For starters, I’d like to take a moment of silence and remember what the beach was like without kids, when your biggest worries were tan lines and a solid beach read. A drink that you enjoyed cold, maybe even alcoholic, and listening to the soothing roar of the wind and ocean. Is it time to go home? Oh wait, doesn’t matter, because you don’t have to feed anyone but yourself. Stay as long as you want!
Okay, moment over, because the beach is much different now. Swim diapers, keeping mountains of sand out of every orifice of one’s face and vehicle, snacks snacks and more snacks, sunscreen applications, etc. Ahhhh, I feel relaxed just thinking about it. Even for those of us lucky to live by the seashore, a trip to the beach requires planning and bringing the right things, but we think we have figured out how to narrow down what is truly needed and still make sure everyone has a good time. Some of my favorite childhood memories take place on the beach, and I want to make sure my children have the opportunities to make their best memories too.
If you don’t already know, this magic substance removes sand like a mofo. I keep a bottle of it in our car just for this reason, and it works perfectly for sweaty playground sand too. Just generously apply and watch that beige demon fall right off. Otherwise, as well all know, it clings to the car carpet and bathtub for ages.
Bucket & Shovel
You do not need to load up the wagon with a ton of beach toys. A simple bucket and shovel is all they really need. Between chasing birds, running from the waves, and playing with seashells, an exorbitant amount of sand toys aren’t necessary. Give kids the chance be creative in their surroundings and make their own fun. This also decreases the amount of things you have to lug to and from the beach.
Flip that bad boy upside down, put something in each corner to hold the sides up, and just like that you have a little “sand free” area. This is great for when your little one isn’t mobile. It makes a safe area for them to lay, crawl, and sit without sand getting everywhere. Now, if you have mobile kiddos this will not stay sand free for long, but probably a little more so than a normal towel or beach mat.
Our canopy has been the best beach accessory we have ever purchased. It is big enough for everyone to fit under and is a great retreat from the heat. Our lunches, naps, and breaks from the sun are all done under our canopy. All beachgoers know that umbrellas and tents can take some trial and error. Some work well, some don’t. You don’t want to always be battling the beach breeze. Canopies are the perfect pop up solution when you need a little shade for little people.
Snacks & Water
This may sound obvious, but bring a ton of snacks and water. Like how much you think you will need times three. From the heat of the sun to the nonstop playing, snacks and water are key. I know I get a serious case of the hangeries and so do my kids. So, I always make sure I have more snacks and water then I think I will need. Some of our favorites: Watermelon, cucumbers, goldfish, and strawberries.
Frozen Juice Boxes
One of my favorite childhood “snacks” was a frozen juice box, and they are so easy and portable. Take your favorite brand of juice box (pouches like CapriSun work too, but are a little harder to hold for little people) and stick a few in the freezer the day before. Take them to the beach with a few spoons and peel open the top of the box. (Save those tiny straws for another day!) What you end up with is a perfect little juice slushy in a disposable box that’s easy to carry around. They stay frozen better than popsicles due to the box, and you can pick sugar-free juice boxes if that is something you are into. A great beach hack to get your kids to slow down and hydrate.
My preschooler could hang out at the beach all day long. She loves it and never wants to leave, but one of the challenges with having little babies too is that they can’t hang in the sun as long. One of the best beach investments I’ve made are these UV shirts. They are 50 SPF and lightweight, plus I bought them in white to keep my kids as cool as possible. Of course always use sunscreen, but when we have been at the beach for awhile I tend to throw one of these on my youngest to make sure her less-experienced skin doesn’t get too much color.
This may seem like a no brainer, but a trash bag is always a must when packing for the beach. There is already so much trash on our beaches that we do not need to add anymore. Bringing your own trash bag allows you to easily transport all your trash and anything that you may find while walking the shore from the beach. Help safe those cute little sea animals and help our beaches clean.
Seine Net & Kritter Keeper
If you have little nature lovers like we do, a seine net (or casting net) is a great thing to have. On my family beach trips my dad always brought one along. We would set up a glass tank on the deck of our beach house and have a little aquarium to watch for the week, and then we’d set them all free. For a day trip option, bring along a portable Kritter Keeper. There are so many creatures right there in the waves- seahorses, shrimp, small fish, hermit craps, pipe fish…your little ones will LOVE IT and you almost always catch SOMETHING with a seine net. It’s a great way to slow down and take the time to touch and learn on the beach.
Apply before you unleash your kiddos to the beach, then reapply, and reapply again. Sunscreen is such an important part of going to the beach. If you apply before they see the waves, you have a better chase of them staying still long enough to cover their entire body. Then once snack or lunch time rolls around reapply again. They will be too focused on eating to escape. Finding a good spray sunscreen is great for quick and mess-free reapplication.
This is a wonderful beach hack that I have to credit my husband for! Our oldest always gets sand in her eyes, but hates hates hates water in her eyes, so trying to flush out the sand is a NIGHTMARE. We have started throwing an unused make-up brush (just a cheap, soft one I grabbed at Target!) and using that to brush sand from eyes and eyelashes. Usually it does the trick! For rubbed-in sand you may have to break out the water bottle too, but this has definitely saved us a few tears on multiple occasions.
As you head to the beach, go with an open mind. Know that the beach with kids is a completely different experience than going alone. There will be so much sand, in bathing suits, their mouths, and your car. Don’t stress it, it will eventually disappear. Just think of sand as the glitter of the beach. So, go and enjoy making those memories with your little ones, and we hope some of these ideas helped make it that much more fun!
XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate