By: Tanya Pimental
Growing up, we went to a local pond a few times each summer and the ocean when we could, but not often. My mom loved to swim, but was allergic to the sun. My dad could not swim and I can’t imagine not having that skill these days. Even as a young adult I wasn’t much of a beach goer and my husband doesn’t care for the beach and the sand. Then I had kids and made some awesome beach loving friends. And now I am hooked. We usually head to the beach at least once a week in the summer and maybe even more this summer.
Taking kids to the beach seems daunting at first and the thought of the amount of stuff needed to make it worthwhile can at first glance be enough to fill up the kiddie pool in the back yard and call it a day. However, I have found that being a beach minimalist is possible. With some planning, you can be ready to head out to the beach at any given moment. Here are a list of my must-haves and then some nice-to-haves that I have personally survived years without.
- A light weight water proof tote bag. It seems each year I buy a new bag but it gets lots of use. Lands End and LL Bean have some great options and often have sales or coupons available. This year I got one at BJs that I am excited to use. I like it to have a few pockets and sturdy handles to carry over my shoulder.
- A soft sided cooler. I carry mine in my tote bag and leave it there so it isn’t exposed to the sun. I don’t like to lug and extra big hard sided cooler. Most of the beaches we go to have snack bars if we ever really needed anything more that what I can carry. I like to bring fruit (frozen grapes , apples or orange slices), two juice boxes per kid and two bottles of water for me, frozen yogurt tubes or cheese sticks, and then something like pretzels and/or crackers. It’s usually enough to get us through as a light lunch. I personally love almonds and peanut butter crackers. My only advice on the cooler is to not get a super cheap one, they leak. This year I invested in one from LL Bean.
- Towels, one for each of us. I don’t get the big fluffy ones. They are bulky and don’t carry well. An even better option for the kids is a hooded towel that you can slip over their head and stays put for the walk to the car. I scored some at the Christmas Tree Shop cheap!
- A small amount of toys in a mesh sand bag. This one I have is great from One Step Ahead or Lands End has some great options too. I like a decent sized bucket for each kid and then a few small shovels. I found some great little sand trucks cheap in the Target dollar spot for my little guy. It’s also nice to have a sturdy larger shovel to dig a nice big hole for a pool. I have shovel from Little Tikes that is perfect for just this. A few castle molds and maybe some water squirters is all you need. If you play at the beach with friends, you can always take turns bringing toys or each bring a few to throw in a pile for the kids.
- Other essentials – varied Ziploc bags for trash or wet suits, baby powder for getting the sticky sand off, hand sanitizer for before snacking, a first aid kit with a few essentials and anti-itch cream for any bug bites, a lightweight change of clothes, and of course sunblock.
- A leave in the car bag is great as back up. I like to have a few extra towels, a jug of water for rinsing, dried snacks that won’t perish, a change of clothes, diapers, and wipes. This stays there for when we get back in case we need something extra or have forgotten to bring anything from the above. Some trips you may use some stuff, and others not at all. Every few weeks you will want to assess and replenish.
Nice to Have:
- Beach chairs are great to have, but as a mom I find it hard to lug. I also sit less and less as I chase my kids around. The days of sitting and reading are years away. So I skip the chair and sit on a towel. If I was going to get a chair, I think I’d go with the backpack type, but they are heavy.
- Lots of families survive with a beach cart. For me it would enable me to over pack and haul more than I need down to the water. So I skip it and don’t bring more than I can carry. You can find these at BJs or Costco and even the Christmas Tree Shop.
- Sun Cabana’s are awesome for newborns and little ones to get out of the sun. However, I find them to be a nightmare to get set up and pack away. And every time I go to the beach I see one go flying down the surf. I will never forget the summer my daughter was a little over a year, another mom and I had to wrestle the thing back in the bag and it was surely an ugly scene for other beach goers.
Remember you’ll all be tired at the end of the day. Patience is a must when taking little ones to the beach. Snap a few pictures early in the season and then leave the camera at home. Make sure to get an early start to your beach days and indulge in an ice cream treat on your way home!