Before bubs came along, planning a trip to the beach probably involved grabbing your swimsuit, filling a cooler with beer and heading off for an all-day beach party. Going to see the sea with a little one in tow can be a whole different ball game. You might not get to kick back on a lounger for hours with a trashy novel anymore, but with a little bit of preparation you’ll find a trip to the beach with baby can be just as much fun.
Is it safe to take baby to the beach?
Taking little ones out into nature is a great way to stimulate all their senses and the beach is awash with great sensory experiences. The shushing sound of the waves. The feel of the sand between their toes. The smell and taste of the salty breeze. And the beautiful sight of the wide blue ocean. Of course, there are things to watch out for at the beach, but that shouldn’t stop you taking them along.
When you arrive at the beach, keep an eye out for any signs that tell you about tide times or potential hazards. If there aren’t any signs, ask someone else on the beach if there’s anything to be aware of. Pick a safe spot to set up camp so you don’t need to keep moving as the tide comes in.
If the beach has small pebbles and shells, keep an eye on your little one to make sure she’s not putting them in her mouth. If the beach is sandy, she’ll probably end up giving it a taste, but try to stop her swallowing handfuls of the stuff as it’s not nice to have really sandy poop!
If you’re lucky enough to get a sunny day for your trip, the advice for babies under six months is to keep them out of direct sun completely. For toddlers and older kids, you’ll still want to avoid the strongest rays in the middle of the day.
What essentials do I need for a beach trip with baby?
What to pack depends on how long you’re planning on staying at the beach. A whole day by the sea with a tiny baby might be quite demanding with naps, feeds and diaper changes so you could stick to a few hours. But if you’ve got a headstrong toddler, once you’ve arrived they might decide they never want to leave. Here’s a list of suggestions to get you started:
- Baby-friendly sunscreen – patch test this before you go as baby skin can be extra sensitive
- Beach tent or umbrella for shade
- Long-sleeve, light cotton clothing or all-in-one UV swimsuit
- Wide-brimmed sun hat
- Picnic blankets
- Layers of clothing for warming up after paddling or in case it gets windy
- Cooler filled with plenty of water, snacks and picnic food for everyone
- Beach toys – bucket and spade, balls, windmills
- Baby powder – a great beach hack. If soggy sand gets stuck between tiny fingers and toes, sprinkle on some baby powder to make it easier to wipe off.
Where can baby sleep at the beach?
Baby naps are notoriously tricky even when you’re in familiar surroundings, so trying to plan sleepytimes when there are so many new sights and sounds around can be hard. If she’ll drop off in your arms or a sling or carrier, that could be a good way to go. Just make sure she’s not too bundled up or hot. Strollers are usually pretty hard going on the beach, but if there’s a promenade or boardwalk you can send Dad off to wheel bubs around while you get on with reading that trashy novel (or grab a nap yourself).
However you decide to help your baby nap at the beach, just remember to stick to the same rules about safe sleeping that you would when you’re at home.
When can baby swim at the beach?
On a gorgeous sunny day, the ocean can look idyllic. But even on the most beautiful days, the sea can be unpredictable. Even if your baby is used to going swimming with you at the local pool, don’t assume they’ll be ok in the sea.
Paddling about in the shallows is a good place to start. Keep hold of your baby at all times and don’t go in too far as the beach could shelve away steeply or a large wave could come unexpectedly. Sea water is usually much colder than the pool, so don’t stay splashing about for too long and have a big towel and warm clothes ready to wrap them up when you come out. If you’re in any doubt, stay out of the water and enjoy looking at the waves instead.
What to do with baby at the beach?
From a kid’s point of view, the beach is like a giant play park which means you won’t have to do too much planning to keep them entertained. Even if they’re not old enough to toddle around, they’ll love grabbing handfuls of sand, helping to dig holes and build sandcastles. If there are rock pools or shells along the shoreline you could collect some seaside treasures and show your baby. Talk to them about what they can see, hear and feel. Watch the birds flying and diving to feed. Look at all the colourful parasols, towels and toys. Bury their toes with a little sand and watch their delight as they wriggle them free.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to snap a few photos to capture the memories. Hopefully, your trip will be such a success that family visits to the beach will become a breeze. And even if everyone ends up covered in sand, eating gritty sandwiches in the rain with a seagull stealing your chips – just think of what a funny story you’ll have to tell baby about their first trip to the beach.