Toddler Beach Essentials (And ONLY the Essentials)

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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:

Toddler Beach Essentials: Everything you need with no extra beach gear to lug around!

Sun Protection

Sunscreen

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. My son has never been burned. ThinkSport rubs in easily and, most importantly, protects my baby — which is obviously my number one priority!

Shade

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:

Proper Swimwear

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!

Toddler Beach Essentials: Everything you need with no extra beach gear to lug around!

Shelter

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!

Towels

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.)

Food

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!

Toddler Beach Essentials: Everything you need with no extra beach gear to lug around!

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!

Beach Toys

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!

For Mom

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:

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • 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)

Toddler Beach Essentials: Everything you need with no extra beach gear to lug around!

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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22 thoughts on “Toddler Beach Essentials (And ONLY the Essentials)”

    • It basically said that the ingredients list isn’t really as clean as they let on. However, it was only the sunscreen — apparently the other products (which we still use!) are legit. I read about it over a year and a half ago so I don’t remember the source, but I just did a quick search and came up with this one https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/sneaky-stuff-alert-babyganics-sunscreen/ which gives you a run down of the unsafe ingredients (you could certainly google each ingredient for more info from a separate source as well)!

    • I am usually such an overpacker for that same reason — I always either forget something or just feel like I am forgetting something. But I can’t bring myself to do it on a beach day, I’d like to get as much relaxing done as I still can while chasing my little guy around!! Now, that isn’t to say that back at the hotel there isn’t an unnecessary amount of stuff, lol!

    • Surprisingly, we brought even less gear to Florida! No cabana or beach toys, he was plenty occupied playing in the clear water and seeing the fish!!

    • Lol! I got lucky, I had put him in his swim diaper and drove to swim class a few times before another mom there warned me. I had no idea, so I’m happy to share and hopefully prevent disaster for someone else!

  • We just had a beach trip and this list covers everything I thought was necessary. The only thing I would maybe consider adding is a swim aid (i.e. floaties or a puddle jumper). I wouldn’t consider this an absolute necessity, but it does add a little bit of support for adventurous toddlers who are still new to the water, especially with waves.

    • Great point! The swim lessons we have taken discourage the use of flotation devices (such as the floaties or life jackets) in water because it gives a false sense of security and can hinder the progress made in class, but many people aren’t doing organized lessons and may find them helpful!

  • Great resources! Not many parents plan well before going on a trips with children. Planning makes everything so much more enjoyable. Even as a mom of two older boys. I have traveled many times by myself, even overseas and there was always a lots of stress involved. Thank you for a great post!

    • The furthest we have gone is a 3-hour plane ride within the US, and it was very stressful planning and flying. I can’t imagine the stress of planning a trip overseas with a little one, let alone by myself! Go mom!

  • It’s so much easier when we plan. I’m the same way. I like to be as efficient as possible. It’s funny though- I planned ahead better when my kids were little than I do now, but it’s still much easier (even with older kids) when I take the time to plan.

    • I bet! Even for day trips to the zoo or museums I make sure to pack everything up the night before and write a little list or make a note in my phone of the stuff I don’t want to forget to grab in the morning. I always feel like I am forgetting something (and usually am) if I don’t make a list!

  • I wish I would have known about those shoes a few weeks ago when my girls had swim lessons. It is hard to find good quality swim shoes here. I added them to my wish list for future reference :). And we love those lunch containers. We have used them for several years in a row for school lunches and even as divided plates at home. Thanks for sharing!

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