Heading to the beach was a breeze with one kid. Two was manageable. We could divide and conquer and actually enjoy ourselves, albeit not quite what is used to be. Gone are the days where you can take a book, listen to a good playlist or drift in and out of a sleepy state under the warm sun (whilst being sun-smart of course). Little people demand a lot of attention from you…and rightly so!
For us. Summer is when the best memories are made.
We live next to one of the most iconic beaches in the world and when we aren’t swimming in the ocean, we are enjoying the most amazing little rock pools. We head down there early morning or when all sleeps are done for the day, and spend the afternoon having fun in the salty water and the (somewhat) fresh air.
Nowadays we have 3 little people, so there’s a little more planning involved! I will never forget the first time we attempted the beach with a newborn and two toddlers. The kids hadn’t been down in a while and were just a little over excited. It was a particularly gusty day too and we all know how that ends.
Kids + wind = fml
I was in the middle of feeding the baby under our beach tent when my husband took off after the two toddlers. One decided to head for the stairs aka road and the other towards the water. It was a moment of panic for us both. I immediately jumped up to head for the child making her way to the water, when my beach tent went flying. I probably should have remembered to bring along those pegs. Thankfully some wonderful humans were sitting next to me and could see the panic on my face. One went after the beach tent, the other offered to hold the baby and I went for the toddler – it certainly does take a village!
Thankfully we look back and laugh at what we must have looked like. We were rookies with 3 kids under 3.5 years, thinking we could rock up to the beach and just roll with it. Kids take a little planning and we’ve learnt a lot since then, so here are our 5 essentials for enjoying a day at the beach with small humans.
1. Head out early or go post nap
The beach is a lot of fun but overtired kids are not. Once you rock up to this wonderland of sand castles and rock pools – they aren’t going to want to leave! We very quickly learnt that strategically planning outings according to nap times end in the most fun. Whether it’s venturing out early morning or after a day nap, it means a well rested child. They are going to be wearing themselves out while you chase those little legs down the beach, so it’s best to avoid an (already) overtired situation.
2. Take snacks + PLENTY of water
Whilst most beaches have a kiosk or cafes nearby, you aren’t going to want to be lugging all of your beach gear and your child (or children) the moment they get hungry – especially if there’s a line. Sure it’s fun to have a little fish and chips by the beach but I always find it helpful (and much healthier) to pack some basic sandwiches & cut up fresh fruit. This way you simply need to find your spot and plonk yourself there. Save the kiosk visit for an ice cream on the way home.
Water bottles will end up in the sand, used to create sand castles or end up being warm from the sun. Be sure to have an extra bottle (or 3) up your sleeve. Insulated bottles or an insulated bag will help to keep them cool.. and if you are really organised, you could always drop a few ice cubes in them before you head out.
3. A bucket and spade goes a long way
This is another rookie error I have made more than once. Forgetting to pack a bucket and spade! It always ends up in disaster because your child is going to find one, no matter who owns it, and will want to hang onto it. This leads to a very awkward moment having to explain that it belongs to its rightful owner and that your child is left to play with a water bottle and pile of seaweed.
You will generally find those super organised parents who have packed enough for a small tribe and will offer one to you but I can guarantee their small human will decide that it’s their favourite thing to play with and want it back.
4. Road test your umbrella or beach tent BEFORE you go
It’s a pretty comical site watching families try to navigate their new sun protection devices, especially after Christmas. Whether it’s not knowing how far down to dig the hole for the umbrella, what angle to position it in or how to pack up those weird twist and fold type beach tents. I personally love the tents, as I feel they are easier to use (once you master the art of the fold that is) and means you can put all of your bags/items underneath and away from the sand. It’s also a great option for feeding the baby and/or little naps if one is needed when out and about.
5. Being sun smart is essential
This goes for both you and your child! I can’t recall the amount of times I have naively left the house sans sunscreen to get the kids down to the beach and ended up being too busy worrying about their protection and end up forgetting myself. I almost cry every time I realise I’ve been left sunburnt on the back of my neck.
Sun safety is essential. I recently came across the wonderful social initiative, ‘Call time on Melanoma’ aimed at raising awareness about the facts on melanoma. They share statistics, first-person stories, sunscreen recommendations and questions or recommendations on skin checks.
Thankfully rashies are back in fashion but they aren’t the rashies of my surfing days – they have really flattering options for mamas in swimwear! You aren’t going to have time to feel conscious in swimwear while you are chasing your little one around the beach. Having something that is going to protect you (from the sun) and is flattering and comfortable (no bits popping out here!) allows for a carefree day at the beach. We love our new matching Surf suits
Toddlers can be a little fussy and generally want to wear their fun and cute little swimwear and suggesting they cover this up with a rashie isn’t always fun. Having a long sleeve swimsuit is a safe and practical way to ensure your little one has more protection at the beach – plus a little mini and me matching looks super cute.
So all of the above sounds fairly simple and it kind of is, although I don’t want to give you false hopes. There will be times where things go pear-shaped but that’s with anything related to parenthood. Remember when I said our best memories are made down at the beach over summer? Well they certainly are! And thankfully we learnt pretty quickly how to ensure it was enjoyable for all… except for the car full of sand. I haven’t quite mastered that one yet… all tips welcome!