13 Baby Beach Essentials For Families With A Toddler Too [+ Beach Tips]

Living in Florida we go to the beach A LOT. Both our kids started going to the beach before 2 weeks old and we currently go every single day first thing in the morning and we try to go every afternoon too if the summer storms don’t rain us out. Over the years, we've discovered the best baby beach essentials that work with a toddler too! I'm sharing all of our beach must haves for babies and toddlers plus tips and products frequently recommended, but are worth skipping.

#1 Beach Tip With A Baby + Toddler

My #1 Tip for going to the beach with kids is to not stress and just embrace the sand.

So often I talk to friends who “wish their kids were beach kids” but the thing is, if you are constantly stressing about the sand, chances are your kids will too at some point. The best thing you can do is realize that you are there to provide a sensory experience for your kids, not wrap them in a bubble.

Of course we don’t want to lug a beach home with us, but the reality is you’ll never get every single granule of sand and you don’t need a gazillion products to limit your sand exposure.

I’ve found over the years that using things like extra bags to separate sandy or wet stuff from ultimately just leads to more places with sand in it. Instead I suggest getting mesh bags for all your stuff. 

Mesh Bags

Mesh bags are my top beach essential because they let you shake all the sand out with ease.

We use one fully mesh tote for beach toys that my toddler can carry, and then a mesh tote that has a zippered cooler bottom to limit the need for an insulated cooler bag for foods/drink.

Inside our beach tote you'll find towels, a portable potty, baby wipes, and keys. 

That’s right, I did not mention sunscreen. 

Safe sun exposure tips

In terms of sun protection, I have a whole highlight on Instagram with my thoughts on the sun and sunscreens. I’m a big proponent of practicing safe sun exposure. Which basically means leaving the beach by 10 am every morning and coming back after 4 pm in the afternoon so we can avoid those peak hours.

If we are out during the peak hours then we use long sleeve rash guards, hats, and umbrellas.

In rare instances I want sunscreen (I love this brand), I'll use this mineral based sunscreen on exposed areas only.

We typically go to the beach in the veryyy early morning sunrise hours so I don’t worry about the sun and just let the kids go in as little clothes as possible. We really try to only do “peak sun” time around the house and in short bursts like 20-30 min increments.

NOTE: This is super important that I never hear anyone talk about. Most people recommend putting sunscreen on your kids before going to the beach. However I strongly suggest picking HOW you want to protect kids skin first. 

So either go with long sleeve clothes and no sunscreen underneath, or a mineral based sunscreen on exposed skin is my suggestion if going during peak hours and make sure you have a really good home base with shade.

Swimwear

On the note of swimwear, I do suggest getting two piece swimwear for easy toileting experience, or a swimsuit with snaps at the bottom.

I also like rash guards with zippers or waiting until it’s dry so you don’t need to pull a wet long sleeve sticky shirt off babies head.

On the note of what to wear, moms, make sure you feel comfortable in your swimsuit! You’ll be bending over, sitting in the sand, and if breastfeeding taking your boob out nonstop.

Nursing

I personally don’t use covers at the beach. Instead, I opt for shirts or swimwear that I can pull in certain directions to offer a little privacy if needed. Otherwise I do the koala hold a lot so baby covers my chest pretty well, especially if baby is wearing one of those floppy sun hats.

Portable Potty

For potty trained toddlers, I suggest bringing a portable potty. Not all beaches have bathrooms, and if they do they may be pretty far away. This travel toilet is super easy to set up, and folds nicely into a beach tote.

Diaper tips

For babies still in diapers, I suggest reusable swim diapers with the snaps that grow with the child.

Put this on before you leave the house and then put their regular diaper on over it. When you get to the beach you just take the regular diaper off for an easy transition.

I personally suggest avoiding the use of regular diapers at the beach. They just get water logged and often create a diaper rash from the heat and humidity. 

They create WAY too hot and humid of an environment and basically guarantee a diaper rash. Baby needs something breathable.

Beach toys

Ok going back to beach toy bag, one of my favorite toys to pack, especially if a kid doesn’t want to go to the beach, is a little paint strip and some paint brushes and let them collect seashells to paint. Definitely bring extra because your kid will 100% make new friends with this activity. It's an unexpected beach activity and perfect for kids who may not want to be there.

I also suggest letting your toddler pick some toys, and if you have a baby too, have doubles of a few things so sharing isn’t too crazy.

I like packing a separate tote of just toys that my toddler carries herself.

Sometimes she will opt to just hold her pail with “her toys” but either way she learns full hands in, full hands out. If she doesn’t want to carry her toys then she needs to collect trash in her pail on the way out. Which is another huge tip I never see people talk about:

Leave the beach cleaner than you found it.

Baby powder: bust?

Okay back to sand… A lot of people suggest baby powder to get the sand off before going in the car, and while this does work, it requires a good amount of baby powder to tackle wet sand and then you have baby powder all over you.

Personally, I found my kids got more fussy trying to do this move and it was a total skip. We still had sand in our butts and it just felt like a waste of time and money.

Baby pools

On that same note of embracing the sand a lot of people recommend foldable baby pools for the beach or even using a dollar store shower liner to create a baby pool in the sand.

Personally, I’m not a fan of these unless beach conditions are super rough and you’re trying to prevent kids from making a beeline for the ocean. 

TIP: Check surfline.com for up to 2 week beach condition projections, or the local government beach website for beach cam footage the day of.

Again, you’re at the beach to provide a sensory experience. Instead, I suggest just using a shovel to dig a moat and hole near the shoreline for the kids to splash around in.

You can also check the tide for the day and go during low tide.

There are so many important minerals in the sand and water for the kids to absorb, so let them do just that without the kiddie pool. 

Now if you’re on vacation and have traveled far to get to the beach, or are at a super crowded beach where it may be harder to build a little sand kiddie pool near the shoreline…. I’d probably get the foldable/collapsible dog pools just in case as a backup so my beach trip wasn't totally ruined. But again I’m a big fan of simplicity for beach trips.

Baby bouncer

For infants who may need to nap at the beach I LOVE The baby bjorn bouncer which folds flat making it easy to carry down.

This allowed my husband to bounce baby for a nap while I swam with our toddler instead of baby always needing to nap on me. 

Baby overheating

On that note, I know a lot of people get nervous about babies overheating at the beach. You can totally bring a fan but I’ve never found this necessary. Coastlines have a natural breeze most days so as long as you are staying in the shade on a breezy day baby should be okay. 

With that said, I know that giant half moon pop up tents are pretty popular for families with young kids but I think they are terrible. 

Tents

We had one of those half moon pop up tents for a week and returned it.

First you need to consider what direction the sun will be in when you go. So if we went in the morning, which is sunrise for our beach, the sun was shining directly on us and it did nothing in the way of shade. 

Secondly, the sides limit the actual breeze/ventilation, even with the mesh opening. 

Third the base lining made the entire thing feel like an oven. I honestly felt like we were potatoes baking in an oven. If you do choose to go with one of those, then I think you’d 100% need a fan but I honestly think they are worth skipping.

Instead if going during peak hours, we use an umbrella, or we'd get a large cabana type tent with 4 posts, and bring garbage bags to fill with sand to act as weights – again coastlines are windy and it’s a very real possibility your tend will fly away.

Beach wagons or baby carriers?

As far as getting to and from the beach, I know a lot of people suggest beach wagons, the thing with these is you have to be very careful with how much you load them otherwise they just sink into the sand.

Plus beach wagons just become one more spot to collect sand. Additionally, you need to remember to keep the wagon covered once down at the beach, otherwise it may be too hot for the kids to get in for the trip back to the car.

Unless you have back problems I find that baby carriers make a much easier solution.

You can fold them up pretty small, they don't collect sand or overheat, and you can use them beyond the beach. I have a full review on the best baby carriers for infants and toddlers – so you can even find ones that will last until kids are about 4 years old if you have a toddler protesting walking.

Baby carriers are super helpful for getting baby down to the beach hands free. Some carriers also work for toddlers too which can be great if the sand is super hot. 

Hot sand tip

On the note of hot sand, maker sure to leave your shoes face down or under a towel so they don’t get cooked in the sun and become unwearable. 

Foldable sand proof blanket

We have the Lovevery park blanket which folds up and velcro’s shut with an over the shoulder strap. But you can find loads of affordable options, some even have pockets that are also sand proof and water resistant. 

Sand proof towels

These and the previous blanket suggestion are great because they won’t get waterlogged or weighed down by trapped sand. This keeps things compact and lightweight for going up and down.

I got this pack of four towels for super cheap; but they are a little scratchy. We also have this brand which costs more, but is super soft.

Beach chairs 

I love these beach chairs you can strap to your back. These have a couple of pockets, ours even has a cooler pocket if you need to keep things cold or it becomes a great water resistant pocket too for wet clothes later on. 

If baby wearing, I strap baby on first, then the chair and then pick up any bags. 

Floats

I know floaties are controversial, but my kids love the ocean and charging big waves so we do a floatie for my toddler and this activity raft for baby.

We just loop the floatie through a hole in the raft, and use the floatie clip to hook onto a tote bag strap making it an easy, hands free add on.

Food + drink tips:

We typically do frequent short trips for just an hour or two to the beach so we eat breakfast on the way there and will either eat dinner at the beach or in the car on the way home. When my daughter was a baby, I often would sit in the back and feed her dinner so we could put her right to bed when we got home. 

I suggest these water bottles for kids because the straw folds down making sand less likely to get in there. I also suggest mixing your kids water with some aloe juice or coconut water and a pinch of salt and cream of tartar so it acts more like an electrolyte drink to keep them hydrated versus empty or “thirsty” water.

For foods, we do a lot of fresh fruit and reach for red/orange/yellow foods typically. Basically some studies suggest lycopene found in red, yellow, and orange foods may have photoprotective benefits, meaning it offers skin protection against UV light. So we pack watermelon, carrots, strawberries, raspberries, golden kiwis, mangoes and oranges a lot. When we get home I’ll often eat a tomato and cucumber salad with goat cheese for lunch on those days. We also do grapes, meat sticks and cheese sticks a lot.

I suggest bringing a little snack cup for each kid. This way you can portion out from the family stuff into their cups and sandy hands only get in their cup, not the family bag. I also keep a pail of water nearby during snack time to quickly rinse hands before eating.

We'll also pack bento boxes for the kids, so only sandy hands get in their own food boxes.

Leaving the beach

As far as leaving the beach with as little sand as possible, we get all of our stuff packed and ready, then do a final dunk in the ocean with the kid we plan to hold while walking back to the car. This makes rinsing off and sand exposure super minimal as no one is sitting back down in the sand, and we are keeping them off as much as possible in that final leg.

We typically keep our dry clothes in the car as well as a spare towel or two in the car to ensure they don’t get wet and sandy. 

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