Hey Friend! Ready to make a splash at the beach with your toddler? It can be daunting… I know from experience. I live twenty minutes from a beach, so Princess L and I make our way there as often as we can. After traversing from the car to the beach with a toddler several dozen times this year, I am confident to bring you some tips and tricks I have found that have made our visits more enjoyable and easier on me!
The Backpack Hack
Given that we live close to the beach, I seldom try to make plans to stay out on the sand longer than two hours. I find that with a toddler, this about the upper limit we can enjoy the beach anyways. By knowing that I am planning to stay out on the beach for about two hours, I pack LIGHT. This makes the whole experience easier, and more manageable.
Several times, I have loaded down our beach wagon, packed enough for us to last all day on the beach only to be left frustrated, hot, and overwhelmed with trying to keep up with everything. I have found that it is much easier to pack everything in a backpack. I actually just use our backpack diaper bag that I carry daily. Using a backpack means I can be hands-free to keep up with Princess L as she runs around chasing seagulls.
If your toddler is like mine, they will likely prefer to wander around the beach, rather than laying claim to one spot on the sand. Using a backpack also makes it easier to continue to be mobile with your little one. So what do you pack in your bookbag? Let’s jump into it…
The sunscreen hack
First things first, you need to pack sunscreen. I prefer to apply sunscreen before we leave the car using this sunscreen by Badger. I highly recommend using a spray sunscreen to carry in your bag to reapply sunscreen while out on the beach. Using a traditional sunscreen is goopy and is difficult to reapply once you are already sandy. The spray sunscreen comes in clutch out on the beach!
leave the beach towels behind you hack
Next, the best thing I have found to do is to leave your beach towels in your car. What?! Yes. Trust me on this one. There isn’t room for them in the book bag anyway and you want to keep your hands free as possible. Chances are you will be dry before you make it back to the car or hotel room anyway. Save yourself space instead! Surprisingly, I have discovered swaddle blankets are perfect to use instead!
As I just mentioned, I like to leave towels in the car. But there are also other things I prefer to leave in the car as well! A change of clothes for both of us so the ride home so we can be as sand-free as possible. (Pro Tip- Cornstarch and baby powder also work really well at removing sand! Just sprinkle on the skin and it rubs right off!) Swimmy and regular diapers I leave in the car and do car diaper changes there instead if needed.
a couple things you might not have thought of
I pack a swaddle blanket tightly rolled up inside of a grocery bag. I put the swaddle back into the grocery bag after we’re through to keep my bag from getting as sandy! The swaddle blankets we use are actually ones I had DIY’d using a muslin cloth fabric. They’re lightweight and super compact. This makes them perfect to serve as a place to sit down for a few minutes while your little snacks.
Other items I have found make the list of critical items that need to be carried (outside of keys/wallet/phone) are: a small bucket to carry seashells (I use a carabiner to attach it to the book bag!), beach snacks, water, sunglasses (because squinting is no fun). Also, using a carabiner to attach flip flops to your bag keeps you from losing them. Personally, I let Princess L go out on the beach barefoot and don’t mess with shoes for her.
The Wagon Hack
If you are planning on staying out on the beach longer than just a few hours, a wagon is a must. I highly recommend this beach wagon! It has made our trips from the car to the beach much easier when we had a lot of things to carry! The wide wheels make pulling it in the sand a breeze and it gives ample room for carrying a cooler, some beach chairs, and all your other beach paraphernalia. Another pro tip- use an old quilt instead of beach towels to spread out on the sand. We always keep one in the trunk of the car since they’re perfect for picnics at the park as well!
The shade is always on a mama’s mind while out on the sandy shore. It can be worrisom when our little ones are out in the Sun for extended periods of time. If you are going to be going the wagon route and planning to make a day of it on the beach, I recommend going for a large umbrella or shelter if you have someone there to help you set up your camp. Trying to set up an umbrella or shelter by yourself when it is just you and your toddler can be difficult. Try to plan ahead if you are going solo with your tot, and plan to pack as lightly as possible.
If you’re like me and making your trips without any help besides your toddler’s endearing excitement that is contagious enough that it revs up your energy reserves. Trying to figure out sunshade needs to be able to be conquered with one hand. I have found the best thing for this is a rain umbrella. Small and compact, it fits in the side pocket of my bookbag. I pull this baby out when Princess L and I sit down for our beach snacks on our blanket. Easy shade!
Keeping Toddler Entertained on the Beach
Awesome! You made it onto the beach, and your toddler has run straight out into their first wave, got knocked down, and now demands you to hold them in your arms while they cling on to you in heat of the unforgiving Sun. You attempt to encourage them to walk on the sand and hold your hand, but they prefer the way your sweaty arms feel instead. No, just me?
On days that I have a beach adventure planned for us, I like to set out some ocean-themed books at home the day before. I like to remind her once we are on the beach that we need to look for all the things we read about in our books. This piques her curiosity and usually leads to setting out on our conquest of finding a penguin (we still haven’t, sadly…)
A bucket is great for collecting seashells and is Princess L’s favorite thing to tote around out on the sand. On days we roll out our wagon, we love bringing out these beach toys for some fun. The B. Toys brand is one of our favorites, and our little one gets so much joy from toting around her bucket on the beach.
Once your little one’s legs are tired from running around chasing the waves and seagulls, it’s time for my favorite beach activity- snack time!
Perfect Beach Snacks for Toddlers
Packing snacks for a toddler is pretty much always a necessity, but even more so for a beach adventure. Our favorites are raisins, clementines, and Gerber Baby Crunchies. These are easy go-to snacks that I often pack in my diaper bag anyway. Sweet treats like raisins mix with the salty air for the perfect snack to enjoy out on the beach.
Don’t forget your beach trip’s most important item- WATER. Keeping hydrated out in the sun is critical. My dad gifted us with this kids YETI water bottle. Guys, let me tell you… this gem keeps liquid cold all day long. (Plus they come in a variety of fun colors!) It is awesome, and should totally go on a wishlist if you keep one. Don’t forget to pack yourself something to drink as well, mama!
Young Child Safety on the Beach
We just previously mentioned that water is vital to carry with you out on the beach, but let’s dive into some other safety considerations for your beach trip…
Sun safety: Advice from the CDC states five things to remember to bring with you anytime you are spending time outside- shade, covering up, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. According to the CDC, it does not take but a couple of sunburns to increase one’s risk for skin cancer. Don’t take Sun safety lightly!
UPF bathing suits
We’ve already delved into how to manage shade and sunscreen while out on the beach, so let us jump into keeping our bodies covered up while still enjoying the Sun’s rays. Rash guards are the easiest way to do this for your little one. This totally darling little swimsuit has been our favorite! On top of it being so darn cute, it also boasts 50+ UPF protection! (Truthful moment here… before I was a mama, I had no clue about UPF grade clothing! Learning about these types of garments made me worry so much less while spending time out on the beach!) Since finding out about rash guards, I have also started wearing them myself when I’m out on the beach. This one comes in lots of colors and the option of short or long sleeves!
To wrap up the other necessities you need for you and your little one’s sun safety out in the sun, don’t forget to pack your hat and one for your toddler (this one matches the swim rash guard from earlier!) and some sunglasses!
Another paramount thing you must consider about your toddler’s safety while at the ocean is the fact you must supervise your toddler for the entire duration on the beach. This should honestly go without saying… Toddlers are curious and brave. Looking out at the ocean, they are excited and ready to explore this new territory. They do not realize that the water is completely unforgiving. I do not let my little one venture out past her ankles in the water- even while holding my hand. It is important to have fun while at the beach, but more important to stay safe. Know the water conditions before you go out and try to go out during low tide.
This post on Motherly offers some more guidance on other beach safety that I feel is definitely worth checking out.
You and your little one have had a blast playing out in the Sun, getting sandy, and you’re ready to start your voyage back to the car or hotel room now… You’ve taken some pictures and perhaps a video or two, but if you’re looking for another way to remember your day just look for the perfect seashell to carry home with you.
I have started a tradition for me and Princess L… each time we go to the beach we find one special shell that we decide is perfect to bring home. Once we get it home, I like to take a sharpie and write the date on the inside of the shell. You can keep your shells in a pretty vase or mason jar. It will be fun to fill it up with all the shells you collect. You could also add rocks from other places you visit if this becomes your new way to collect souvenirs!
You’re ready to hit the beach!
Well, my friend, I appreciate you sticking with me here as we dive deep into all that I can share with you about beach trips! I hope that you and your one have a blast out on the sand! Hope these hacks here help you feel equipped for a stress-free day in the sun!
Now you’re ready to put your tot into the car seat, and hope they sleep for they sleep for the journey home!
Share with me tips and tricks you have found for your beach trips or anything else I may have forgotten! Let’s learn from each other!