Several summers ago, we had the brilliant idea to take the family to Hilton Head Island for a little R & R. Picture this – my husband carrying the triple stroller across the hot sand – with a set of one-year old twins in it. Our 2-year daughter took off for the water immediately, amazed by “all the oceans” as the tide rippled over her feet; this put my husband on toddler duty for the rest of the day. The youngest twin screamed at the ocean for most of the afternoon, while her cohort couldn’t seem to eat sand quickly enough. Our shade tent broke as we were opening it (which we ingeniously didn’t test until we were actually on the beach). Watching us sunscreen babies was similar to watching a Three Stooges routine as we battled with sun, sand, wind and children to apply properly. Needless to say, this was not exactly a scrapbook memory, though we actually do have a few comical photos from the experience.
This story is not to scare you from taking your baby to the beach – in fact, it can make a wonderful vacation. But the moral of this tale is two-fold. First, parenthood is a continual learning process and secondly, a little preparation can go a long way. So, here are some tips to help you make your baby’s beach trip a blast:
- Sun protection: We know skincare, and cannot emphasize this enough! Your little one’s skin is so delicate and precious, so you want to protect it from the sun’s harmful rays. A shade tent is a great way to do this, along with SPF shirts and/or bathing suits. A hat and eye protection is also important. If your child will wear sunglasses, great, but for those babies who just want to take them on and off, think about a product like Baby Banz which include an elastic strap. Sunscreen isn’t recommended for babies younger than six months, so you’ll want to be especially careful with infants, keeping them well covered in comfortable, cool clothing and out of the sun. For children over six months, always use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a strong SPF, specific to children and babies. (Check out Baby Pibu™ Baby Sunscreen SPF 30+ for a great every day sunscreen. It has earned the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Daily Use Seal of Recommendation!) When applying sunscreen, do it before you get onto the beach (preferably before you put on their bathing suit so you cover all areas) and then continually reapply. A good rule of thumb is to avoid the hottest parts of the day, between 11 am – 3pm. So, you might want to plan on getting to the beach early, enjoying a few hours, and then heading in for lunch, naps and some cool down time.
- Bio breaks: No, you’re not on a desert island, but it’s still important to stay hydrated, as well as bring along any snacks you may need. So step up the water intake for both you and your baby (formula or breast milk if your baby is very young). A great rule of thumb is to take a break from the sun and grab a drink at the same time – be sure to bring several thick, fluffy beach towels you can lay down inside your shade tent. As for snacks, you want simple, so little cups of Cheerios or puffs are great – something that is easy to eat, won’t melt or get sticky and that can handle a little sand if you need to brush it off. Packing a picnic lunch is also an option, but remember that meal times are a great time to take a break from the sun and sand.
- Take the easy road: Strollers don’t tend to be a good match for the beach, so strategically think about what you really will need. If you want a seat so your baby can sit up and enjoy the view, bring a baby carrier or something like a Bumbo seat.
- Toys, toys and more toys! Sand toys are an absolute must, especially because your little one may not even be ready to go anywhere near the actual ocean. Introduce your baby to the wonders of sandcastles and digging, moats and tunnels. There is no such thing as too many sand toys, especially since one (or two) may end up drifting out to sea. Bring a mesh or net bag to corral and carry them all conveniently.
- Experience the experience: Your child’s first trip to the beach should be memorable. Let them explore and experience – the grittiness of the sand, the feel of the waves on their little toes, the touch of a seashell, the sound of a gull. Share it with them and watch them be amazed. Yes, there may be some aspects they don’t enjoy, but the beach is such a sensory sensation that you are sure to find something they love – even if it’s just Mommy time in the tent, playing with sand toys on the towels! Cameras are essential for baby’s first beach trip, but keep them in a plastic bag to avoid sand and spray.
And, no matter what, remember safety first. You always want to have a hold on your child in the water, regardless of the depth. Know when to say when to sun exposure and heat. And, never leave your child unattended for a moment, not even to run to the water to rinse out a shovel.
The beach can be a wonderful family vacation and create lasting memories for both you and your child – especially if you have your ducks, or seagulls, in a row. Plan it well and you’re guaranteed to have fun in the sun!
— The Baby Pibu™ Team