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Our Planning Guide to Visit the Beach with Kids (and enjoy it!)

Our Planning Guide to Visit the Beach with Kids (and enjoy it!)

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Are you heading out to the beach with your young children? Let's make it more fun and less messy by packing some key essentials with this handy guide.

Please note: we are not affiliated with any of the companies of the items we show as examples. These images and trademarks are retained by their respective companies and are only used for references.

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Step #1 - Plan What You'll Need to Get Everyone & Your Stuff from the Car to the Water with Ease

☼ Bring a Beach Wagon

beach wagon

These carts are usually collapsible to fit in your trunk but when expanded, can easily hold all of your items and be easily pulled over the sand.

  • Look for: Canvas material so it can be easily washed off.
  • Look for: Wheels are wide to sit on top of the sand for easy pulling.
  • Stay away from: Stroller wagons. These are not meant to be pushed through the sand.

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☼ Bring Water-friendly Shoes

water shoes

Kids sometimes struggle with new textures, including sand between the toes so water shoes or water socks are a must. These shoes are flexible, breathable and perfect for avoiding sharp rocks or shells that can make it difficult for kids to explore.

  • Look for: Shoes with a protective rubber sole.
  • Look for: Mesh or spandex upper fabric with a velcro closure to keep the shoes securely on your child's feet.
  • Stay away from: Flipflops. These are not meant to stay on your feet in water and can easily come off and get lost.

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☼ Give Kids 1 Item to Carry

This should be age appropriate of course. It's important 

  • Age 2: Give an item like a hat or a beach toy. You can put their life vest or floatie on for them to walk out as well.
  • Age 3+: Give an item like a Towel, floatie/life vest, beach toy or water bottle.
  • Don't give: an easily dropped/lost item or anything valuable. Large items that can blow away (like inner tubes) should be given to responsible older kids on windy days.

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☼ Apply Sunscreen at the Car 

Everyone will be excited once you get to the water's edge. If you apply the sunscreen at the car without distraction, it will keep you from having to deal with an impatient child later. 

  • Stay away from: Avoid aerosol spray sunscreens. It's not good to spray it in a young child's face because it can get in their eyes and inhale it.

 

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Step #2 - Plan out Your Spot on the Sand

☼ Bring a Shade Structure 

Many people like to bring an umbrella but we prefer a tent-like shade canopy. These are much easier to carry (they usually collapse into a carrying bag) and they provide more shade than an umbrella.

  • Look for: SPF blocking material and one's that include a floor.
  • Look for: Canopies that include sand stakes. You can always buy sand stakes as well - get the kind that screw in for stability.
  • Stay away from: Used canopies that might be missing pieces or instructions. If you can - practice putting the tent up and taking it down so you are familiar with the process.

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☼ Bring Sand-Friendly (& Less Bulky) Towels 

Typical beach towels are bulky and sand gets caught in the terry weave. We love the large bath sheets or Sand Cloud towels. These towels are usually bigger but less bulky so they are easier to pack/carry. You can also take a flat queen-size cotton sheet to put down in your shade structure.

  • Look for: Fabric that lets the sand slide off.
  • Look for: Thinner fabric that lets you pack more towels in less space.
  • Stay away from: Your regular bath towels. These towels will be exposed to lots of sun and sand. It's always best to have towels designated for the pool/beach.

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☼ Bring a Chair For Yourself 

Unlike your child-free days, time at the beach is now going to include alot more vigilant watching than anything else. A beach chair will make the day more comfortable. We like the low seated chairs because kids can sit in them without easily tipping them over and you can even use them at the water's edge.

  • Look for: Lightweight chairs that fold up. Ones that include a shoulder strap for carrying are nice as well.
  • Look for: Zipper pouches and cup holders are great at holding valuables and beverages.
  • Stay away from: Models that are heavy and don't fold up.

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☼ Bring a Cooling Towel

frogg toggs towel

As we just mentioned - you're going to do a lot of watching from a chair which can be brutal under summer sun. We LOVE bringing along a cooling towel to help keep your body temperature down in heat and humidity. Using it is easy - get it wet and drape it around your neck/shoulders.

  • Look for: Towels that are made to use evaporative cooling. We like the ones from Frogg Toggs.
  • Look for: Towels that are reusable and don't require freezing.
  • Stay away from: Anything that requires batteries or can't get wet (or sandy).

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☼ Bring a "Spot" for Baby 

This item will depend on the age of your baby but the idea is to entertain and contain baby safely. If you're worried about your little one crawling away every few minutes - it might be best to bring a pop-up play pen. If your little one is sitting and loves the water, an inflatable baby pool might be ideal so you can supervise comfortably.

  • Look for: Items that fold up and can be transported easily.
  • Look for: Bonus points if the chosen playpen provides shade.
  • Stay away from: Unnecessary gear that is cumbersome to carry and can be damaged by sand. Avoid swings and bassinets.

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Step #3 - Plan Items to Have Fun (& Prevent Hassles)

☼ Bring Plenty of (Accessible) Food & Water 

Being out in the sun makes kids extra hungry and thirsty however the desire to get as much playtime in can often override their senses. Make sure that you are regularly getting your kid to drink water and eat healthy snacks throughout the day. Beach days are perfect for "picnic" style eating.

  • Choose: Fruits, veggies, protein snacks and items with crunch. Kids are burning lots of calories so a sweet treat can also be fun.
  • Choose: A spill-proof water bottle.
  • Stay away from: Salty "fill-up" foods like chips. Kids tend to grab these foods first and then claim to be too "full" for other healthy foods. Plus the extra salt doesn't help with hydration. Avoid foods that melt in heat - like chocolate.

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☼ Bring Sand Toys/Tools 

Kids love playing in the sand and their imaginations soar when they have access to little shovels and cups to dig and make structures.

  • Look for: Plastic toys with no sharp edges. Use a mesh beach tote to carry the toys so all of the extra sand can fall through the holes for easier clean up.
  • Look for: Enough items that everyone has something to work with. Sharing is important but you'll have less issues if everything has something to work with.
  • Stay away from: Sand fleas or mosquitos. If you are at the beach at dusk (or dawn) you might notice sand fleas, but it's also not impossible to have mosquitos and biting gnats hanging out as well. Bring along bug spray or essential oils to help keep you free of itchy bites and avoid playing in the sand at dusk (when sand fleas are out).

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☼ Sunscreen, Hats & Sleeves...oh my! 

When in doubt - apply more sunscreen (to children over 6 months). If you can, have your child wear a hat and a long-sleeved swim top especially if you are at the beach during peak sun hours (11am to 3pm) to prevent sun burns. It will not be fun if your kid gets a sunburn so prevention is best. 

  • Look for: Clothing with a SPF rating. This means the fabric is preventing the UV rays from getting to your child's skin.
  • Look for: Sunscreen with a higher SPF rating (35-50) that is made for children or sensitive skin. Test the sunscreen on your child's leg prior to going to the beach to make sure they don't have a reaction.
  • Stay away from: the sun during peak hours. This might sound counterintuitive but if it's possible to visit the beach earlier or later in the day, the sun will be less intense. Peak hours can be a great break time to sit in the shade canopy and eat, reapply sunscreen or even take a nap. 

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☼ Wet/Dry Bag & Change of Clothes 

When it's time to leave, no one will be happy with kids getting in the car with a wet and sandy swimsuit. We like to change clothes before packing up because it lets us rinse out swim suits and put them straight into the wet/dry bag for easy transport. Plus it's usually much more discreet to change in the shade canopy than at the car.  

  • Look for: A wet/dry bag with a zippered plastic-line pouch. 
  • Choose: A change of clothes that are easy to change into and extra comfy.
  • Stay away from: Tight form-fitting clothes. If you change at the car there is still a good chance that sand will get in the car.

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☼ Bring A Flexible Attitude

Beach days can be fun. They can also be exhausting and frustrating too. If you want to have the most fun at the beach - be open and flexible. Try not to have a rigid schedule and take any mishaps in stride. Let your kids know what to expect too so they know what the trip will be like.

  • If possible: Share the parenting tasks with another adult. Whether it's your spouse, family member or friend, another adult with make everything easier. You can take turns watching the kids, making a run to the bathroom or grabbing food.
  • Choose: To be part of the fun. Don't let worrying about how you look your bathing suit keep you from playing and getting in the water with your kids. They won't remember how you look but they will remember how much fun they had.
  • Stay away from: Trying to be perfect. The best plans can go wrong and the most spontaneous trips can be perfect. Don't worry if everything isn't perfect - enjoy the moment and the memories.

 Do you have any essentials that make beach days fun and enjoyable? Share them in the comments.

 

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