance as his wife was also pregnant at the same time I was and she continued to go boating with him.  If I were 10 years younger like she was, or if I hadn’t miscarried before, or if it hadn’t taken such a long time to get pregnant again after the traumatizing miscarriage, I might have continued to join them.

I don’t know how many more years it will be before I can be a spontaneous beach goer like before, but packing for the beach this year with my 3 year old was already notably less intensive than packing for the beach last year or the year prior.  Maybe with each experience we get better at determining which gears work for us but my 3 year old also has much more predictable needs and her schedule is more flexible. I also didn’t need to prepare and bring specific (baby) food, diapers, swim diapers, and more diapers.  The essentials that haven’t changed for our family beach trips, in no particular order, are:

Sun Protection

Some or all of these: Sunglasses, hat, sunblock, umbrella, and tent or shelter with SPF.  The tent also comes in handy for keeping baby off sand and for naps, and privacy if you’re big on that like I am (e.g. for diaper changes, nursing, etc.).  A rash-guard with SPF, especially ones with sleeves, will also provide more sun protection coverage than a swim suit and serve double duty in keeping baby or young child warm if the surf is cold.

Sunday Afternoon Toddler's Play Hat

 

Baby Powder (talc-free)

This makes removing sand a breeze. BREEZE!  Just apply liberally to body and the sand brushes right off with the powder.

 

Toys

This can be as simple as a disposable cup or spoon for the sand and water.  My daughter’s favorite is still just a shovel and a bucket.  Bubbles and a kite are also fun toys at the beach.  Other toy ideas we tried include water gun, floats, and sand molds.

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We haven’t tried a metal detector but that was a great suggestion from Stephanie. She also suggested the great idea of burying treasure, such as beautiful seashells, for kids to discover or dig out and it was a super huge hit with my daughter.

seashells by the seashore

A young baby also needs toys, albeit maybe not sand toys, but toys to distract baby from trying to eat sand.

 

Towels/ Change of Clothes

For drying off (and for laying or sitting on if not bringing blankets or beach chairs).

Dry clothes with plastic bag(s) for wet or sandy clothes or suits.

 

Hand and Face Wipes

You could just use a towel, but I felt the moist wipes were better and most conveniently, not sandy, when attempting to clean food from faces, wiping runny noses, moping up sweat, or cleaning weird stuff found on the little fingers etc.

 

Hydration

Beverage bottles with built in lids like funtainers (I swear I never knew these existed before my daughter needed one and now I see that almost all kids have one?) are so much easier to use on the beach than trying to open a bottle cap with sandy hands, and keeping tabs on the cap.

 

Food/ Snacks

For me, I found it’s almost always handy to have some (healthy) snacks on hand when with young kids.  They can expend a lot of energy in a short period of time and a snack can be just that, but it can also be the magic that prevents an impending melt down from over exhaustion.  Some snacks like fruits will also provide hydration.

How much food to bring really depends on how long you’re staying on the beach and when you’re going.  I used to see families with young kids spend the whole day on the beach eating not one but two meals in the sand, and I envy them.  With my daughter, we have stayed for a maximum of 3 hours, because she would either want to, or I would see that she needs to leave.  We have been having lunch on the beach because my daughter loves picnics but since we stay for just a few hours, we can easily just go after lunch and not have to bring any food to the beach.

 

Safety/ First Aid

It doesn’t have to be fancy and can be just a plastic bag with saline solution, in case sand or sunblock gets in eyes, and a few bandages and antiseptic ointment, in case of cuts (e.g. sharp rocks or shells vs. little tender baby feet).

This year we took a life jacket with us because my daughter loves the water and despite swim lessons, can’t swim.  I can’t swim to save my life either after 5+ years of lessons so I thought a life jacket when playing in deeper water would be the safer bet.

Life jacket or swim floaties is where I see the most variation on the beach. Most families have some sort of toys, or food, or sun protection with them, but as far as life jackets or floaties, it’s all over the map.  Some families are on one extreme of helicopter parenting, like ours, where the kid is within arms reach and attached to some sort of flotation device, while some families are on the other extreme of ‘no-rescue’/ free-range/ platform parenting, and kids barely able to walk yet are playing happily along the shoreline with the parents looking up from tanning only when the kid returns, with all kind of variations along the two ends of the spectrum.

Toddler in life jacket on boogie board at beach

Depending on where along the paranoid parent spectrum you fall, safety/ first aid might not be beach essentials on your list.  On our last day at the beach, the family next to us had 4 beautiful boys ranging from a non-crawling infant to maybe 5 or 6 years old.  They had a large cooler of snacks and beverages and lots of toys.  But then the 2nd eldest boy came back to their tent crying because he got sand in his eye.  And he got spanked for crying and refusing to go back out to play because he said his eye hurt too much so I’m sure they thought our kid looked absolutely ridiculous in a life jacket.

 

Waterproof Bags/ Pouches

You can probably leave most your valuables at home/ hotel but something for your keys and phone can be useful.  I really wanted needed a phone protector because face it, don’t you want to try to get pictures of your cute kid on the beach too?  Water proof pouches also double as sand proofing gear too.

waterproof phone protector (1)

 

Most things are standard for a beach trip with or without kids; just with babies and young kids, I need to be extra diligent about sun protection and hydration.  I never use all I bring but I just find it less stressful being prepared for contingencies.  Having some extra clothes and extra towels in the car came in handy several times.  So what are your beach essentials when going with a baby or young kids?

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Cheers,

with love charlie

 

 

 

 

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