Wondering what to bring to the beach with a toddler? Take a look at these beach essentials for toddlers — a collection of must have beach items for your next vacation.
Bringing toddlers to the beach isn’t always an easy feat. The first time I brought my twins to the beach, one of them cried for 20 minutes straight while the other had to poop in the public restroom. Snacks fall straight into the wet sand, beach towels never seem to stay clean, and naps are unpredictable.
You might imagine your toddler darting off the one second you looked away, or dread coming home with sand in every crevice of his body. And let’s not forget figuring out how to lug all your gear with a toddler in tow.
Still, having lived near the beach for several years now, I’ve learned that a trip to the shores—even with a toddler—is a fantastic way to spend the day. You hardly ever hear kids whining to leave the beach, especially when they find so many fun things to do.
Beach essentials for toddlers
A big part of the success? Bringing the right beach essentials for toddlers. Now, having taken all three of my kids alone at the beach, I’m a fan of minimalist packing. We’ve gone with the bare minimum, staying for only about an hour simply to enjoy the sand and surroundings.
But if you’re planning a big outing—one where you’ll stay most of the day—you’ll need to pack these beach essentials for toddlers. Take a look at this checklist to make sure you’ve got everything covered:
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Bring sunscreen for the kids and yourself. I like applying sunscreen lotion before we’re near the sand, then following it up with spray sunscreen for easy application.
Tip: Use your phone as a timer to know when to reapply. Don’t assume you and the kids are okay just because you’re in the shade. Having a timer set will also prevent you from losing track of time.
2. Beach towels
Beach towels allow you to sit and relax, protecting you from the hot sand. They’re also easy to lift and shake the sand off.
Tip: Many parents swear by waterproof blankets for easy clean-up. This is the one we have:
3. Beach tent or umbrella
After years of not having a beach tent, I don’t know how I ever lived without one. This will give you much-needed shade as well as a place for your toddler to eat and nap.
Tip: Invest in a “quick install” beach tent, one that simply pops up with a quick tug. The first one I got needed us to assemble sticks and loop them through, which isn’t exactly easy with kids in tow.
We also bring a beach umbrella instead of a beach tent, especially on quick beach trips. Or you can bring one in addition to the tent for extra space. This works well with beach towels, blankets, and chairs.
4. Beach chair
There’s only so much sitting and lying on the ground I can take before I start to feel uncomfortable. A beach chair will give you another way to relax when sitting on the ground just isn’t cutting it.
Unless you’re only going for a short while to the beach, forget trying to carry everything on your shoulders. Instead, pack everything into an all-terrain wagon.
Tip: Bring a kid-sized backpack your toddler can wear to carry his toys and other light items.
6. Swim diapers
Your toddler might need swim diapers, especially if he’ll be in the water. Tip: Many swim diapers come as a pull-up, which makes changing diapers easier. If you decide not to use swim diapers, then at least bring pull-ups so your toddler won’t have to lie down to get his diaper changed.
7. Changing pad
Even if you use a pull-up, have a changing pad ready in case he has poop and needs a good clean.
8. Cleaning supplies
Beaches aren’t always known for pristine restrooms. Come prepared with:
- plenty of baby wipes
- hand sanitizer
- soap pump (because I’m pretty sure the restroom won’t have one)
- roll of paper towels (these can serve as napkins to wiping hands to cleaning messes)
- plastic trash bag (a good place to put trash nearby before dumping it into the beach trash can)
9. Rash guard
A rash guard will keep your toddler covered in case the weather is windy or the water cold. It’ll also keep you from having to apply sunscreen to so many parts of their body.
The sun, especially reflecting off the sand, can be too bright for your toddler. Offer a pair of sunglasses to keep his eyes protected. On one particularly long beach day, my eldest came home with red eyes from playing in the sand for long stretches of time.
11. Flip flops or sandals
The sand will feel hot, especially the farther you are from the water. Protect your toddler’s feet with flip flops he can wear when he isn’t in the wet sand.
Tip: Afraid he’ll lose his shoes in the water? Get water shoes like these to keep his feet protected the whole time:
12. Sun hat
Whether a beach hat or even a baseball hat, have your toddler wear one to keep his face and eyes protected even more.
13. Life jacket or floating device
Worried your toddler will run off into the water? A life jacket or floating device will help put your mind at ease. But perhaps the best tip is to make sure he’s always within arm’s reach when he’s in the water.
14. Towels to dry off
Besides the beach towels you’ll be lying down on, don’t forget to bring towels to dry your toddler with. A hooded toddler towel works well, since he can use it to wrap himself in and keep warm.
Tip: Parents swear by baby powder as a simple way to get sand off. Rather than dusting sand off your toddler’s body with your hand, apply baby powder first, and then dust off.
15. Clean clothes
You might want to change your toddler out of his swim clothes and into clean ones. Pack a set of clean clothes, including a jacket (if you’re staying late) and undies or diapers.
Tip: And if you’re really staying late, you might just want to pack his pajamas. That way, he’s already dressed for sleep in case you have a long drive home.
16. Mesh beach bag
All those sandy swim clothes and towels need to get packed somewhere. One simple way to get as much sand off as possible is to pack them into a mesh beach bag. Give the bag a shake, and most of the sand will pass through.
17. Cooler with plenty of food and drinks
Pack your cooler with food and drinks for the day. The beach will work your toddler’s appetite, so come prepared with plenty of meals, snacks, and water. Don’t forget ice packs or bags of ice to keep food cool.
Tip: Don’t want to bring individual bottles of water? Pack your toddler’s sippy cup as well as a reusable cup for yourself. Then, bring gallon-size water bottles to pour into your serving cups.
Bring forks and spoons should you have any food that are easier eaten with utensils. For instance, you can poke cut fruit and vegetables with a fork to avoid using sandy hands to eat with.
19. Beach toys
And of course, beach toys. While kids can find just about any way to entertain themselves at the beach, bringing toys can make it that much more fun. A few ideas include:
- Sand bucket and shoveling tools
- Beach ball
- Digging trucks
- Bubbles or bubble machine
Going to the beach can make for a wonderful summer tradition, whether a quick one-hour outing or an all-day family affair. The trick is to bring the right beach essentials for toddlers to feel better prepared and able to enjoy yourselves.
Get more tips:
- Beach Essentials for the Baby You Shouldn’t Forget to Pack
- 11 Books and Stories for Kids about the Beach
- 25 Awesome Outdoor Activities for 3 Year Olds
- Toddler Travel Essentials for a Fuss-Free Family Trip
- (Realistic) Things to Do in Los Angeles with Kids
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