Baby and Toddler Beach Gear—The Ultimate Guide

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This guide will give you a rundown of the most useful baby and toddler beach gear to keep little ones happy on a long beach day so that everyone can have a great day at the beach.

Shade | Nap Area | Sunsuit | Life Jacket | Hat | Sunscreen | Baby Powder | Terry Cloth Cover-up | Cold Drinks & Great Snacks | Fresh Water to Rinse Off

Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Must Have: Shade

The first thing you learn about babies and small kids is that if you want to have a happy time at the beach, you need to provide a shady place to play, eat snacks, take naps, etc. It’s also crucial if you want to keep tender skin from getting severely burned.

Here are some of my favorite picks for shade at the beach:

Shade Shack

This is my family’s favorite shade structure. It sets up in seconds and allows enough privacy for nursing, naps, changing clothes, etc. It can’t be beat.

Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Shade Shack

Coleman Instant Canopy

If you have a large family or want to be able to provide shade over a kiddie pool, etc, the Coleman Canopy is an excellent choice. It goes up easily, is lightweight, and provides tie downs in case of wind as well as a hole in the top for wind to go in and out (rather than blowing your canopy down). It is also very large—there is plenty of room for the whole family under this shade structure!

Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Coleman Instant Canopy

Shylling Infant UV Playshade

If you are just concerned about providing a little shade for your little ones, this toddler shade tent is similar to the Shade Shack but on a smaller scale (and less expensive).

Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Infant Play Shade

Nap Area

One of the big challenges my beach-going friends and I have had with our babies and toddlers is getting them to nap at the beach. These items and tips have helped us and hopefully will help you, too!

Rock N Play

Some genius friends of mine discovered this little lightweight contraption works great for getting baby to sleep at the beach.

Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Rock N Play

Regalo My Cot Portable Bed

For older kids or babies who don’t roll yet, the Regalo Cot provides an extremely lightweight way to set up a very comfy nap spot on the beach.

Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Regalo My Cot Portable Bed

Hole in the Sand

If you don’t want to bring extra gear to the beach or if you forget, you can dig a nice hole in the sand and pad it with towels to make a great nap spot for baby or toddler.

Baby and Toddler Beach Gear DIY Nap Space

Other Nap Tips

If you little one has trouble settling at the beach and you have a stroller with you, try strolling them up and down the beach, or even just carrying them on your shoulder and patting can help. Sometimes a nice drive with a fussy baby or toddler while the rest of the crew relaxes is what’s needed. Don’t worry if your child has a hard time napping at the beach, it’s a very stimulating and fun place to be, and we’ve been there as parents 🙂

Sunsuits—Another Baby and Toddler Gear Necessity

Sunscreen is great, but those of us with real life experience with kids at the beach realize that it’s very impractical to try and wrestle down a child, especially a sandy child, and reapply sunscreen multiple times. What we have found is that it is a lot more practical to slap on a UV protective sunsuit or rash guard instead and keep sunscreen reapplication to a minimum (just the face and hands are needed if you child is wearing a full coverage sunsuit).

Here are some great choices for sunsuits for babies and toddlers up to big kids:Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Sunsuit

Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Girls Pink Longsleeve Sunsuit
Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Boys Short Sleeve Sunsuit
Baby and Toddler Beach Gear girls full long sleeve sun suit

Life Jackets—The Most Important Baby and Toddler Beach Gear

If your little one is mobile but can’t swim or if the conditions are such that even a swimming toddler would be in danger, please put a life jacket on your child to wear while playing near the water or going in the water. It only takes an instant for a child to get swept in the current, and a life jacket is a wonderful precautionary measure. Life jackets aren’t always a lot of fun to wear, but you may have less resistance if you get one sporting some fun colors and characters like these:Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Fish Life Jacket

Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Dora The Explorer Life Jacket
Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Dinosaur Life Jacket

Hat

If you figure out how to get a baby or toddler to keep a hat on, let me know! While I haven’t quite figured that out yet, I do have two favorite hat brands for little ones that offer great coverage, are comfortable, and have those oh-so-important straps to try and keep that hat on at least for a little while.

Sunday Afternoons Child Unisex Play Hat

Sunday Afternoons makes an incredible line of well-made, well thought out hats for kids. This is my favorite from Sunday Afternoons for children 2-5 years old and has UPF 50+ certified sun rating.Baby and Toddler Beach Gear Sunday Afternoons Child Hat

i Play Unisex-baby Infant Solid Brim Sun Protection Hat

iPlay also makes lots of great sun hats for babies and toddlers. Here is a great pick from iPlay that comes in a variety of sizes from newborn through 4T and is made of upf 50+ fabric:Baby and Toddler Beach Gear iPlay Baby Toddler Hat

Sunscreen

Okay, you’ve got your hat and you’ve got your sunsuit, but you still can’t get away without putting sunscreen on your little one. I am a big fan of mineral sunscreens for a variety of reasons and even make my own out of natural ingredients and zinc oxide powder using recipes like this one.

These are some great sunscreens on the market for babies and toddlers:

Mustela

This 50+ SPF 100% mineral based sunscreen is made by a French company known for high quality products, but is a bit on the pricey side.Mustela Sunscreen

ThinkBaby

Another great 50+ SPF mineral based sunscreen that is a little less expensive than the Mustela brand. This one is commonly found at Whole Foods and online.Think Baby Sunscreen

Coola

This one is my personal favorite mineral sunscreen to use on myself because of it’s creamy consistency and how it doesn’t make you look like a ghost. It’s also excellent for babies and kids! The downside? The price is a little jaw-droppingly high 🙁Coola Baby Sunscreen

Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen

Living in the real world on a real budget? Go for Neutrogena’s Pure and Free Baby Faces. It might not have organic ingredients and might make your kids look a little pasty (but hey, at least you can see where you put the sunscreen!) , but it is mineral based, economically priced, and can be found at most local drugstores.Neutrogena Pure And Free Sunscreen

Baby Powder

Baby powder is a great tool to have with you at the beach to get sand off of feet and bottoms! You will probably already have baby powder in your possession but if not, flour works just as well.Baby Powder

Terry Cloth Cover-up

Obviously you need towels on a beach day, but what we found also really helps is to have a terry cloth cover-up. After playing in the water little ones can get cold and while towel drying is great, being able to throw a terry cover-up on is wonderful. It’s like your child is wearing a towel, and they can keep playing and having fun while their body warms up. A nice warm bath robe can also be used in place of a terry swim cover-up.Wee Wave Infant Terry Cloth Cover

OP Toddler Girl Terry Cloth Coverup
Toddler Child Terry Robe

Cold Drinks & Great Snacks

Snacks and drinks at the beach are a must. Bring a cooler to keep everything cold and fresh. Some of our favorites have multiple compartments so you can store your ice and and drinks in the bottom and snacks in a compartment on top.

This one is very similar to the one we use and has lots of great compartments for snacks, mesh pockets, etc:Insulated Cooler Bag

Stackable bento boxes work really well to keep lunches organized at the beach and dole them out to the little ones:Bento Boxes for Beach Snacks

Some of our recommendations & tips for beach food:

  • PB&J– Good old peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—it can’t really go bad if it sits out too long, is filling, and a universal favorite. You can also FREEZE peanut butter and jelly sandwiches beforehand!
  • Cold watermelon – there is nothing like cold watermelon at the beach. Not only is it delicious, it helps keep little ones hydrated. Cold grapes and blueberries are also great choices.
  • Pick it up on your way – If you are picking something up on your way to the beach, Subway sandwiches are a great choice or a bucket of chicken from KFC. I have fond memories of eating KFC on the beach when I was a little kid.
  •  Get it delivered. Delivery on the beach? Yes! Depending on the beach you are headed to, it may be close enough to a delivery option. We have had pizza delivered on the beach and highly recommend it! Of course you will have to research this option and ask the delivery place if they will meet you in the parking lot 🙂

Fresh Water to Rinse Off

Not all beaches have showers and most beaches do not have warm showers. We like to bring our own warm fresh water to the beach to wash ourselves and our dog off after a long, wonderful beach day. My husband uses 2 five gallon water bottles that he fills up in our shower with the hottest water he can get and puts them in the bed of our truck. By the time we are ready for our after beach rinse, the water has cooled down but is still pretty warm.

Okay, my husband is probably more extreme about his fresh water rinse off than most, but there are some really simple ways to get your rinse on without lugging around big water bottles, if that’s not your thing. Even a couple of one gallon jugs filled up with hot water can provide a nice rinse for sandy feet or salty hair.

Here are some other nice options:

Camp Shower

Put water of regular temperature in a camp shower and your warm water rinse awaits you! You will need to use your judgement as to how long you are going to be at the beach to determine if you should leave it in the sun or stash it in your trunk until you are ready to rinse. When you are ready to rinse, just prop it on the roof of your car and let gravity and fresh water do the work!Solar Camp Shower for the Beach

Rinse Kit

A step up from the camp shower, the Rinse Kit offers a pressurized spray and a lid you can stand on for changing.Rinse Kit for the Beach

RoadShower

The Cadillac of beach showers!  If you want to get even fancier than the Rinse Kit, check out the Road Shower. I’ve been eyeing this product for a long time and hope to own one some day!Road Shower that attaches to car

How We Choose Our Baby and Toddler Beach Gear

I live near the ocean with my husband and kids and we took our oldest to the beach for the first time when she was about 6 weeks old—now she is starting to surf and we have a new baby in tow! As a family, we spend almost every weekend at the beach. These recommendations are based on our personal experience of packing up the car and lugging toddlers and babies to the beach year round. If you see something we’ve missed, leave us a line in the comments. We’d LOVE to know what your essential baby and toddler beach gear is!

*Please note, some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, we will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please know that we recommend products because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or feel that they will help you achieve an awesome beach day with your little ones. 🙂