Last Updated on September 7, 2021 by Travels with Kids
We are incredibly blessed to live on the amazing west coast of Western Australia. The beach is just a short 20-minute drive away. We spend every second or third day at the beach once the weather warms up. In January, we may spend every day there for weeks on end, especially when the older children have government-subsidized ocean awareness classes! This is how we learned all about beach gear for babies and toddler beach essentials.
However – let me tell you when I had my first baby I had no idea what a beach trip with a baby was all about. Never mind any clue regarding beach essentials for toddlers. The babe wasn’t that happy with the cold ocean, got sunburnt, and had sand in all the places where it shouldn’t have been (causing nasty rashes). In short, it was enough to make us think about giving up on beach excursions altogether. And, did I mention, the sand scattered throughout the car… that’s still my least favorite thing about going to the beach, even after all these years. Even the best list of 1-year-old beach essentials isn’t going to prevent that – but some products can help.
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Toddler Beach Essentials and Beach Gear For Babies
Every parent knows that once your toddler starts running around, life becomes much more active. That is certainly true at the beach! Of course, the hazards at the beach are so much greater than if you were at home, so it feels like you need eyes in the back of your head. If you have an active and confident toddler at this stage, there is like zero chance they are going to stay in the sun shelter. Parents must be on guard, patrolling out and about. They also need to have various beach essentials for kids at their disposal!
If you are lucky enough to live by the beach, as we do, then much of this post is ideal for those who can drive to the beach or take a road trip there. The assumption is thus that you will have space in the car for bulky beach cabanas, a pile of sandy toys, hooded towels, and the long list of paraphernalia that makes for a successful trip to the beach with toddlers. It is easier to pack all the things to take to the beach with a toddler when you have the car.
However, if you are planning a beach vacation with your toddler and will be flying – or you aren’t able to transport a lot of stuff – we also have some extra suggestions for you regarding travel essentials for toddlers. Here is the complete guide to what to take to the beach for a baby. This can hopefully serve as a basis for your packing list for a toddler beach vacation, and is based on years of parenting several kids!
Carrying Your Essentials To The Beach
Carrying your stuff to the beach is a big deal – you may be taking umbrellas, toys, kids, towels, and much more. The list is long. In general, the smaller your kids, the more you carry. It’s all very well taking all the baby swimming essentials and must-have beach items for toddlers, but how are you planning to get them there?
To begin, here are four suggestions regarding HOW to transport your beach essentials for toddlers and babies:
- A big bag for the towels. Towels are bulky items, and end up wet and covered in sand. Although you might like to give them a good shake before bringing them home, having a spacious bag that you don’t mind getting damp is a must. We really like this Shylero Bag – it has lots of space and is waterproof. It also comes in six different bright or blue-striped color options. A spacious beach bag is ideal for transporting all that beach gear for toddlers.
- A mesh bag for the toys. This is an absolute must when we’re heading to the ocean. Any parent who’s taken their kids to the beach for the day will know only too well that lots of sand tend to travel home with you. Using a mesh tote bag means that the sand can fall through the holes as you walk back to the car, and you can give it another good shake before putting it in the trunk. We love this F-Color Mesh Beach Bag. It’s designed for carrying toys and all your other beach paraphernalia. You even squeeze a beach towel, toddler beach wear, and a picnic blanket inside.
- Waterproof bags. Once you’ve had enough of swimming, you need somewhere to put all the wet swimwear. We love These Wet And Dry Bags. They have wet and dry compartments – and are ideal for soiled nappies as well as swimsuits. There are three in a pack and you can choose between 16 color combinations. In terms of what to bring to the beach with a toddler, these come high on the list.
- Flexi tub. My sister-in-law swears by taking a big flexi tub to the beach. It doubles as a big bag for carrying everything as well as a wet bag. This low-cost item has so many uses around the home and garden too – you can fill it with laundry, toys, or even weeds. We like This One From Amazon.
- A foldable trailer. We do have one of these, although I don’t take it to the beach that often as our favorite local beaches all have stairs. Plus we don’t have to walk too far. Friends in different areas, though, swear by their collapsible beach wagons and say that they have made beach life so much easier! It will all depend on how you access the beach. Some parents switch to a beach wagon from a stroller as their kids grow older. It carries not only the kids but all the beach gear too – such as snacks and drinks, sunblock, beach toys, and towels. This Creative Outdoor One can be pushed or pulled while it carries all the beach essentials for a family day out.
Gear To Use At The Beach
- A Swimsuit. Surely top of the list among swimming essentials for toddlers. Babies look so cute in their swimsuits – until you see that gorgeous, chubby body and think of their sensitive skin getting burnt. For this reason, it’s a good idea to consider buying a one-piece swimsuit with long legs and arms. You could always save the cute frilly swimsuit for indoor pool outings only. Another of those beach necessities for baby or a toddler is a rash guard of some sort. Fortunately, you can buy an all-in-one swimsuit with arms and legs that also acts as a rashie – or rash vest. This weVSwe Swimsuit has a zipper for easy changing of their reusable swim nappy or diaper. It also covers much of their arms and legs, offering factor 50 plus sun protection for those areas. 4-way stretch means it’s comfortable and it comes in 3 different designs. It makes the best swim gear for toddlers.
- Swim diaper or reusable swim nappy. For me, a reusable swim diaper is the only way to go. Using disposables can get very soggy and messy. We’d also prefer to protect the environment as much as possible by using a reusable nappy. In recent years, I’ve used my daughter’s swim diaper plus a long-sleeved rashie, without wearing a swimsuit at all. We love the Beau & Belle Littles Reusable Swimming Diaper. This nappy is adjustable from 3 months to 3 years, comes in a couple of unisex color options, and is kind to the environment. A good swim diaper is certainly one of those must-have beach necessities for babies.
- Sunscreen. Roll-on toddler sunburn cream can be easier to apply in some cases. As parents know, toddlers really can be opinionated little creatures. At least one of mine would never let me apply sunscreen, so using a sunhat with ties was vital. Saving the planet starts at home, and I am trying to educate my children – from an early age – about making informed choices that don’t harm the planet and the wonderful flora and fauna that inhabit it. So when choosing sunscreen, why not make sure it’s a marine-friendly version? Would you want to put something on your child that was toxic to sea life? We love the Banana Boat Sunscreen range, which has different versions. Or, if you want a roll-on, then try this Project Suncreen Mineral Formula. Sunblock should surely be first on any beach with a toddler’s checklist of items.
- Hats with ties. A toddler beach hat is a must for toddlers – or to take as beach baby essentials. There are several factors to look for when buying one. Make sure it has a sun protection factor 50 plus rating. The hat should also be lightweight comfortable enough to wear all day long. A removable, adjustable, tie-on strap is perfect for windy weather – and also means they can’t remove it as easily. Which they will try to do every 5 minutes or so! Sometimes I see velcro fastening hats being recommended, but I don’t think they work as toddlers tend to pull these off in no time. A sunhat with a wide brim will also offer a higher level of protection. If your kids are particularly prone to burn, some sunhats also have an added flap to the back – these are popular in Australia. My nieces and nephews already have this type of toddler boy beach hats and we are going to upgrade to them the next time we buy new sunhats. We love this one by Lullaby Baby, as it ticks all those boxes and comes in various sizes and colors. Whether you want a toddler boy beach hat or one for a girl, this product is ideal.
- Rash guard. A rash guard – or rashie as it’s known in Australia – is a MUST for kids. It definitely belongs on any list of toddler and baby beach essentials. Investing in a rash guard with arms is a simple way to protect young skin from the sun’s rays. For boys, we love the Hurley Range Of Swim Sets, which comes in short or long-sleeved versions, as well as lots of sizes and colors. Little girls – and parents – will adore the cute Simple Joys by Carter’s Two-Piece Rash Guard Sets, available in various designs and size options.
- Toddler beach towel. We love hooded toddler beach towels. They look so cute, come in all sorts of designs that appeal to kids and make sure they stay warm while walking back up from the ocean. They don’t fall off into the sand. You can also use them as toddler beach cover-ups, even when the child is completely nude underneath. The hood helps prevent it from slipping off – and keeps little heads warm at the same time. We love the Billie Shark Hooded Toddler Beach Towel – it even has a front zipper so they can’t pull it off easily. It comes in 3 sizes and 4 colors. This is an ideal toddler beach poncho.
- Sand Free towels for toddlers. An alternative to the toddler hooded beach towel is a Sand-Free Beach Towel. As you may have noticed, I am not sand’s biggest fan – so I am totally in love with our sand-free towels made by Australian company Tesalate. We own a huge Tesalate Towel which doubles up as a beach blanket. When you are by the sea with kids, it’s ideal to have a sand-free seating area, so one of these Tesalate sand-free towels is the answer. They are lightweight and come with a lifetime guarantee. A unique fabric called AbsorbLite is used to make them, and this makes sand simple slide away. They come in their own pouch, are available in some cool designs, and are machine washable. You can read our full review of this highly recommended product in our post A Tesalate Towels Review: A Sand Free Beach Towel.
- Flotation vest or life vest. At the outset, I must admit that I hesitated over including this item on the list, so I should explain why. Sadly, a floatation vest won’t save your child if they fall face-first into the water. It can also make it more difficult for them to get back up and find their feet. Here is more on why this may or not be ideal for a toddler at the beach.
I have witnessed parents with a rather ‘free range’ parenting style allowing toddlers to run a long way from them while wearing these jackets. They may be watching from 50 meters away, but believe that their toddler can just fall over and pick themselves up again independently.
If you have ever seen a kid go underwater for several seconds you’ll know exactly how petrifying that can be – for both you and them. If water is ingested, this can even cause delayed drowning.
While I do use these vests for if and when they fall over in the water, I keep my children within a 2-meter reach rule. Then if they do fall over when wearing the vest, I can a) see them and b) get to them very quickly. So while they can be useful for a toddler beach vacation, they cannot alone save a child’s life.
In summary, these can be useful items of toddler beach gear as they can provide some peace of mind. They are, however, NO substitute for parental or adult supervision. Always stay within arms reach of a child.
- Beach shoes. Beach footwear is often overlooked, but hot sand is not pleasant to walk on. In fact, there may be items on the beach that are actually hazards – such as jellyfish as well as the stones, pebbles, and rocks that can are uncomfortable to step on. If something is painful to you, imagine how it could hurt a baby or toddler. Buying a pair of inexpensive beach shoes can make the beach a safer and more comfortable place for them. We like these Ranly & Smily Ones that come in some super cute designs. They will also appeal to parents because of the hard-wearing, grippy sole, wicking fabric, and affordable price tag.
- Crocs. Crocs are another alternative type of toddler beach shoes. I’ve never been able to keep water shoes on my kids – except when swimming at coral beaches on the Great Barrier Reef. They, they were too worried about cutting their toes to refuse. For toddlers, Crocs work well, as they’re easier to keep on than flip flops or thongs, which require advanced dexterity of the big toe to hold them on. We like the Classic Slip-On Crocs that come in many colors and sizes.
- Flip flops or thongs. My older kids use flip-flops for walking to the beach, and they don’t gather too much sand when you throw them into your beach bag. The Havaianas Styles are always popular and come in toddler or ‘little kid’ sizes. These can be good toddler beach sandals, but they’re not sturdy enough for serious exploration.
- Teva sandals. Both of my older kids use Teva sandals as well, but these are worn more for exploration and water sports than regular beach use. They like to use them for rock climbing. One even wears his to school in summer, giving us great value for money! The Teva Kids’ Sandals also come in ‘little kid’ and toddler sizes, as well as lots of designs. They can be worn for hiking too, and are even made from recycled plastic. These are definitely some of the best toddler beach shoes you can buy.
- Sand toys! I can’t really believe that I didn’t include this higher in the post, as in my experience babies and toddlers spend 75% of their time at the beach playing in the sand, and about 25% actually in the water. You can buy individual beach toys for toddlers or a beach set for toddlers. We like This One From Fun Little Toys. It comprises 19 pieces, including the mesh bag that comes with it for storage and carrying.
Other great toddler beach toys and toddler beach activities include the following ideas:
- Sand Shovels Set
- Inflatable Beach Ball
- Aerobie Flying Ring
- A Kite
- Foam Rocket Launchers
- Sandbox Trucks
- Bean Bag Toss Game
- A Ball Catching Game
- Beach Tent or Umbrella. Having some sort of shelter from the sun is one of the must-have beach hacks for toddlers and babies. An umbrella will provide basic shade, or invest in a cabana for all-around protection. A toddler pop-up beach tent is a good compromise between the two. You might also need to use it yourself, so do bear that in mind when choosing. Whatever you go for, shelter is among the most essential beach stuff for babies and toddlers. This Pacific Breeze Beach Tent is perfect for all the family, not just as a toddler beach tent. It’s easy to put up and should provide years of shade for everyone. Alternatively, a beach umbrella can be very useful. This Movtotop One comes in a range of cool ocean colors, offers 100% UV protection, can be tilted, and includes a carry bag. It’s another of those baby beach must-haves
Babies At The Beach Gear
Water Ring Sling. I had a baby ring sling for the beach, which worked great up to nine months. After that. I found that my kids wanted to move around in the water more independently. This One From Beachfront Baby is made in the US and comes in various colors. It’s ideal for the pool as well as the ocean.
Baby Carrier. An alternative option for swimming with a baby is the water-friendly Boba Air Carrier. It weighs under 1lb and can be used for kids between 15 and 4 lbs. The nylon material makes sand easy to brush off and won’t result in salt stains.
Other Tips For Bringing Baby To The Beach
- Try not to worry about the car being full of sand in summer – or everything not going smoothly for the whole time! Even the best beach vacation with a baby is unlikely to go without some sort of hitch.
- Sand-free towels are a godsend – check out our favorites here in A Tesalate Towels Review: A Sand Free Beach Towel. They are one of our most highly recommended toddler beach ideas.
- Bring food – but do try to figure out how you will avoid getting sand in it. We like to bring crackers, fruit, granola bars, dried fruit, and veg or fruit pouches as healthy snacks. Possibly the most important beach essentials with kids. Apart from water.
- Take a reusable water bottle. It is super important for everyone to stay hydrated! This should be the number one item, as it’s much more necessary than most toddler beach hacks are.
- Think about nap time. A tired baby or toddler is a grumpy one! When and where will they sleep – such as in a beach tent? That’s why this item might belong on your toddler beach vacation packing list.
- It can be easier to apply sunscreen and dress kids in swimsuits before heading off. That way they can start playing right away – and there’s no sand to contend with at that point. Protecting sensitive skin is far more important, so why not get it out of the way before dressing them in their cute toddler beach clothes?
Toddler Or Baby Beach Packing List For Vacations
If you are taking a flight to your beach holiday destination, then you may need to take less bulky items. This might mean being a little more innovative when preparing for baby or toddler-friendly beach vacations.
You could, for example, pack a sarong instead of a toddler beach towel or poncho. This can be used as a toddler beach cover-up, a beach blanket, and for drying off. We like This One that comes in a range of colors and sizes.
Collapsible Beach Buckets
For many, it’s not really a trip to the beach without a bucket and spade. But a bucket takes up a lot of space. The answer is a Set Of Collapsible Beach Buckets. They’re easy to transport and can easily be cleaned and packed away after use.
The Verdict – Toddler Beach Essentials and Beach Gear for Babies
We hope this guide has helped when deciding on your baby packing list for a beach vacation – or has simple given you inspiration regarding the best beach toys for toddlers. A family beach vacation with a toddler or baby can go so much more smoothly when you have the right gear with you! As can a day by the ocean, when you have packed the right beach must-haves for your baby. Once you’ve sorted all the beach essentials with a toddler, you’ll be free to have fun with your baby or toddler on the beach.
Why not package up these great sand toys, or kids’ hats and give them as a gift? For other gift ideas for kids who like to travel read our Best Gifts For Kids Who Travel: 29 Top Picks.
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