Do you know what’s glorious? A day at the beach with the children, playing in the waves, sandy toes and sitting back watching them with the sun on your face.
What’s not so glorious? Trying to carry a baby in one arm, a giant impractical beach ball in the other, your towels, 10 possible outfit changes and enough meltdown avoiding snacks in the other...wait...we’re all out of arms.
Every parent, whether they’ve been at it for 5 days or 5 years, knows one of the most soul destroying parent roles is getting all the stuff together and actually leaving the house. Whether down to ANOTHER poonami, a forgotten water bottle or a stand off over putting shoes on, it can be enough to make you just stay home and let Mr Tumble take over.
BUT NO MORE MY SEA AIR CRAVING, TIRED EYED FRIEND.
I can’t promise you a totally stress free day but I can stop you feeling like Buckaroo stumbling across the sand (or just as likely, stones).
Your Bare Essentials Beach Bag for a Brilliant Day Out
T-shirt, Trousers,Jumper: Ink & Tot, Pouch: My Bags of Stuff, Towel: Wolf & Bear Kids, From Babipur: Tot Bots Swim Nappy, Pop-In Swimsuit, Kleen Kanteen Water Bottle, Pop-In Bamboo Wipes, From Kidly: Ki ET LA Sunhat, Igor Jelly Shoes, Sunnylife Bamboo Lunchboxes.
YOU WILL NEED:
First, you’re going to need a large bag. If you’re a supercool badass, this one from Mere Soeur is lovely. If you’re me, a big bag for life works so well and you won’t cry if it gets full of sand. Nearly everything is going to fit in this bag!
Sun damage isn’t cool. Whatever you’re age, skin colour, skin type, you better be slip slop slapping on a suitable SPF with UVB protection. Add sunhats and sunglasses and you’re good to go.
I prefer to dress my kids in the UV protected sunsuit/swimsuits. That way I’m not having palpitations about necks and shoulders getting sunburnt every 20 minutes, plus it’s easy to dress them in them at home (after the final wee of course) so they are ready to play as soon as they arrive, without any awkward wrangling before they’re headed to the water.
If you’re very lucky, you’ll have timed your visit with an actual sunshiney day and any wet swimsuits will dry pretty quick. I do recommend taking an outfit with you though, just in case. There’s plenty of awesome beach and surf theme clothing about this summer for the whole family. I’d pop in a jumper or hoody each too just in case the weather turns or if someone’s had a full body submersion in the water and then regrets it.
You may well be into the barefoot experience once at the beach, but nearly three decades of being a human has taught me its wise to at least wear shoes on the way there. Mind blowing tip after mind blowing tip? You’re welcome.
Our family of four takes two towels. These fit in our bag just fine, and we’ve never needed more than this. We share if necessary and if someone’s wet/chilly for a minute whilst they wait, it’s not the biggest problem in the world.
In my experience, there’s too many stones and shells to collect, holes to dig, waves to splash in, to make much attempt at eating. You’ll always want plenty of water of course and I recommend fruit because it’s also hydrating, good for picking at and requires little prep at home other than popping in the bag, perhaps in a little lunchbox, or even just a spare muslin if it’s something like apples. You will of course want some change for an ice cream, and maaaaybe some chippies if necessary (always). OBVIOUSLY if you've got a really little one, also pack formula bottles if bottle fed or your boobs if they're breastfed.
Rogue move- we sometimes like to take a thermos of hot chocolate depending on the time of day we’re going.
Depending on your kiddo you might need nappies etc, this could be a reusable swim nappy, some disposable swim nappies you've run through the wash, or your usual nappy that you don't mind filling with seawater. But, if you have a handy pouch for the paraphernalia it saves the exasperated “where’s the bloody wipes?” rummage.
That’s it. That’s all we take in the bag. No toys, books, 3 course meal (although I would probably enjoy that). If your kid wants to take a bucket and spade (or a toy car/digger is fun!) let them carry it. We’ve generally found that seashell collecting, digging with fingers, wave jumping and stone sorting have all been plenty lovely enough on their own without you having to bring half the toy box. Also, if you thought you could bring a book to read, HA HA HA HA, you are a one.
Along with The Bag, we also like to take a beach tent because we’re millenials or something. Once you’ve done it once, they’re pretty simple to put up, or there’s even pop up options available, and they’re great for really tiny ones that you want to protect from the full blazing burning ball of fire in the sky.
PRO TIP: If you fancy being a real Smug Susan/Steve keep a bag with a couple of towels, a changing pouch and a spare outfit at the ready to whizz out the door on a spontaneous and daring "SHALL WE GO OUT YEAH??" moment.
Making the Beach Inclusive
The above suggestions are of course written from the point of view of someone from a family of able bodied people. Families including disabled children will obviously have a much different and totally unique experience when it comes to planning and packing for a beach day!
T-shirts: CAPR Style, Shorts and Capes: Willowbug, Sunhat: Little Hotdog Watson, Drinking Cup: Essential Aids
Beach access and toilet access are just part of the considerations.
I’ve found this blog post from Disability Horizons which includes a list of UK beaches with beach access and also have beach wheelchairs available for use.
You can search on the Changing Places toilet map for the nearest toilets with hoists and proper changing stations. The amazing Laura from Mum on a Mission has advised me that Worthing and Brighton beaches have proper toilet facilities, and after enjoying a recent trip to Bournemouth, I’m really pleased to see this information on wheelchair friendly beach huts, changing places toilets and other ways the seaside has been made accessible on this page from Bournemouth Council.
So there you have it! Hopefully this post has helped you see how a day at the beach with a young family doesn't have to be a fear inducing situation! Most importantly, I hope it has encouraged you to get out there and have some fun!
And if you still want a hand with something to do whilst you are there, I've created a free printable beach treasure hunt list (as seen on the tees!) for you to download and take along. Get it here!