I’m sure you have seen tons of ‘toddler beach essentials’ lists, especially if you are in the middle of planning a trip! There are lots of great ideas out there that have probably worked wonders for many people — like bringing along a baby pool or using a fitted sheet as a blanket to keep the sand away — but I needed a toddler beach list that was a little more realistic. I can’t picture myself even attempting to set up a fitted sheet as a beach blanket without getting sand everywhere. And I wasn’t planning on dragging a huge plastic pool on the beach (or inflating one), nor was I planning to run back and forth to fill it up. Call it lazy if you will, but I don’t want to work any harder while I’m on vacation than a toddler mom has to! Here is my somewhat minimalist list on toddler beach gear:
I am not a huge fan of the chemical-laden sunscreens that are currently filling the shelves. As a result of my research last year, I came across ThinkSport Kid’s Safe Sunscreen (SPF 50). We switched from Babyganics after learning that it wasn’t as natural as we originally thought. Here’s why I LOVE ThinkSport:
- It is a mineral based sunscreen, with Zinc Oxide as the active ingredient, and it placed on the EWG’s Best Scoring Sunscreen Lotions for Kids list. These facts both assure me that it is safe to place on my son’s sensitive skin.
- It is one of the much more cost efficient versions of the safer sunscreens on the market. Badger Baby brand’s cost is almost double on Amazon for a bottle half the size!
- My son has never been burned. ThinkSport rubs in easily and, most importantly, protects my baby — which is obviously my number one priority!
Even more important than sunscreen for your child’s protection from the sun is a shaded area. This can be provided in a few different ways — umbrella, tent, or even a naturally shaded area depending on where you are going. We decided on two easily portable & effective ways to provide our son with enough shade:
The best offense is a good defense, right? I feel like that applies here: We can help our toddler ward off the sun’s harmful rays by protecting him with the right clothes. I always make sure to buy long sleeved rash guards, and never head into a day of sunshine without bringing along either a bucket hat or baseball cap (we don’t have these exact products, but love the OshKosh ones we do have)! Sunglasses are a great alternative if your little one is more interested in them than a hat. And make sure to factor in UV protection when deciding which swimwear and sunglasses to buy!
While we are on the subject of beachwear, you don’t want to hit the beach & boardwalk without these awesome water sandals! These are surely a toddler beach essential. Why we love them: They are great for wearing as a regular pair of shoes or as water shoes at the beach or water park, they don’t slip or cause blisters, the closed toe prevents my active toddler from stubbing his little toes, and they can go right in the washing machine! We have bought them two years in a row and they stood the test of time. Our current pair did get a little discolored but I am almost positive that was just an error on my part with the wash since nothing like that happened last year. We will continue to buy these as long as they will fit!
And finally on the beachwear list: Swim diapers. We have used both Pampers and Huggies swim diapers, and both worked great for us. If I HAD to choose, I would probably go with Huggies because the sides come undone whereas Pampers didn’t include that feature. For swim class, we were required to use a diaper cover on top of a disposable as an extra layer of protection. You can choose one method or both. Just remember not to put them on in the car — they will not catch pee in the case of an accident. That would be a rough start to the day, which is definitely not on our list of toddler beach essentials!
I mentioned a few common ways to find shade earlier (umbrellas, tents, etc). This is another thing that I really did not want to drag along the beach. I know how much stuff you have to lug around with a toddler, so I wanted to make sure that our load was as light as possible. Can you imagine having to pack up and carry a ton of stuff while trying to wrangle and calm a toddler in the event of a meltdown?
We invested in a cheap cabana. It was perfect for us because it was very lightweight and it folded up small so it was easy to bring along. It was nice having a place for our son to eat in peace and not having to dry off with the towels we laid on the sand. It was also great for nursing, and if you have a unicorn baby it would be ideal for naps! I’d definitely suggest practicing and mastering the art of folding it down beforehand — you don’t want your first go at it to be on a windy beach. I’d also recommend getting some stronger stakes if you won’t be bringing along anything else that could be placed inside to weigh it down a little. The ones it comes with are okay, but they didn’t hold up to the wind very well!
Toddler Beach Staples
The items listed above are all about protection and comfort. Now we are going to switch the focus to convenience and fun! But don’t get me wrong, although some of these items may be fun, they are all definitely essential to a flawless toddler beach day!
See, told you! Towels are clearly an essential. When my son and I were enrolled in a mommy and me swim class, many of the kids had these adorable hooded towels. Unlike the infant ones, these go over their head like a shirt. We recently bought a few at our local Christmas Tree Shop and I can’t wait to use them! I think it’ll be nice to have something that he can just wear rather than have to hold up –and bonus — it provides some extra shade! (Make sure to read the reviews before purchasing through the link I provided as this isn’t a product/company I have used myself.)
You can never have enough water, lunch, or snacks, especially with water play and a scorching sun factoring in. I just bring a simple insulated lunch bag, stuff it with a few frozen water bottles, and pack it up with lunch and snacks in these convenient containers we bought last summer. Make sure that you pack at least one more serving than you think you will need!
Spray Bottle & Fan
Our first trip to the beach we bought a simple spray bottle and this neat stroller fan to keep our son cool since he is a little space heater. Although the products we had already were great, I was happy to compact it even more. Before our most recent beach trip I grabbed a cheap water bottle with a fan attachment that I saw at the store and that was one less thing we needed to carry! The fan was good for overheating and the spray bottle helped wash off sandy hands before lunch and we didn’t have to worry about wasting any of our precious, cold drinking water. Just don’t forget to put the batteries in the fan part like I did!
I’m sure you understand the need for keeping your toddler engaged and having fun, especially in a new and exciting place that could easily become overwhelming and uncomfortable. This is going to take up the most space in your beach bag, so make sure that you bring along toys that are well worth it! We brought along some shovels and pails, and a beach ball that we inflated once we got settled so it didn’t take up too much room on the way. My son had so much fun just using his hands and jumping in the water that we didn’t get too much use out of the toys. There have been trips that we didn’t bring them at all and he was totally content, but I’d like to have them on hand just in case. Plus, there is so much that can be learned from playing with the sand and water!
Sadly, our days of just laying out with our headphones in or reading a good book on our beach towel are on hold for a while. Here five things that will help lessen that blow and keep you comfortable and content as well:
- Hair ties/headband
- Chapstick (one with SPF is a plus!)
- Plastic sandwich bag to keep your phone sand and water free (yet still easy to use)
That wraps up the post! I hope that you have an amazing, stress free time at the beach this summer! Let me know what you think of the list, and what you would include or remove from your toddler beach essential list in the comments section below.
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