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Family Beach Guide

Family Beach Guide

Today’s post is a compilation edited by Jeannie Krill, writer at Bright Horizons, and former Bright Horizons pre-kindergarten teacher.

Summer is upon us, and that means beach days are, too. Whether your kids have been beach babies since birth…or you’re getting ready to introduce them to the water for the first time, we have tips that will help make your time at the beach more enjoyable. Whether you’re vacationing at Myrtle Beach, spending a weekend on Cape Cod, or catching some rays with your family on Long Beach, take a look at this guide for ideas on what to bring with you (including the all-important snacks!), safety tips, and activity ideas that will help keep your kids entertained.

What to Bring to the Beach

Beach Snacks

Beach Safety Tips for Kids

13 Beach Activities for Kids

What to Bring to the Beach

Before you head out to the beach, make a list of things to take with you. What do you want to be sure you don’t forget? A sandy beach with no towel or blanket can be pretty uncomfortable…and bright, sunny days without sunglasses aren’t fun. Jot down the necessities and check each item off your list as you pack it into the car. Think about your last trip to the beach…what did your kids ask for most? You might have heard, “I’m thirsty” or “I need another towel.” Take these things into consideration, too, and pack extras or things you might not have thought of last time.

Take a look at these nine suggestions.

The necessities. Gather chairs for everyone, towels, plenty of sunscreen, a beach umbrella, goggles, hats, sunglasses, and a beach cart to carry it all.

A picnic blanket. The sand can get hot…and having something to sit on helps! You can even find lightweight blankets that fold up to the size of a laptop and include a strap and pocket to hold a few small items (such as sunscreen and a wallet).

Good sun coverage. Not only will a tent provide shade, it’s a great place for the kids to nap and play…and it can give them privacy to use the potty, too (see next point). On windy days, be sure to bring something heavy to hold down each corner.

Bathroom options. Consider investing in a folding travel potty and bringing it along. Whenever your kids have to use the potty and, inevitably, they always do, they can use the travel potty in the tent or in the back of the car (when the car is close by). Be sure to bring heavy duty baggies, wipes, and toilet paper, too.

A variety of beach toys. The traditional pails and shovels are great, but think about bringing other items your child can use to scoop and play with sand and water (cups, large spoons, a funnel, and more). Bring waterproof figurines — people, animals, etc. — and add them to sand castles.

Beach goggles. Have you ever gotten to the beach, only to realize that you left the goggles in the bathtub toy bin or in your child’s swim bag? Salt water is no fun on the eyes, so get a pair of goggles specifically for the beach and keep them in the beach bag.

An easy lunch set up. Avoid sandy sandwiches by bringing — and eating at — small portable beach tables.

Swim diapers. Reusable? Disposable? Both? Whichever option you go with, layer a regular diaper over the swim diaper until you get to your destination. This will help prevent leaks while you’re on your way.

Beach snacks. A well-stocked cooler is a must. Make sure the kids have plenty of water — fill big water bottles and pack them with ice before you leave the house. Fill the cooler with sliced oranges, apples, cheese sticks, grapes, juice pops, chips, premade sandwiches, and more. And avoid introducing your kids to the food counter and ice cream truck, especially if you don’t want them to ask for a hot dog or ice cream every time you go to the beach.

And don’t forget to get to the beach early! If you arrive at or before 9:30, your kids can take their nap on the beach, or if that fails, when you have to head home for naptime, you’ll still feel like you got a decent amount of time playing in the water and sand.

Beach Safety Tips for Children

Great childhood memories are made during summer days at the beach. But be sure to keep safety in mind and be aware of and avoid potential dangers with these beach safety tips.
Use life vests. Whenever your kids are around the ocean, pool, lake, or another large water source, make sure they’re wearing life vests that fit properly. And be sure not to purchase inflatable vests — they can easily deflate or pop.

Take an infant/child CPR class. These classes are generally a one-day commitment, and are offered by many local organizations. Taking a class can give you the tools and knowledge you need to step in and provide emergency care if something unthinkable happens.

Stay within an arm’s length and be observant. When your kids are near the water, stay close by — strong undertows and rip currents are unpredictable. And keep an eye out for big waves!

Keep your mobile phone nearby. You probably think this sounds silly in today’s age (when do you go anywhere without your phone?), but double check anyway — those few minutes could save a life.

Consider swim lessons. Help your kids become more familiar with the water by giving them a foundation for water safety rules and proper swim etiquette. Keep in mind that the national YMCA guidelines for swim instruction advise instructors against submerging young children and encourage parents to participate in lessons.

Be aware of small pools of water, too. Your kids shouldn’t be left unattended near any body of water, including things like tide pools and kiddie pools in the backyard. The “arm’s length” rule applies here, too.

Know the signs of drowning. They look nothing like the thrashing and screaming you see on TV or in the movies. The real warning signs are quiet and often missed…so read up!

And make sure your child knows the four golden rules of water safety, too:

  1. Don’t go near the water without an adult
  2. Never dunk another child
  3. Don’t run on the dock or pool deck
  4. Always jump in feet first

13 Beach Activities for Kids


Are you ready for a day of sun, sand, and fun? Now that you’ve read about what to bring to the beach and how to keep your kids safe while you’re there, you’re probably wondering how you’ll keep them entertained all day. Once you find your spot on the sand, here are some fun beach activities to do with your kids.

Kids at the beach with their grandmother

And no matter which activities you choose, make sure your kids are supervised and wearing the necessary gear and sun protection at all times!

Once you’ve had a chance to explore the beach, you might be wondering what else you can do with your kids while school’s out. Look for more posts about summer…get activity ideas, summer recipes, advice, and more. And if you’re planning a family vacation, take a look at our Bright Horizons moms’ tips for traveling with.

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