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 their 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 like these ones from Green Sprouts (you can also find them on Amazon) but they make disposable ones if that’s what you prefer.
If you pair one of these with swim diapers you will cut your sunscreen application wrestling in half. These are lightweight and protect shoulders, backs and arms from the sun’s rays. They also allow for easy bottom changes if your child decides to drop a deuce at the beach. I’ve shown the Green Sprouts rash guards here (you can also find them on Amazon) in case you want to coordinate with the diapers.
If your tiny person is toddling around, you’re gonna need some shoes. The sand will be hot and so will the parking lot so barefoot is a no-go.
Keens makes excellent shoes that pull double duty for both water play and everyday wear. These are a great choice if the beach you’re headed to is more pebbly vs. sandy. They’re 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. (Amazon often has a good selection.)
I’ve gone through about a gazillion sun hats in seven years of parenting and, hands down, the best one is from Green Sprouts (you can also find them on Amazon). 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, get ones that 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. My picks are either Green Sprouts or Babiators.
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 Amazon.
Baby Beach Tent or 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 this baby beach tent (or 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.
Note: water is water so don’t leave a baby or toddler unsupervised in this. You’re smart, you get it.
Wagons are a great way to haul all your crap to and from the beach and are much easier to maneuver than a stroller. If you want the ultimate wagon, check out the Veer Cruiser (we have a review on it here). If you’re looking for something more budget friendly, check out the L.L.Bean Collapsible Wagon.
Other Baby 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. I like these sun sticks for faces and hands.
- 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 alternatives 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 – Bring some wet bags or extra plastic grocery bags to pack up all your nasty, wet swim diapers and such.
- Towel – Pick a hooded one for full coverage. FYI, I had trouble finding hooded beach ponchos by big brands, making me wonder if they have strangulation safety concerns.
- Fun toys – Depending on the age of your child. Melissa & Doug and Hape both make great beach toys.
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