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