A beach vacation is like no other.
Splendid sun rays…
Swimming in a therapeutic ocean…
And that just-right feeling when you finally plop yourself – and your toddler – into bed.
But a lot needs to be done to ensure your family beach day is smooth sailing, especially with toddlers and babies!
19 Tips For Enjoying a Day at The Beach With Your Toddler
From the essentials you’ll need (including the simple ingredient in your pantry that takes off the sand) to how to mentally prepare yourself for your vacation, here’s your cheat sheet for an unforgettable beach day with your kiddo.
1. Make a List
Get what you need for a fun day at the beach out of your head and onto paper.
You’re less likely to forget something this way.
I keep a notepad on my bedside table and add to it as they come to me and a whiteboard in the kitchen.
2. Pack The Night Before
Getting out the door is much easier when you packed the night before.
All our beach bags (except the food) sit in the hallway until it’s time to load the car.
3. Prevent Sandy Clothes Using Resealable Plastic Bags
Nothing’s more annoying than getting sand in the clean clothes you brought.
To prevent sandy, itchy clothes from ruining your dinner and ride home, fold your toddler’s outfit into a gallon-sized Ziploc or Stasher bag.
I use the jumbo size for adult clothes.
4. Ask Your Toddler to Pitch in With The Packing
Toddlers love helping, so invite your child to help pack.
They’ll get a big boost of belonging and confidence because
- They contributed and
- They chose to help, increasing intrinsic motivation.
So, encourage; don’t force.
Yes, the packing will take a little longer, but it’s worth it in the grand scheme of your child’s development.
5. Let Them Choose Their Snacks
I’ve brought snacks to the beach only to have my kids shake their heads, especially when they were picky toddlers.
“I don’t want that!”
I learned to grab a handful of options for them to choose from (because popsicles are obviously out of the question) and let them choose.
They get what they want (well, you know how toddlers change their minds!) and feel more in control of their experience.
You can also ask which sand toys they’d like to bring.
6. Bring Plastic Bags For Trash and Wet Clothes
Food trash goes in plastic bags.
I use Marley’s Monsters wet bags to prevent soggy swimsuits from soaking everything else.
7. Keep Cool With a Beach Tent
Beach tents are a no-brainer.
This is particularly true if you’re going to be at the beach the whole day because you’ve got to shield sensitive skin from the sun.
Plus, beach tents double as cool forts for little ones!
We use the Tagalong Shelter from Eureka.
A big beach umbrella also provides good sun protection.
8. Bring An Oversized Beach Blanket
Don’t forget an oversized beach blanket.
Yeah, towels work, but they also hold onto the sand like it’s nobody’s business!
Your bum (and car) will thank you.
9. Haul Your Beach Gear With a Sand-Friendly Wagon
You only have two arms, and one of them has to hold onto your toddler.
So to haul your beach essentials shoreside with as few trips to the car as possible, stash your gear in a sand-friendly wagon.
My favorite is the car-compact PORTAL Collapsible Beach Wagon.
10. Stock Up On Sunscreen
A sunburn makes anyone cranky, and toddlers are no exception.
Bring multiple formulations in case your tot doesn’t like how one feels.
One of my kids prefers less sticky, mineral sunscreens, while the other likes liquid.
I also like to use powder sunscreen for extra face and neck protection.
Because if I wear makeup, powder sunscreen doesn’t make me look like a sad clown like the goopy kind does.
11. Break Out The Bucket Hats
Bucket hats protect the tops of your child’s ears, face, and neck.
I like Sunday Afternoons; they make a quick-drying hat with a chin strap that doesn’t slip off.
12. Dress Your Kid in a Rash Guard
If you want more sun protection (or reapplying sunscreen all over them is a nightmare), dress your toddler in a rash guard.
They cover the arms and torso, and many feature built-in UV protection.
13. Tagalong the Travel Potty
A potty-training toddler goes best on a potty they know.
Bring a travel potty, wipes, plastic bags for anything soiled, and swim diapers.
14. Relax With a Good Book
They’re great for entertaining toddlers who’ve spent time in the sun and need to relax!
15. Use Baby Powder to Get Sand Off
Be sand-free fast with baby powder.
Sprinkle where sandy, then dust off with your hands!
16. Lower Your Expectations
From a flat tire to forgetting the beach chairs at home, your family beach day will likely not go 100% as planned.
That’s just life – and motherhood!
So try your best to go with the flow.
(Take your cue from the glorious water around you!)
17. Carve Out Some Time to Yourself Before You Go
I function best when I take 30 minutes for myself in the morning before everyone else wakes up, especially if it’s going to be a long day.
18. Plan Dinner Ahead Of Time
Determine the dinner game plan ahead, so you’re not scrambling to find what’s open (and what everyone will agree on) when tiny tummies are growling.
19. Let Your Child Discover The Beach Their Way
Of course, you want your toddler to discover the seashells and splash their feet in the waves – that’s why you came!
But don’t fret if they resist.
Instead, nurture your child’s innate curiosity by letting them play as they please.
Now you’ve got 19 tricks for a spectacular beach day with your toddler!
How did your first beach trip with a toddler go? Anything you would add to this list?