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Tips For Going to the Beach With Babies and Toddlers

What Going to the Beach Really Looks Like With Little Kids

My family and I just returned from two glorious weeks at the beach. Because we live in the Midwest, our Summer beach vacations take place on Lake Michigan, which, in my humble opinion, is just as beautiful as any ocean, with the added benefit of being unsalted. Wonderful weather meant we spent the majority of each day covered in sand, and while I so appreciate being at a spot that entertains my kids (ages 2 and 5) for multiple hours with minimal whining, getting there was no picnic, despite the fact that my babes require one almost immediately upon arrival. Here are the many steps of getting to the beach with little kids.

  1. After breakfast, start trying to motivate the troops to put on their swimsuits, find their flip flops, and gather their sand toys. Apparently, this morning's episode of PJ Masks is way more important.
  2. While the little ones are glued to the TV, begin gathering beach chairs, umbrellas, toys, water wings, rafts, and towels into a wagon. Fill a cooler with sippy cups, water, back-up juice boxes, and various snacks.
  3. Ask kids to find swimsuits and flip flops yet again. Oh, sh*t, they found their iPads instead. Take the time to put on my most flattering one-piece swimsuit and pack a beach bag with extra swim diapers, regular diapers and wipes, hats, a change of clothes for the little guy, a cover-up for the 5-year-old fashionista, a book I've been trying to read for a month, three types of sunscreen, goggles, various plastic cars for my auto-obsessed toddler, and 12,000 other odds and ends the tiny terrors might request.
  4. Pull the screens out of their sticky fingers and finally get them into their swimsuits. Realize that we're not going to make it to the beach until lunchtime. Go back and add sandwiches, fruit, more snacks, and beer (hey, it's almost noon) to cooler.
  5. Force children to endure a thorough sun-screening session. The 5-year-old complies; the 2-year-old acts as if he's being smothered in hot acid. Chase him around yard until 80 percent of his body is covered in sunscreen or I'm too tired to care, whichever comes first.
  6. Survey amount of gear we've collected for today's beach trip and decide walking the two blocks to the beach with it all is too much. Load everything in the car.
  7. Arrive at the beach! Hand children shovels to entertain themselves while the adults set up the umbrellas, chairs, mats, and towels; find a shady spot for the cooler; and wipe the sweat from their brows caused by carting such a massive amount of stuff across the hot sand.
  8. Kids immediately decide they are starving, thirsty, and sand- and sun-adverse. Serve them the first of many snacks on a towel, under an umbrella, while they try to remember that the beach really is more fun than Disney Junior.
  9. Yay, they remembered! Everyone's having fun at the beach! Mom might even get 10 pages of my book read while the little guy buries his sister in the sand! Pray that everyone stays happy for at least three to four hours before we have to pack up, cart, and unload everything in reverse. Sure, nothing beats a day at the beach, but getting there? Well, that can really beat you up.
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