I don’t love using the word “essential” when it’s not actually something that is necessary – you can take a baby to the beach basically with just a towel. They can go in the water naked, you really don’t even require swim diapers if you don’t want. “Needs” and “wants” are so different for every person/family. With that in mind, these are my “essential” or better yet, preferred items (it just doesn’t have that nice ring to it for the title, so that’s why I used essentials) to have when we (Maggie & us) go to the beach. It doesn’t mean I won’t go to the beach without them, just that I have found these items particularly useful when we go.
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1) A sun hat or a swim head wrap – or something to keep the sun off baby’s head and/or out of their eyes.
I am a sun freak – for myself and especially for Maggie. I lather her in sunscreen and as of more recent years I’ve also started doing the same to myself (when I was a teen I definitely did not wear enough, though luckily never got badly burned – I am still worried about sun exposure and the damage it does to your skin).
We also both wear hats, or at least Maggie always wears something to cover her noggin since she is only just starting to grow fair hair, which doesn’t exactly protect her delicate scalp from the sun. We have a bucket hat that I grabbed one day while grocery shopping that does a great job at protecting both her scalp and her eyes (since Maggie isn’t yet a huge fan of sunglasses), however because it’s brimmed she can see it and likes to yank it off her head. They have a really cute one right now on Amazon that I’ve been looking at.
That’s why I also have a swim head wrap for in the water – I got it from my favourite Etsy shop Royal Threadz (wahoo, Canadian brands!). It has SPF for extra protection. I like that it covers Maggie’s entire scalp and can be worn in the water – the added bonus is that it’s fashionable as hell. She usually looks cooler than I do at the beach if I’m being honest. She also doesn’t usually try to pull it off (or it’s more challenging to achieve than it is with the bucket hat).
2) Baby sunglasses.
Baby sunglasses are SO adorable. We grabbed a pair from Amazon (they are Kushies brand) because for a time they came at a really cheap add-on price, however they’re still only 13.99$ CAD and they do the trick. I found many sunglasses are a bit overpriced for something that doesn’t fit for long (like most baby things) and has the risk of being easily thrown away by the baby without notice. Despite this risk, I still really want to get a cuter pair of heart eye ones or something for pictures (like these).
Biggest risk to sunglasses is, as I mentioned, the risk that baby can pull them off their face at any given moment and YEET them into the distance (there was an opportunity to say yeet so I took it). If you put them on in the stroller (or when you’re not paying 100% attention) you may not even notice this happening. I also find that they don’t sit well on babies noses since they are not yet protruding, so I spend half the time readjusting them on Maggie’s face.
They do cover their eyes though which I like. The sun freak in me is also very into wearing sunglasses to protect our eyes. I think if you have a good bucket hat or hat on babe though, you may not need them but they are definitely useful as baby gets older and is less likely to remove them/they stay on their face easier. We always have them in the diaper bag if we do want to use them.
3) Swim diapers (reusable or disposable, your preference – or none!)
This is why I don’t like the word essentials – your baby can swim naked just like they can take a bath naked, if you’re comfortable with it or you’re at a private beach, whatever you prefer. I am not trying to dictate your lifestyle, just again, stating what we use.
I have a reusable swim diaper that we really like – why we prefer it is because I don’t find that it soaks up water as much as the disposable ones, and I like being able to use something we can use again (it’s also really cute – not the exact design we have but now I want this one).
That being said, we also buy disposable ones – we do pool & beach swimming and at the cottage it’s nice to have disposable ones since we are swimming a lot and sand is well… sandy. Totally a preference based decision – I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, I just prefer the reusable one mainly because it doesn’t fill up with water (I have to squeeze out the disposable ones when we get out of the lake usually). Maggie doesn’t notice a different and that’s what matters most.
4) A floatie!
We got this floatie from Walmart for Maggie – it works pretty well but the shade coverage is not great (the rainbow part is very flimsy). She still enjoys floating in it and I just make sure to have a hat or head wrap on her to try and protect her from the sun. I’m sure there are many other better floaties out there with better sun coverage, but this one works well in that she’s comfortable hanging out in it and it’s easy to inflate.
Why do I like the floatie? It gives your arms a break! Carrying baby in the water is so fun but it’s nice to also have another option for a bit, especially if you have an older baby that can sit up a bit more and is okay with being out of your arms.
5) Covered playpen or baby dome (or a good umbrella if they’re not moving yet!)
We got a tent very similar to this one from Amazon, but we got it from Costco (I can’t find it on Costco’s website). It’s great because it fits all of us under it, can be well ventilated (you can open up the windows to allow air flow), and I love that it isn’t just a sun cover but also has a “porch” (that’s literally what it is called on the box) or flooring. I hate when my towel gets all covered in sand and this prevents it so I approve!
The other item I’ve been looking at now that Maggie is moving more (and so that I don’t have to worry about her going to the end of the flooring and eating sand) is the Summer Infant Pop N Play. Someone on instagram shared this and it’s actually gigantic, giving your baby enough space to sit up, crawl and roll around outside.
Both these items are multipurpose – you don’t just have to use them at a beach. They’re great in a backyard setting as well if you need some additional shade or a place to lay baby down. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that but I am anyways.
*If you don’t want to spend this type of money, another option is to get a good sunshade for your stroller (if it doesn’t already have an amazing built-in system like my Thule; I got this one for our Evenflo travel system).
6) A good, baby friendly sunscreen.
I know this feels like a fairly obvious item to bring to the beach, and there are many others that I won’t mention (ie. a towel). However, I see a surprising number of adults forget it for themselves, so I figured I would mention it here because sun safety is super important and sunburns are such a common issue in the paediatric (as well as adult) population.
I’m going to link you to this resource about the types of sunscreens (physical vs chemical UV filters) and what you need to look out for in terms of safety and sensitivity. Keep in mind, each child can have their own sensitivities, so if you do notice any type of reaction to your chosen sunscreen, give your HCP a call (or 911 if it is a serious reaction – see the resource I linked) and make sure you keep track of which product(s) you used that caused the reaction so you can avoid them.
You don’t need to spend a ridiculous amount of money on any type of sunscreen (unless you want to) – because children can also have a reaction or sensitivity to the ingredients in these products – yes, even ones that claim they are “natural”. Natural doesn’t mean risk-free. Peanuts are natural yet ~1 in 50 children have an allergy to them. With sunscreens, reactions are commonly related to the type of UV filter, but also the fragrances and preservatives used in the product. Therefore, any product can cause one so just be aware of this!
And that’s about it – we obviously bring our full diaper bag with us with a change of clothes and all the other do-dads we usually carry – but like I said, I’m not here to mention the obvious items. These are some of the things I have felt help us at the beach or make our trip more enjoyable! Toys will be next but she doesn’t need them yet. I’ll probably have to redo this next summer – these babies grow and change so fast. Enjoy every moment!
As always, thanks for reading!