20 Mom Tips for Surviving the Beach with Your Kids
There’s something blissfully calming about a nice beach day during the summer.
The rolling waves, the blazing sun, the soft grainy sand—and, oh yes—the shrill screams of “Mommmmyyyyyyy” when your children want to rip you from your relaxing glory mainly because they want or need something!
Let's face it: life’s not always a beach when you have the kids in tow.
So, read on to gain lots of tips and tricks to surviving your day on the beach with your family!
1) Reach for Road Trip Toys
Just getting to the beach is half the battle, especially in the car! So, be sure to stock up on some cool road trip games and toys for your kids.
You could pack a lunch box full of Lego pieces and a miniature Lego board and let them build a creation of their own or offer them various STEM challenges (“Can you build a bridge with your Legos?”).
You can also bring stickers and coloring books, lacing kits, or tracing pages to keep their minds and fingers engaged!
2) Pit Stop Post-Its
While driving to the beach, another important thing to consider ahead of time is how often you’re planning to stop for a break.
So the kids don’t have to pester you every fifteen minutes, consider sticking post-it notes next to your car’s clock that notates when you’re going to stop for lunch, a bathroom break, sightseeing/leg stretch excursion, etc.
Remove each sticky note once you pass the time mark, and most importantly, be sure to post the beach arrival time!
3) Set Up An Organizer
Before you hop in the car, set up an organizer that hangs on the back of the driver and passenger seats.
It can contain activities, technology devices, snacks, drinks, wipes—you name it.
Be sure to set it up prior to hitting the road, so it’s one less thing you have to worry about.
These organizers can also serve as an emergency kit in case you’re stuck in traffic, someone gets sick on the ride, or if first aid care is in order!
4) Pack a Baby Pool
Traveling to the shore with a baby is no easy feat. But, it can be done with careful planning!
One thing that I had to have at the beach was a baby pool. It served us multiple purposes.
First, when it was extremely hot they could splash around in the small, inflatable pool because we poured a jug of water in it to cool them off.
We also used it as a playpen for containment purposes, but also for napping since it kept the sand out of their eyes and face.
Yes, it looked a little odd, but we made the pool super comfortable by lining it was their favorite blankets and we placed them in the shade of our umbrella.
It seriously was a life saver!
5) Post a To-Do List in Clear View
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write something down, I get a serious case of “mom brain.”
So, to ensure I have everything purchased and packed before the beach, I write an on-going to do list on a bit, wipe off calendar that’s placed in an easy to see, common area (like our kitchen).
A few weeks before the shore, I start to designate what needs to get accomplished on specific days leading up to vacation.
For example, a month out, I book a dog sitter. Then, I start to gather all our clothes that we’re going to wear a week out. I grocery shop two days before.
It helps me manage my time more wisely, and it doesn’t make me feel overwhelmed the night before because I’m not scrambling around to get everything together!
You can encourage other members of the family to help you out too, by crossing off items on the list when they have been done!
6) Multi-Use Beach Gear
I really dislike lugging lots of stuff onto the beach.
After all, I can barely keep up after the kids when my hands are empty, let alone when they become full!
So, when it comes to beach gear, I pack an oversized bag (which is insulated, so it doubles as a mini cooler for drinks), beach chairs with built in cup holders and mini-fan clips, a beach tent to keep the kiddos in the shade, and towels that have a zippered compartment, so they’ll hold our keys, wallet, phone, and cash for adults.
I make sure the kids’ beach toys are compact and inflatable to free up space.
You can also find umbrellas that are able to be built on the beach by putting the poles together and twisting the canopy in place. Good Housekeeping has a huge assortment of them that take up virtually no space and are easy to tote.
You should also consider investing in a pop up laundry bag which can be stowed away with ease in the hotel room, but is also easy to handle when filled with beach toys (and is a cinch to get sand out of).
We also would not have survived the beach without a multi-function table/cooler. We purchased one from icreativeideas.com.
It could be rolled in cooler form onto the beach. Next, you unpack it and unleash its table flats, and two folding chairs.
They helped my kids sit and eat, draw, and even organize their shells. The cooler portion even boasts ample space for ice, juice boxes, and sandwiches for all to enjoy!
7) Stock Up on Baby Powder
As Burlap and Denim notes, a little baby powder can go a long way at the beach!
You can toss some on body areas that contain dried sand, and the powder will help the sand wipe away with ease!
It’s a serious life saver when moving from the beach, into your car, and from the beach to the boardwalk for lunch or rides, or if you don’t have immediate access to an outdoor shower.
Everyone will be much more comfortable!
8) Update Sand Toys
Yes, you can never go wrong with a shovel and a pail. But, if you want to really spark your kiddo’s creativity, surprise them with some conversational/dramatic play sand toys!
One of my favorite sand toys can be found on Amazon. The set will keep kids engaged for hours and they’ll love taking your “order” and creating their sandy snacks.
You can also pack your kids’ favorite cars and construction vehicles and encourage them to pave an area and fill it with lanes and roads.
Also, consider packing a few squirt bottles that contain food coloring so the kids can literally color a creation they’ve sculpted on or in the sand.
9) Stock up on Disposable Containers
Can’t convince yourself to spend money on nice Tupperware containers and toss them?
Visit your local bulk discount store and stock up on take and toss containers!
They are just as durable as day to day reusable containers, but are meant for single use only. They sell them in all sizes and they are perfect for road trips and beach fare.
Forget about washing them—just chuck them out when you’re done. I’ve utilized the tall containers to put hummus in the base and place celery and carrot sticks in it, so it helped me offer an easy to access, healthy beach snack.
You can also use them to house a base of peanut butter and place apple slices on top as well.
Just be sure to submerge them in ice in your cooler and you’re good to go.
10) Create a Treasure Hunt
I love picking up little trinkets at my local dollar store.
I had quite the collection of figurines, golden coins, plastic beaded necklaces, and miniature cars to bring to the beach.
When my kids were playing in the ocean, I marked off a medium sized square in order to indicate where my kids could dig for all the goodies I hid for them (make sure you dig and hide deep enough to keep them engaged).
You can present the activity to them in a fun pirate voice, and even play pirate themed games the rest of the day (Walk the Plank off the pool diving board, Ride pirate ships on the boardwalk, or even cruise around the ocean on a tourist pirate ship).
11) Use a Caddy
We often rent a house right on the beach, and one of our favorite things to do as a family is eat on the beach—but toting all our stuff (especially with toddlers) to our sandy spot can be quite a task.
So, we prepare our food in our kitchen, and place our burgers or hotdogs (and accompaniments) in compartmentalized shower caddies.
They hold everything in place perfectly, and also allow us to move freely without making a mess or taking the risk of dropping anything in the sand (including utensils, which can stand easily in the compartment)!
12) Pack Perfectly
I love the packing ideas suggested by Ziploc’s site in this post.
I never thought about taping storage bags that hold utensils or napkins in them, or smaller items, like fruit snacks, raisins, or bags of chips.
They don’t end up getting squished and are also easy to access in a jam. You can also freeze marinated meats in bags, which can replace the need for more ice, saving you more space for foods.
I also found it helpful to put ice in a small bag so it stays separate from the rest of the food items (especially meats).
And, of course, remember the general golden rule of packing a cooler—big items/containers go on the bottom, and ascend to the top.
13) Sea Shell Memory
A great way to soak up the sun, stay stationary, and entertain your kids is to play a game of sea shell memory!
As a family, collect a dozen shells. With a permanent marker, make a design on the shell’s interior (draw hearts, circles, diamonds, etc. on shell pairs).
Place the shells in an array so that the design cannot be seen. Practice taking turns making matches, like the traditional rules of the game. And, the shells can double as a beach souvenir!
Check out Growing Up Gabel for a visual!
14) Sand and Science
There are actually a lot of science-related activities your child can complete while on the beach.
One of my favorites is a sand volcano in this awesome post by Growing A Jeweled Rose.
You only need a few key ingredients and your kids will love making their sand castle or sand volcano erupt for hours!
Some other cool sand and science experiments can be found at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers blog, which involves chemical reactions with shells.
I Can Teach My Child’s blog also explains how your kids can make their own solar oven and melt objects, using a few minimal materials that won’t take up a lot of space in your beach bag.
15) Go Fly a Kite
Kites often get overlooked, but actually make an amazing beach toy!
More ideal for older kids to operate, set them loose in a desolate space on the beach to see just how high their kite will soar.
16) Beach Crafts
I came across the blog The Artful Parent just before our latest vacation, and I’m so glad that I did!
They have the best ocean and beach craft ideas that keep kids happy and content all afternoon, using only a few items.
My kids loved making the beach drawings using sticks and feathers they found along the coastline. And, they loved creating images out of shells, sea glass, and stones they collected.
Finally, you can’t go wrong with building a good ‘ol moat—so dig a shovel and help create a large ditch that will collect water and encourage kids to sketch an outline of a castle (be sure to decorate the castle with shells and stones as well!)
17) Beach Scavenger Hunt
One great way to kick off your first full day at the beach is to have kids go on a scavenger hunt.
I found some free and colorful printables on Frugal Coupon Living that I attached to brand new sand play equipment.
I had the equipment wrapped up when the kids awoke for the day and explained how to partake in the hunt.
The kids loved marking off when they found an item and the list can be made more customized for smaller children who need assistance.
Either way, it keeps kids moving for a long time (leaving you plenty of time to relax!)
18) Purchase a Luggage Organizer
The common way to pack is to fold your clothes, put your shoes in the bottom, and put all your items on top, right?
Until I came across Newchic’s travel packing organizers, I was doing it wrong, all wrong.
Their luggage organizers made everything fit much more compactly and even included zippered laundry bags (of various sizes), which could also double as wet bags on days when we weren’t going back to the hotel after the beach.
They are also sold in various colors, so if you designate a color for each member of your family, you could access items quicker and more efficiently.
It also made doing wash upon our return home much easier because all the clothes that were worn were all in one location.
19) Download a Travel Journal
You can keep your school-age kids busy by having them document your trip in a travel journal.
They can color states on maps as you pass through them, reflect on day to day activities by circling their mood and adding comments, and even create stories.
It will encourage you to take breaks on a long drive at various landmarks, so they’ll have something to add to their journals, and virtually their long term memories.
Check out Free Home School Deals to get a copy, and present it to the kids as soon as you hop in the car so they can start working!
20) Visit Beach Hack Sites to Prepare
I am so thankful I found Red Tricycle’s blog, because it has every beach hack imaginable for every age group and activity!
Some of my favorites include chilling the sunscreen (so kids are more likely to put it on), stashing your cash (in a chips container-no one would think to look in there!), and adding frozen water balloons to your cooler—not only do they act as ice, they double as an awesome and “cool” activity once they thaw out for the kiddos.
Now that you know how to survive your trip to the beach with your kids, you can be sure to stock up on supplies, check out blogs, and plan out how and when you pack for the big day!
There are many products and activities that make life easier when traveling with little ones, and you’ll have nothing but sunshine and smiles all day long from your pre-beach prep-well, maybe except when it’s time to leave!