I am feeling really lucky for living so close to the ocean these days. I’m certainly not living in a “costal town”, but living within a 30 minute drive to several CT beaches on the Long Island Sound is something I never take for granted, especially during summer. Whenever we find ourselves with summer downtime, we head to the beach. Fortunately, my boys love it as much as I do. In this spirit of encouraging our readers to enjoy the local beaches more, here’s some beach-y inspiration for your next trip!

This isn't a vacation! This is a FREE beach day, folks!

This isn’t a fancy vacation! This is a FREE beach day, folks!

Cost: Even a trip to a local beach can add up quickly. Weekend parking at our favorite beach, Rocky Neck, is up to $13 for residents and $22 for non-residents– plus tax! If you have small children, you probably know that a beach trip can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours, depending on moods/heat/supplies/naps/etc. Check out the state parks pass from your local library (called “No Child Left Inside”, which I love, by the way!) for FREE admission to all CT state parks, including lovely Rocky Neck! Or, if you plan to go frequently, you can purchase a pass for your car, good for a whole year of unlimited admission to all CT state parks, for $67.

Food: Our last gorgeous beach day, pictured above, was cut short due to horrible, out-of-control hanger. That’s right. Two hangary kids who had devoured the fruit, pretzels, granola bars, and juices I’d packed had had it and needed more food fast. We were .2 seconds away from some Lord of the Flies spear fishing. Pack the snacks you think you need. Then double that. Now you’re ready.

Crab Poles: There’s lots of tips out there on what you need to pack for a beach day with kids. I blogged about this very topic when my boys were younger (re: more work), and now at 4 and 6, it’s so much easier. The only gear we really need, aside from sunscreen and towels, are buckets, hot dog chunks, and homemade crabbing poles. Last year at the beach, an awesome older boy showed my boys how to make their own “crab catchers”. The secret is: 1) Find a stick. 2) Tie a string to it, about 18″ long. 3) Tie a hook made of any kind of wire to one end (we used copper wire, but coat hanger wire also works well). 4) Tie the other end to the stick. 5) Bait with a hot dog chunk. My boys will go crabbing in the rocks for literally hours. Last week, my older son caught 10 crabs and 2 hermit crabs this way, much to the delight of his younger brother and all the other kiddos on the beach that day.

Crafts: I love crafts, and again, fortunately my boys do, too. Crafts that involve beach treasurers are right up our alley. Our two favorites are this amazing recipe for ornament clay made from beach sand, and this super easy craft my 6-year-old invented:

Terrible picture of a very adorable project!

Terrible picture of a very adorable project!

He is, to avoid using the word “hoarder”, a collector of things…all things, which of course, includes beach treasurers. He purchased a jar of sea glass in Cape Cod (with his own money), and had been begging to make crafts with it. We happened upon this mirror at IKEA for $1.99 (steal!!) and loved the wide frame– perfect for decorating! He used his own glue gun and created this all on his own. You could of course use your own beach treasurers instead, such as shells, driftwood, pebbles, etc. We are definitely making more of these!

So get out there, CT mamas. There are only about three weeks until school starts, and if you haven’t made your way to the beach this summer, consider this your call to action. Make some beach memories with your little ones, and enjoy our state’s gorgeous coastline!