To The Beach!
Easy Ways to Have Fun in the Sun with Little Ones
This is my fourth summer as a mommy. Before kids, I looked forward to this time of year, knowing it would mean carefree days at the beach, riding the waves on a boogie board, laying in the sand, listening to music and reading mindless magazines for hours. In these past four summers, however, I’ve learned that while the beach is still one of my favorite places, it is a completely different animal with young children in tow.
I’ll always remember my first trip to the beach as a mom. My firstborn was 8 months old. He had just barely started crawling and couldn’t do much more than sit in the hot sand or sit in the wet sand. He screamed when sand covered his hands, cried when sharp shells touched his feet, and was generally hot and annoyed the whole time. We lasted less than an hour, and I left in tears, thinking this was just one more thing that would never be the same since I’d had kids.
Now, however, I like to think beach trips with the kiddos are my specialty. My younger son hit the beach for the first time last summer at just under 2 months old, and we go quite often now that the boys are 1 and almost 4 years old. Here are the tips I’ve come up with for fun, successful, (mostly) tear-free beach trips with little ones:
- Apply sunscreen at home…so much easier without the sand! You’ll likely need to reapply at the beach, but why not take advantage of a sand and wind free environment for at least the first layer?
- Bring many buckets, shovels, and sand toys. We keep these in the trunk at all times for impromptu beach stops. We like to have extras so the kids can offer to share with other kids who might have forgotten them!
- Buy a big beach umbrella. Older kids can make castles under it in the shade. Newborns and younger babies can enjoy the scenery from their infant car seat or on a towel in the safety of the shade.
- Speaking of newborns, check with your pediatrician for his or her specific sunscreen recommendations if your baby is under 6 months old. I’ve noticed all brands seem to say they’re only for 6 months and up. I panicked when I saw this. My younger son was born in May. Did this mean no beach all summer? Our pediatrician said if you’re using a good quality sunscreen designed for babies, you can apply it to young babies. We used California Baby on our 2 month old, and of course, a hat.
- Embrace the sand. You will never avoid getting it everywhere, and you shouldn’t bother trying. We went to Fort Myers Beach on a family vacation when my younger son was 9 months old. He crawled through the sand and was perpetually covered, from neck to toes, for most of the vacation. He loved every second of it. We called him the little sea turtle, laughed about it, and just made sure to rinse him well.
- Bring snacks….so many snacks. I don’t know why, but my kids get so hungry at the beach!
- Plain tap water from home in a jug is wonderful for rinsing feet before getting in the car if there’s not a foot rinse at the beach. The sand in the car hardly phases me anymore, but the kids don’t enjoy it on their feet on the ride home.
- Even the insulated sippy cups never seem to really keep drinks cold, in my experience, so we pack a reusable water bottle filled with ice for each person. The ice melts into cool water just about the time we are thirsty, and you don’t need to lug a giant cooler with you, which, I might add, is NOT fun with kids.
- If your kids are old enough, bring ice cream truck money! The ice cream truck is a huge treat here, as it never comes by our house, so I remind my older son to bring a dollar in case he wants a popsicle.
- Baby wipes are useful for so much more than wiping tiny bottoms. We use them to wipe of salty hands before a beach lunch, cleaning off a sippy cup that was accidently dropped in the sand, and wiping off sweaty, sunscreen-and-popsicle covered faces, arms, tummies, necks, legs…