Ahhh, the beach. The beach can be a relaxing place. Choose the right beach, on the right day, and the sights, smells, and sounds of nature abound.

Consider the fine-grained sand massaging your weary feet. Feel the sun on your back, its warmth releasing your neck and shoulders, and physical tensions we carry with us. Hear the rhythmic lapping of waves crashing on the shore, a calming white noise.

Now envision the beach with two young children. Rather than seek relaxation, young children often seek joy. They seek enjoyment and adventure in every square inch of life.  As a parent, we aim to provide experiences that provide those wonderful feelings, for them and for us.

With these adventures comes baggage. Literal baggage.

The amount of STUFF we schlep around on their behalf is staggering. Like good scouts, we must always be prepared. For adventures great or small, we bring bags of food, entertainment, changes of clothes, and first aid supplies. We act as Sherpas to our gear-laden children.

Photo approximates the amount of stuff I used to bring to the beach for my kids.

Approximate amount of stuff I used to bring to the beach for my kids.

Which brings me back to the beach. I’ve taken my young daughters three times in the last month. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a pleasant day’s trip with young children.

First, find your biggest beach bag to hold most of your gear. Gather towels and a beach blanket in it.

Collect plastic toys. Throw in some shovels, pails, sand sifters, diggers, nets, and trucks. If you have older kids, bring a ball game or Frisbee. The more stuff the merrier.

Dig folding chairs, a stroller, and the beach umbrella out of the garage. Put them in your trunk.

We don’t have an umbrella, so we simply lather on more sunscreen. We bring spray, lotion, and stick form for various body parts and mood swings. I usually use SPF swim shirts as a workaround.

Now find another, smaller bag, and fill it with waters, juice boxes, Goldfish crackers, and cut up fruit. If you’re feeling ambitious, pack a few sandwiches for lunch. Bring wipes and a plastic bag to for the food aftermath.

Get on your bathing suits, sandals, hats and swim diapers for the babes.

Finally, you’re ready! Drive everyone to your chosen shoreline destination.

Now leave everything except the following in the car: your children, sun protection, water, Goldfish, keys, and towels. Yes, the rest of that gear stays in your trunk.

Although it all seems necessary, ultimately that STUFF weigh us down.

That STUFF makes it difficult to travel across the sandy beach.

That STUFF serves as more things to be responsible for.

When you are two or four, the beach is rife with entertainment. A bold seagull, strand of seaweed, or found crab claw are fascinating. Chasing your parents in the sand or looking for hermit crabs is an adventure. Navigating the waves is soaking wet fun.

So pack as much or as little as you’d like to carry. But remember, the sights, smells, and sounds of the beach are a joy to young children. Take a stand against being a Sherpa, and simply enjoy the time with them, as they discover what a beach is.

If all goes well, the natural stimulation will tire them out. They’ll fall asleep before you leave the parking lot, and that’s when we find relaxation.