Let’s be real: Going to the beach with little kids is never really going to be easy. But, like everything else in life, it can be easier if you have the right tools. Though, honestly, every article I’ve ever read about the subject has offered advice either so vague (“sun gear!”) or so painfully obvious (“swim diapers!”) that I felt compelled to make my own list of the things — things big and small, but very specific things — that have become our beach essentials, our go-tos, our can’t-live-withouts. You know, beyond the swim diapers. Duh.
1. A carrier.
If you have an infant, this is a no-brainer, of course. It’s only if you have a toddler that unearthing the Ergo again may seem insane. But if you’ve ever hauled a bag, a chair and a 25-pound kid across a quarter mile of soft, burning hot sand, then you know that wearing that kid is about 1000 times easier than carrying him. This is why a lot of people bring wagons for hauling both kid and beach crap. Wagons are great, but they’re also hard to pull through the sand, and you’ll see that most people leave them at the entrance to the beach. For my money, I say it’s the Ergo, or the Osprey carrier, or the Bjorn, or whatever sling/backpack contraption you’ve got.
2. A towel with a hood.
This mostly comes in handy when you’re trying to avoid the seagulls at snack time, but it’s also nice for sun protection. In fact, locally based Luv Bug makes really great sun blankets with UPF and UV protection.
3. Snack cups with those slotted lids.
See: gulls. The kids can get at their goldfish; the birds can’t. (On the flip side, the sound of a Ziploc baggie or a box of Cheez-Its opening is the seagull siren song.)
4. A one-piece bathing suit, with sleeves.
If you have a boy (as I do), you can probably only get away with this for so long, but I stretched it out as many summers as I could. One-pieces are better than trunks or little tankinis (for girls), because less skin is exposed to the sun (which means less sunscreen application, hurrah!), and, IMO, easier than a rash guard because it’s easier to pack/rinse/put on one piece than it is two. Also, it makes him look like an old-timey Victorian toddler, which I enjoy.
5. A pop-up tent.
We have a tent, but it is not of the pop-up variety. Trust me when I say this: You want the pop-up.
6. A Klean Kanteen sippy cup
It’s safe (no plastics); it has a handy little cover that keeps the mouthpiece clean; and it is basically impenetrable to sand. I also think it stays colder longer than your average plastic sippy.
7. The Patagonia bucket hat.
I have written (and written, and written) about my love for these hats. They’re just perfect — the brim is wide enough to keep the sun of a kid’s face, but not so floppy that it gets in her way, or covers her eyes when you try to take pictures — and the velcro strap helps keep that thing on.
8. A bucket/water toys.
Okay, fine. This one is both vague and obvious. But if there is a kid who doesn’t lose his flipping mind over that 50-cent plastic bucket you found at Hoy’s (or in your garage, or whatever), I have yet to see him. Also: A bucket means you might actually get to sit down in those chairs you hauled down, across that hot sand. Don’t forget it. Another big-time favorite of ours is a water cannon (with a firm “you can only spray our feet” rule).
9. This baby pool for very little ones.
LOVE. (The little “post” in the middle keeps the baby in a stable sitting position, and it’s basically a personal pool to play in on the beach.)