Harry Up and Go’s Beach Survival Guide

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The Harrys just LOVE the beach! The sun, sand, waves, and especially the infinite amount of fun and memories just waiting to be made make us coming back for more and more several times a year.

The beach with kids, well its not so relaxing, that’s for sure. I can remember sitting on the beach pre-kids…take a nap, maybe get in the water if I got too hot, read my book, maybe have a conversation. Now, with 5 kids in tow, I don’t even bring a chair for myself. No need, because I certainly won’t sit down long enough to need a chair! We have learned many things over the years about how to survive beach trips with kids. I hope you find some of these tips useful in your own family adventures!

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One of our favorite trips to Myrtle Beach, Bubba was still in my very big belly!

1. Sun Protection

Sun protection is essential to beach survival. It’s so important with little ones to keep their skin from burning. I recommend putting sunscreen on BEFORE YOU GET TO THE BEACH! So much better than getting to the beach and trying to wrangle the kids who just want to get in the water immediately upon touching the sand. Plus its so gross if the kids get sand on them before the coating of sunscreen goes on – then you are rubbing exfoliating sunscreen on…yuck. Plus sunscreen is more effective if it has been applied at least 20 minutes before you are in the sun. Trust me, putting sunscreen on is probably my least favorite parenting task, but rubbing it on while at home before your toes hit the sand is invaluable to your beach set up time. You’ll be more careful to not miss any spots, and plus, its easier to wrangle those kids who try to refuse!

We like to use the Babyganics brand of sunscreen because it was rated highly for safety and efficacy on EWG’s website. It goes on smoothly and has a nice smell to it. It has worked well for us. You can search your favorite sunscreen brand on EWG’s website to help you make a good sunscreen choice for your family.

 

Don’t forget to re-apply sunscreen as needed throughout the day. There is nothing worse than a sunburned child or baby! If you can keep hats on your kids those are good too. And if you have a tip for me on how to keep hats on my kids, please share it with me. I cannot – they refuse to wear hats so I gave up on that one!

If you don’t want to cover their entire bodies with sunscreen, choose swimsuits that cover most of their skin. They make swimsuits for all ages with long sleeves, so I have the kids wear suits that have good skin coverage. Swim shirts also prevent the sand from tearing up the skin on boogie boards! I talked about my favorite baby swimsuit in my Jellystone Review, but in case you didn’t see it – I just LOVE this Coolibar One Piece Protective Swimsuit for babies! Bubba looks adorable in it and it gives maximum sun protection so he can have fun at the beach without me worrying about sunscreen for most of his skin.

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Lastly, get yourself a good shade, umbrella or tent. It is a must for napping, keeping the cooler shaded, and giving everyone an opportunity to get out of the sun for a bit. Here is a peek at Bubba snoozing in our set up.

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I got this one on sale for around $15. I’d probably go with a Pop up one like this next time, but you live and you learn. I see lots of people schlep those giant ez-ups to the beach, but compact and easy to carry is much better for our family for sure.

2. Have a conversation on the way there.

We don’t go anywhere without having a preparation conversation. I tell the kids what we are doing and what I expect of them while there. We go over safety musts, like what to do if they find themselves lost and how to be safe in or around the water. I tell them to look after each other and to stay safe. We also discuss how long we are going to be there so that nobody starts up with, “I want to go home, blah blah blah”. I have found that these conversations greatly reduce accidents and whining.

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3. Put your cell phone in a plastic baggie.

I love this trick! You can still use it through the bag! Take pictures, talk on the phone, Facebook, (no don’t do that, play with your kids), whatever and you don’t have to take it out of the bag. No sand grains stuck in the cracks forever Hooray!

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4. Timing

The best time to get to the beach with kids is early in the morning and in the late afternoon. Its not so hot, the angle of the sun isn’t so bad for sunburn potential, it’s less crowded. The list goes on and on. Our favorite time to hit the beach is about 2:00 to 7:00. Then you can get kids showered when you get home and put their tired hineys to bed!

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5. Pack a cooler.

This is ESSENTIAL to a good beach trip! Inevitably, regardless of when the children last ate, they will ask for food, usually before you have even staked your spot in the sand. You want to make sure that you have enough healthy snacks to make it through your stint that day. We like to pack sandwiches, fresh fruit (frozen grapes are great!), crackers, and whatever we know the kids will like. There is nothing better than a cut up watermelon on a hot day at the beach! Just make sure you have a bucket of water close by to wash sandy hands off before they touch their food! Don’t forget plenty of water or juice boxes!

6. Bring a baby pool.

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Seriously, if you have kids under 6, bring a baby pool. Little ones can play in the safe, non wavy water and stay cool. I usually like to put in the shade under an umbrella. The big kids usually end up playing in it too. Also, it can be used to rinse sand from hands and other body parts. This is a life saver for us. We usually pick up a cheap one at Five Below.

7. Make sure you have a good baby carrier

A good baby carrier is imperative to a happy beach day. I used to make a Mei Tai style baby carrier and fashioned one out of SPF fabric called Solarweave. I LOVE it! It dries quickly and is great for those long sleepy beach walks. I love to walk up and down the shoreline until my little one falls asleep. Papa Harry will make me a spot to sit with a sleeping Bubba in the shade for when I come back from my walk. I’d try to find a carrier that can get wet for the beach. If you can’t find a good beachy carrier that’s ok too. Just pick one that works well for you.

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8. The Poop Tent.

Ok so here’s one that might be a little unconventional, and maybe even unpopular with some…but at the risk of getting some criticism, I’d like to tell you about the poop tent. When you have 5+ children at the beach, its inevitable that someone will have to go to the bathroom several times during your stint. The beach we usually go to does not have public bathrooms close. Its at least a 10 minute walk. If I took each child to go #2 on that walk, I’d spend our entire trip walking kids back and forth to the potty. So we came up with our own solution and over 12 years, it has served us well. I put a grocery store baggie in a bucket and send the one who has to go into the poop tent to do his or her business. My kids are not squeamish about this and they know just what to do. Just close the tent flap and sit on that bucket and take care of it. When finished, they get a baby wipe and throw it right into the baggie with the poo. Then I tie up the baggie and tote it to the trash can. Hand sanitize, air out the tent, and its ready for the next pooper. BOOM!

Here is a pic of our set up. You are welcome.

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baggie lined bucket ready for the poop tent

9. Minimize toys.

Kids do not need a ton of toys at the beach. This also makes it easier than toting a bazillion things. There are so many opportunities for creative fun. Kids, when left to their own devices devise amazing games, meet new friends, and find fun things to keep their time occupied. If your kids are not used to being a little bit bored, then give it a try. My kids know my famous words, ‘go find something to do or I will find a chore for you’. While I love playing with my kids, I don’t feel like its my job to find things for them to do or to facilitate their play. So I don’t. Sit back and watch after a few minutes of boredom what amazing ideas they come up with. Sometimes if I’m feeling like it, I will spout off a list of ideas for them. Here are some to get you started:

  • dig a hole
  • bury each other
  • build a sand castle/fortress/giant turtle, whatever
  • dig for sand crabs (don’t forget to have a release party!)
  • take a nap
  • read a book
  • have a race
  • play ‘don’t touch the waves’
  • take a beach walk
  • collect seashells (save to paint or make jewelry with later at home
  • have fun with a metal dectector
  • have wheel barrow races
  • play catch/Frisbee/football etc.
  • practice your cartwheels and handstands
  • write messages in the sand and let the waves wash them away
  • make mudpies or any other creation/foods your kids can imagine
  • make a friend
  • chase the seagulls
  • have crab walk races, or wheelbarrow races

The possibilities are endless at the beach, that’s why its one of my favorite places to take my family!

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10. The metal detector.

Ok, so I know I said that you do not need to bring a lot of ‘stuff’ to the beach to have fun, but we had one (Ahem, Mr. Baseball), who decided he did not like to get in the water for about 2 years. So one year, he received a metal detector for Christmas. We brought it to the beach so he could search for treasures instead of bugging us to go home. Well it certainly did the trick. We would turn it on and send him off on his way with his little scooper and really, not see him for a few hours (of course we kept our eyeballs on where he was). Occasionally he would come back exclaiming over his treasures he found. Some included jewelry, coins, metal pieces from umbrellas and chairs, bottle caps, and other junk. If you are looking for something different and fun to do at the beach, this is the model we purchased. It was inexpensive and has lasted us a few years so far. All the kids (and even myself!) have a great time searching for treasures! Here is is:

11. The baby powder trick.

I must have been living under a rock because I just learned about this trick recently. So whats the worst thing about the beach? Tracking sand everywhere…in your car, in the cracks of the kids butts, all over the clothes and towels… Don’t let this deter you from going to the beach though! Just pack a bottle of baby powder in your bag and when you get back to your car, strip the kids down and rub some baby powder over the sticky, wet sand and poof, voila, abracadabra, ITS GONE! Seriously, this is a game changer!

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12. Don’t forget to have fun.

I am surely guilty of getting stressed out at the beach, but really, try not to forget to have fun. Your children want so badly to just be with you. Some of my favorite memories as a child were of my parents getting in the water with me and me seeing them genuinely having fun with me. Build a sand castle, let them bury you, have a contest for who can find the biggest (or smallest) sand crab, collect seashells together. Don’t worry about if they get sand in their hair, or about making it home in time for their nap, getting that perfect picture, or even missing dinner (just grab a bite to eat on the way home if necessary). You are making memories every time you do something together as a family. That day just might be the day that is etched in your child’s head as the ‘Best Day Ever”.

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Did you find anything in my post helpful? What are your favorite tips for surviving the beach with kids? Happy beach-going!

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