Sand in My Swimsuit: Tips for Visiting the Beach with Kids

Image via Sara McTigue

It’s summer, and here in Florida that means long days, lots of afternoon rain, and the beach. Now, I grew up here and spent many a day at the beach. When I was younger, a beach day meant putting on a suit, possibly grabbing a towel, and heading out. With children in tow, going to the beach means two huge bags of supplies, a cooler, five towels, a gallon sized bottle of sunscreen, and sometimes taking longer to prepare than we’ll actually spend enjoying the sand and surf.

In the spirit of parental camaraderie, I’m sharing some tips to help manage the sand, the sun, and the whining – oh the whining! – that can come with a day at the beach.

Image via iStock

First up: sunscreen. You do not want your kid to get sunburned. Seriously. Aside from the fact that a person’s risk for melanoma DOUBLES if they have five or more sunburns, in the here and now a sunburn hurts and you’ll have a miserable little one.

To get you started, here are the basics:

  • Apply sunscreen before you leave the house/hotel/place where sand is not everywhere. This will give the sunscreen time to sink in and become effective AND it will mean less chance of the application feeling like a skin exfoliation thanks to all the sand.
  • Cover all exposed areas , including tops of heads and ears. Use more than you think you need – experts suggest at least a shot glass full of at least SPF 30 for each person, re-applied at least every two hours.
  • Find a sunscreen that works for you. There are plenty of recommendations about the best sunscreen, but the absolute best is the one that you actually use – so find one you like and use it, every time.


Image via Flickr/ treehouse1977

Second on the list: shade. Now that you’ve got little ones along it is worth the investment to get an umbrella or tent for shade and sun protection. This provides a great place for feeding, napping, or just cooling off a bit. Trust me – it’s worth the cost.

You can also find sun protective clothing – including cover-ups and hats – from many retailers. These are lightweight and can help to cool and protect sensitive skin.

Don’t forget the sunglasses. Look for ones with UV protection and encourage your kiddos to sport their shades, too!

Image via Sara McTigue

Next up: sand. Oh the sand. Many little ones, especially on their first visit, will find that sand is decidedly not their favorite. It’s a unique sensory experience, and one that not all kids warm up to right away. A few tips for easing the introduction.

  • Before hitting the beach, allow your child some time in a sandbox or with a sand sensory table.
  • Bring along sandals, flip flops, or beach shoes. Sand can get HOT and burn the bottoms of little feet.
  • The sand at the water’s edge and the sand higher on the beach are different. A child who is unsure about the loose, soft sand may do just fine on the packed, wet sand. Take your time in allowing them to get used to this new sensory experience.

Image via Sara McTigue

Also: water (and not the stuff you’re swimming in!) Staying hydrated is very important, especially for little ones. Bring plenty of water (you can freeze it the night before to keep it extra cool). Fruits like watermelon, ice pops, or juices are additional options, but good old H2O is your best option.

{ MORE:  5 Signs of Dehydration }


Image via Flickr/ kodomut

What can we do? The good news? You don’t need to spend a bunch of sand toys that will take up space, break, or float away. You’ve got toys aplenty in your own kitchen.

  • Plastic food containers, cups, and colanders work great as sand toys.
  • You can use fingers or sticks to draw in the sand.
  • Look for little animals – crabs, fish, the tiny clams we in Florida call “coquina.”
  • Jump waves.
  • Build castles or bury little toes in the sand – but use caution – sand is heavy and can easily shift.

No matter what you do to entertain the kids, always, ALWAYS watch them. Safety comes first. Gone are the days of relaxing in the sand, eyes closed, mind blank (unless you can bribe your partner to give you a break!). Instead you’ll be sweating like crazy, covered in sand, and making great memories with your kids. It’s hard work – but it’s good fun.

Image via Sara McTigue

How do I get all this there? When you’re packing a kid, snacks, drinks, towels, sunscreen, toys, umbrellas, and that magazine you fooled yourself into thinking you would have time to read, it can be challenging making it down to the water. Strollers get stuck, and the sand and saltwater can be very damaging to the metal frame. Our favorite option has always been a wagon – you can cart the kids or the gear or both, and the large plastic wheels tend to move fairly well on the sand. There are also carts designed for beach use. Or there is the bag and drag method – wherein you stuff as much as you can into one bag and hope you can muscle it all the way to where you are going.


Image via Flickr/ ScottieT812

There is sand EVERYWHERE!

  • Bring a big, old sheet. If you have to load the kids and stuff back in the car, put all the sandy gear on the sheet to keep the excess sand out of your vehicle. If you are walking back to a hotel or home, drop all the sandy stuff onto the sheet for some outdoor drying time. Dry sand is much easier to shake off than wet sand.
  • Another thing to bring – baby powder! A sprinkle of baby powder can make brushing off all that leftover sand a simple process. And it will be everywhere!
  • Consider a nice bath that evening. Sand can get into diapers and bathing suits and cause irritation on tender parts. A nice clean rinse will help everyone enjoy their beach day a bit more.

What are your best beach-going tips? Please share in the comments!

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Sand in My Swimsuit: Tips for Visiting the Beach with Kids

Sara McTigue is a secret agent, cupcake chef, award winning author, photographer, and PTA mom. At least, that is how things look in her mind. When she isn’t testing the bounds of her imagination, she is a mom to three amazing and hilariously funny children, wife to a charming and handsome man, and thoroughly addicted to reading. With a BS in English Education and an MA in English Literature, words – and their ability to shape our lives and thoughts – are an everyday fascination. Af ... More

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1 comment

  1. very helpful for me, but i will be taking one child with me tp the beach (just a day trip)

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