Before I launch into these baby beach tips, let’s just get this out of the way: don’t expect trips to the beach with a baby to resemble beach trips in your former, pre-baby life. You’ve probably already figured this out based on every other day of your life as a parent, but having a small human with you changes everything. Swap your Solo cup of beer for a giant iced coffee and be prepared to have a fun, but different type of day.
Here are some things that will probably happen:
- The moment you let your attention wander is when your wee one is going to roll/scoot/crawl/toddle/run to the open water with the urgency and speed of David Hasselhoff.
- Your baby is going to eat sand. Some kids do this by accident (picking up a Cheerio and shoving a handful of sand in the mouth) and some do it on purpose (dining on the sand as if it contains the extra fiber they’ve been sorely lacking in their diet).
- You might not have a full morning at the beach, as planned. It might end up being an hour, or a half hour. On his first beach trip my infant middle child was so freaked out by the blinding brightness of the ocean and the crash of the waves that he dissolved into tears and we had to leave 45 minutes in because I could not soothe him.
- So yeah, having a baby at the beach doesn’t always go as planned. But here are my tried and true tips for making the beach a bit easier for you:
Best Baby Beach Tips & Gear
This is one of those things that mystified me as a new parent. What are they? Why do I need them? Here’s the deal: your typical cloth or disposable diaper is meant to absorb pee so it gets big and puffy as it gets wet. This is no bueno if your kid is trying to move around and play. A swim diaper is designed to stay light and comfy when wet and therefore catch poop, not pee. Pee just kind of leaks out into the water or onto the sand. Yes, if your baby is sitting on your lap in a swim diaper your risk getting peed on. It has happened to me many, many times. I typically use a good reusable swim diaper but there are some disposable ones if that’s what you prefer.
A Diaper-Friendly Swimsuit
As stated above, you will be changing diapers at the beach. Even if your baby doesn’t drop a deuce while there you will have to have him in a regular diaper in the car and then you’re not going to want to change him into a swim diaper until right before he is ready to go in the water (due to aforementioned pee issues). And then once it’s time to pack up you’re going to have to wrestle a clean, regular diaper back on that wet, sandy butt.
One of the best things I ever did to streamline my beach trips was buy my babies and toddlers swim outfits that unbuttoned in the crotch. No more tugging soaking wet swim trunks off my son. No more stripping my daughter completely buck naked in front of strangers on the beach. I now just lie my kiddo down on a beach towel, unsnap the crotch, and do a quick switch. Done!
I’m also a fan of suits that cover the torso and arms, which means way shorter fights about sunblock application.
If your tiny person is toddling around you’re gonna need some shoes this summer. The sand will be hot and so will the parking lot so barefoot is a no-go. Keens has an excellent shoe that pulls double duty for both water play, and everyday wear. This shoe is lightweight and flexible enough for small kids, but is supportive and structured enough to allow for day-to-day activities. It’s also machine washable, which is a must for late in the summer when you think something’s died in your walls and realize it’s your adorable toddler’s nasty shoes.
Sun Hat and Sunglasses
I’ve gone through about a gazillion sun hats in seven years of parenting and, hands down, the best one is from Green Sprouts. It has a chin tie that prevents your babe from ripping the hat off her head and it’s also less likely to fly away on a windy beach day.
If your tot will tolerate sunglasses, Green Sprouts also makes great ones —they are bendy and shatter-resistant so even if your toddler sits on them they won’t break. My son who detests bright sunshine (I’m pretty sure he’s a vampire) never left the house without these the summer he was 2 years old.
Yes, these can be a giant pain in the ass to put up but it’s worth it to have a dark little spot to retreat to when baby starts to get hot/fussy/hungry/tired. Both my sons have taken cat naps at the beach in a tent—it’s so magical. Whatever you decide to get, make sure it pops up fast and you can put it away even faster because nothing makes me sweat more than trying to get the damn thing back in the bag when baby is DONE for the day.
I like the Coleman Beach Shade Shelter because you can zip the front up if you need privacy.
If you have a couple of bucks to spend, Veer makes these incredible Base Camp Shelters too. They are well made and have a ton of uses.
If you don’t already have a family beach blanket, I recommend one that is washable and resists moisture on the ground—that way you can put it down on wet sand or grass without your own ass getting wet. I found this great one from Little Unicorn on the Babylist store.
Small Inflatable Pool
So maybe you and the older siblings are huge fans of the ocean waves, but your baby finds the pounding waves and cold water a bit overwhelming. A great solution is to bring along a cheap-o inflatable pool, set it up next to your beach blanket, and fill it up with salt/lake water. The water warms up quickly in the little pool and your baby can enjoy splashing away in her own private pond while the bigger kids hit the ocean.
There’s also the shower curtain in the dugout hole trick.
Beach Bag Essentials
What about all the other STUFF you need to haul along? A few more must haves and sneaky baby beach tips include:
- Sunblock. Duh. Bring your favorite brand and don’t forget to re-apply frequently.
- Plenty of Water and Smart Snacks. What are smart snacks? Nothing sticky. Cheerios: good. Peanut butter: bad. Have you ever seen a toddler drop a PB & J in the sand and then try to keep eating it? It’s not pretty.
- Powder. Use baby powder or cornstarch to remove sand. The powder dries off the skin so the previously wet sand is a bit easier to brush off. It’s definitely a time saver. I saw a hack where a mom put her kid in rubber boots to walk to the car so they weren't bringing extra sand with them.
- Wet bags or extra plastic grocery bags to pack out all your nasty, wet swim diapers and such.
- Towel or hooded beach poncho.
- Fun toys. Depending on the age of your child.
So there you have it. A few of our best baby beach tips.
What did I miss? Got a ringer you want to pass along? Drop it in the comments.
Related: Baby Sun Safety