Beach essentials for toddlers and babies

16 Beach Essentials for Toddlers and Babies (2021 Picks)

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There are few outings more enjoyable than a family day at the beach! If you’re prepared, that is. But with the right beach essentials for toddlers and babies, you’re on your way to a day of fun in the sun!

When traveling with young kids, we’ve found beach vacations to be some of our most enjoyable trips.

Beach vacations tend to be high in fun and low in stress. The water and sand make for lots of built-in entertainment without a lot of planning involved, so there’s less for mom and dad to worry about.

And since children are able to participate in water activities at a very young age, even the littlest member of the family can be included!

Our kids love the water and would swim every day if we let them, so beach trips are a perfect fit for our busy boys. And since we like to travel, that means we’ve had quite a few beach vacations…

Along the way, we’ve come up with a list of beach essentials for toddlers and babies and a few tricks for beach-day success!

Beach Essentials for Toddlers and Babies

There are some baby and toddler essentials you just can’t do without when hitting the beach with young kids. Here’s a list of some of our must-have items:

1. Sunscreen

Blue Lizard Sunscreen is a beach essential for toddlers

When thinking of beach essentials for toddlers, sunscreen is definitely at the top of the list. It’s a fine balance to pick a sunscreen that provides the protection you want but is also gentle on your child’s sensitive skin.

My favorite brand for my kids is Blue Lizard Sunscreen. It provides great protection, lasts a long time, and doesn’t have the nasty chemicals that are in a lot of sunscreens (even ones that claim to be baby safe).

And this kind is reef safe, so you can feel good knowing that you’re helping to protect the environment!

Other good options are Badger Baby Sunscreen and TruBaby Water and Play Sunscreen.

**Most sunscreen manufacturers advise against using sunscreen on babies younger than six months old. Instead, keep young babies out of direct sunlight and use hats and long sleeves to keep them protected when in the sun.

2. Swimsuit

A good swimsuit is a beach essential for toddlers

And of course, you can’t plan a trip to the beach without bringing your trusty swimsuit!

Rashguards (long-sleeved swimsuits) are a great choice for young kids. They allow you to use less sunscreen and reduce your child’s risk of getting a sunburn. You can find a great option for boys here and for girls here.

3. Swim diapers

Swim diapers

If your child is still in diapers, you’ll need to pack some swim diapers. One option is disposable swim diapers. While we have on occasion used the disposable type, we find reusable swim diapers to be sturdier and more eco-friendly (plus it means less to pack!).

For babies, I love using AppleCheeks reusable swim diapers. The snaps make them easy to get on and off and they are adjustable, so they can grow with your child.

Swim diapers are a beach essential for toddlers who aren't potty trained

When my kids get a little older, I switch to these swim diapers so that they can just step in and out easily.

4. Quick Drying Beach Towel

Travel beach towel

These microfiber quick-drying beach towels are perfect for travel with kids! Although they are light and thin (which makes them ideal for packing), they are surprisingly absorbent and dry quickly. As an added bonus, they come with a carrying bag.

5. Waterproof bags

Waterproof bags

When you’re done swimming, you’ll want somewhere to put your wet clothes. These waterproof bags are especially nice because they have two compartments- one for wet clothes and one for dry.

6. Floaties

Water floatie

Whenever we’re planning a trip with water activities, we always pack our floaties. Floaties are a great tool for helping your young kids feel confident in the water and keeping them safe. When our babies are younger we use the float rings.

Puddle Jumper water floaty- one of our favorite beach essentials for toddlers

When they get a little bigger, we switch them to the puddle jumpers, which allow them a little more mobility and independence.

7. Beach Blanket

Beach blanket

When you’re traveling with young kids, it’s so helpful to have a place for them to sit out of the sand. This beach blanket is the perfect solution.

It is water-resistant and sand proof, meaning you can set a baby down without worrying about them eating a mouthful of sand or have a sand-free place for your toddler to eat their snack.

And it’s huge (10’x9′), meaning there is room for the whole family to sit! You have the option of using sand pockets or metal stakes to secure the blanket.

It also weighs in at only one pound and packs down into a compact storage pouch for easy packing!

8. Toddler flip flops

For lightweight shoes that are easy to get on and off at the beach, toddler flop flops are a very useful item to have on beach day.

I love having shoes that don’t retain a lot of sand to drive my toddler crazy and which can be easily rinsed off. This pair is comfortable for your child’s foot and has a back strap to keep it in place.

9. Beach Bag

beach bag

Going to the beach with young kids means that you have a lot of stuff to bring with you! You need an awesome bag to carry everything and keep it organized.

This beach bag has plenty of space for all of your beach day essentials- your toddlers and yours!. There are eight pockets to help you keep everything separate and organized, including a zippered pocket inside for your keys, wallet, and other valuables. It’s made of mesh which prevents sand from collecting inside and means that it dries quickly.

10. Snacks

Never attempt a day at the beach without planning some good snacks! And these snack cups are perfect for containing crackers and small snacks so they don’t end up in the sand.

The come with a lid to keep snacks fresh and prevent spillage in your bag. And my favorite feature is that they are collapsible, making them perfect for travel!

11. Water shoes

Water shoes can be a beach essential for toddlers if the ground is rocky

If you’ll be visiting a rocky beach, water shoes will protect your kiddo’s feet without interrupting their play. These ones are made with breathable, lightweight mesh and have a flexible, grippy sole to keep your child safe on slippery surfaces.

12. A sun hat

Baby sun hat for the beach

Bring a sun hat to help keep the sun out of your child’s eyes and protect them from sunburn. The kind with a chin strap is convenient so that you don’t lose it in the water.

13. Sunglasses

Baby sunglasses

Protect your baby’s eyes from the bright sun and the glare of the water with a pair of baby sunglasses.

This pair is polarized, scratch-resistant, and flexible. It also comes with a strap to keep it in place and a soft pouch and hard case.

14. Sand toys

Toddler sand toys

Looking for a way to keep your young child entertained on the beach? This set of sand toys comes with a collapsible bucket, making it more compact to pack, as well as shovels, rakes, and molds. It also has a waterproof mesh bag.

My kids looooved these toys. They were kept entertained for hours and still wanted more!

15. Reusable water bottle

Child's water bottle

It can be easy to forget to take water breaks when you’re having fun at the beach. But you’ll want to make sure that your child stays hydrated if they’re out in the sun all day!

Bring a water bottle like this BPA-free reusable water bottle and offer your child drinks frequently.

16. Sun tent

Pop-up sun tent

If you’re going somewhere without shade or cover, plan to bring a small tent so that there is somewhere for the little kiddos to get out of the sun.

We have this compact pop-up tent that we’ve found useful for some vacations. It comes with a carrying pouch and all you have to open it is pull it out and pop it open! It’s also lightweight and packs easily.

Water floaties are a beach essential for toddlers at the beach
Putting their floaties to good use in Cabo, Mexico

Baby and Toddler Essential Beach Tips

As much fun as a day at the beach is, with young kids things don’t always go according to plan. Along with the beach essentials for toddlers and babies mentioned above, here are a few suggestions we have for making your trip go a little more smoothly:

1. A tired child is a grumpy child

At this age, you really have to take nap time into account in order to have a successful day at the beach.

A tired and grumpy baby or toddler does not make for a relaxing beach experience. And if you have multiple young children, it can be even trickier. But it’s not impossible, and the older they get the more flexible you are able to be with naps.

If you have a toddler who only takes one nap a day, oftentimes the easiest solution is just to plan around nap time. Either go to the beach early in the day and have nap time when you get back, or head out to the beach as soon as they wake up from their nap.

If you’re planning on being at the beach all day, you can also try to put your child down for a nap there. This is most likely to work for babies and young toddlers. We’ve had success putting a baby to sleep in a baby carrier as well as in a car seat.

Mom wearing a sleeping baby in a baby carrier on the beach
Napping in the Bahamas

For older toddlers, you can also just choose to do without a nap for that day. We’ve done this with varying degrees of success. Just plan for an early bedtime and try to make nap time a priority the next day so they don’t get too overtired.

2. Keep them going with food

What is it about water activities that seems to make everyone ravenous? Take some preemptive measures to keep your kiddo smiling with some tasty snacks and/or a good lunch.

Here are some of our favorite beach snacks for toddlers and babies:

  • Fruit and veggie pouches
  • Crackers
    • Goldfish crackers
    • Pirate’s Booty
    • Animal crackers
  • Fruit- choose something that packs well and isn’t too messy
    • Grapes
    • Strawberries
    • Bananas
    • Oranges
  • Granola bars
  • Raisins

Sometimes it’s tricky to prevent sand from getting in all of your food. It can help to have young kids eat on a chair or towel to stop them from sticking their hand in the sand and then straight into the food bag (the next person who wants some will thank you).

Snacks are a beach essential for toddlers
Enjoying some Pirate’s Booty on the beach in Bohol, Philippines

3. Swim gear

I find it easiest to put kids in swimsuits at the hotel before heading to the beach. EXCEPT for swim diapers. Those should be put on immediately before your kiddo goes in the water unless you want an embarrassing pee incident on your hands (literally or figuratively).

And if your child is wearing a swim diaper, change them back into a normal diaper as close to them getting out of the water as possible. Once again, pee. Everywhere. Not that I know from experience or anything…

Sunscreen is usually also easiest to apply at the hotel. Otherwise they get covered in sand and rubbing in the lotion is like an exfoliating scrub for their skin. Of course, you’ll want to reapply it at regular intervals, but it helps to get that first coating in before hitting the beach.

And don’t forget to bring a change of clothes for when the kids are done swimming. If it’s warm enough, they might be fine air drying, but once it gets chilly it’s nice to have clothes to change them quickly.

4. Manage expectations

If you’re picturing yourself lounging on the beach, reading a book and sipping lemonade, your trip might not turn out exactly the way you hope. Beach trips with babies and toddlers aren’t necessarily super relaxing… BUT they can be a lot of fun.

Just know that usually sand gets into every nook and cranny (and that’s before the baby shoves a handful into his mouth). And sometimes your kids will be done after 45 minutes when you planned to be at the beach all day. And it’s a huge pain to change kids out of wet swimsuits which cling to them like saran wrap.

(The first time we went swimming with our eldest when he was a baby we had the hardest time getting him out of his wet swimsuit and he screamed bloody murder the entire time. After the glares and stares from the people around us I almost gave up on swimming with kids for good.)

The point is, no matter how prepared you are, sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. It’s part of traveling with kids. Just think of it as a funny anecdote you can tell later. Or something you can hold over their heads when they’re older.

Final Thoughts

Even though we’ve had several less than ideal beach experiences, for us the pros far outweigh the cons.

We love the fun we have and the memories we make on beach vacations. They make for a perfect family trip with young kids.

Make sure to bring your beach essentials for toddlers and babies, and you’re on your way to a successful adventure!

What are your tricks and tips for enjoying the beach with young kids?

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