We live just a few minutes from a beautiful inland lake and about an hour from Lake Michigan. So we spend a lot of time at the beach in the summer. I will tell you taking my kids to the beach used to be a chore, but after all these years, I finally have it down to a science. Here are some of my best tips for making it fun and safe for everyone and surviving a day at the beach with kids.
1. Prepare. Pack and check to see that you have everything you need the night before. There’s nothing worse than being ready to head out the door and discovering that you don’t have enough clean beach towels.
2. Get to the beach early. One, so you can stake out a good spot close to the water’s edge. Two, kids aren’t tired in the morning and less prone to whining and bickering.
3. Know what to expect. If you’ve never taken kids to the beach before, you need to change your expectations. The beach is no longer a place where you get to lay down and read a book. Be prepared to remain alert, active and in the water. It’s an opportunity for you to focus on your kids and play with them. Hey, at least you’re still working on your tan.
4. Put everybody’s swimwear on before you leave home. It’s so much easier than trying to do it in the hot changing rooms or bathrooms at the beach.
5. Use spray-on sunscreen. It’s simpler to apply on squirmy kids than the creamy stuff. Bonus tip: Make sure you’re spraying it on in the same direction the wind is blowing or the wind will blow it away, and you and your kids will still end up sunburned.
6. Get an opaque, re-usable water bottle with a wide mouth. Put cash, keys and credit cards in the water bottle. Use that instead of a wallet or purse. If a thief sees it sticking out of your beach bag while you’re busy in the water with the kids, they’ll never suspect what’s in it.
7. Some kind of wagon or rolling tote to carry everything from the car to the beach is a must. Never attempt to use a stroller for this. Those wheels just aren’t made to go through sand. It really needs to be a wagon with wheels made for sand.
8. Get Stearns Puddle Jumper Life Jackets (Coast Guard approved) for non-swimmers. Kids have more freedom to move around than in a regular life jacket, but will still stay above the water. They also are great aids for learning to swim.
9. Never turn your back to the waves. A larger than expected wave can come at anytime and push you or your kids under.
10. Stay out of the water on days there are rip current warnings. Rip currents can quickly sweep you away from the shore even in a shallow area, and trying to swim against them can exhaust you before you reach land. If you are caught in one, try to swim out of it at an angle to the left or right rather than trying to swim straight to shore. In Michigan, the National Weather Service issues beach hazard statements, and you can check their website before you head out. Many beaches here also use a flag system. A green flag means go ahead and swim. A red flags says stay out of the water, it’s dangerous!
11. Take lots of sand toys and encourage water breaks to play in the sand. This is the only way you’ll get to spend any time resting on your beach blanket.
12. Take plenty of bottled water and remember to take sips often. You can easily get dehydrated playing in the sun and water, but might not notice if you’re staying cool because you’re wet.
13. Change clothes back at home. If home isn’t far, let everyone drip-dry on the beach for a few minutes, then head home to change out of your swimwear. Give everyone a towel to sit on in the car. Again, it’s just easier than changing at the beach.