The Ultimate Beach Checklist When Taking Young Kids to the Beach

Minivan loaded with beach stuff for day at the beach

A successful outing of any kind with young kids starts with being prepared.

And yes, planning and packing for going anywhere longer than 30 minutes is a big job.  Sure, you can have prepared bags, but there’s always additional items to get for any outing.

Planning and packing for a few hours at the beach is nothing short of a herculean task.  If going overnight, that’s a whole other ball game.  This beach checklist for taking kids to the beach is meant for a day outing, not an overnighter (i.e. hotel stay).

We take our kids to beaches several times per week in the Summer so I have this checklist down pat.

FYI, our kids are 5 and 2 years old.  This checklist pertains to those ages specifically, but can easily apply to younger/older kids too.

Here’s what we take to the beach:

1. Life vest for each child

I’m amazed at how few kids wear a life vest (personal floatation device) at the beach.  We enjoy much more peace of mind with our kids wearing one when near water.

While our two year old can’t swim with it on, in the event he ends up in the water, we’ll at least be able to spot him immediately and fish him out.  Without one, he’d sink.  Our five year old enjoys more independence with it and makes it possible for him to roam the beach more on his own.

2. Diapers and wipes

We have little swimmer diapers as well as regular diapers.  Regular diapers get very waterlogged which is uncomfortable.

Just be sure to notice the difference for bedtime because swimming diapers don’t hold much and there will certainly be a leak (I’m telling you from personal experience).

3. Plastic Grocery Bags

We always have a few plastic grocery bags in the car to for disposing of dirty diapers.  These come in handy way more often than you think.  Also great for dirty, wet clothing.

4. 2 sets of extra clothes for each child 

Our kids will inevitably get their clothes soaked if we do not have an extra set.  While usually two sets is not needed, there have been instances where we really wished we had that second set of clothes.

5. Sweatshirt for each child

We take sweatshirts almost everywhere because you never know how the day will unfold.  You might meet friends somewhere and end up spending the evening somewhere and so sweatshirts come in handy when the temperature drops.

6. Beach blanket

I love sitting/lying on a beach blanket.  During the summer we have one in the car at all times because you never know when you’ll end up at a beach or park.

7. Towel for each child

This is a no-brainer obviously.

8. 1 set of beach toys for each child

It doesn’t matter that our 5-year-old is three years older than our 2-year-old.  If either child has a toy the other doesn’t, there’s mayhem.  Therefore, we buy two of every conceivable beach toy to avoid any silly trouble of this kind.

9. Water toys

Fortunately, our kids aren’t too nuts about water guns.  They have them but never seem interested in taking them to the beach.  I have no issue with them except that kids tend to squirt everyone around them which is annoying for other beachgoers.

However, our oldest loves goggles so that’s a must-take item whenever we go to the beach or pool.  I’m sure when he’s a bit older, we’ll be packing a rubber dinghy, boogie boards and who knows what else for having fun in the water.

10. Balls and/or Frisbee

No matter how old or young your kids are, bring something that rolls, bounces and can be thrown.  Our youngest likes a simple ball.  Our oldest loves frisbee.

11. Beach chairs

Sometimes we take chairs and sometimes we don’t.  More often we don’t because it’s just another bunch of things to carry, but I have to admit when we have ours, it’s nice.

The thing is if we have chairs, our kids want them and so we must bring 4 folding camp chairs.  Our hauling stuff was made easier this summer with our purchase of a folding wagon.

12. Folding wagon for hauling stuff

Getting a wagon caught my attention this summer when we went to the beach with friends who also have kids.  My friend and fellow parent had a large wagon with bungee cords.

He loaded everything onto that thing and wheeled it from and to the car.  It was brilliant.  We immediately went out and bought a folding wagon for us.  It’s brilliant. We strongly recommend it if you do outings and/or camp.

13. Food

Even if you plan to eat at the concession or a restaurant, a bag full of snacks and water is critically important.  Kids need to eat frequently, especially toddlers (our five-year-old doesn’t eat much but when hungry, he wants to eat immediately).

We have a car cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter outlet in our vehicle which allows us to bring all kinds of food options.

14. Cooler

We have a cooler that plugs into a vehicle cigarette lighter.  It’s fabulous because we can keep food and beverages cold while on the road.  This thing goes with us pretty much everywhere.  It’s easily carried out of the car as well.

15. Sun Hats

Sun hats (see which sun hat I love the most here) are hugely important to us because they really do protect faces, scalp, ears and neck from a sunburn.  We spend hours at the beach and without this, they would burn badly.

We find it’s much easier to put a hat on their heads than applying sunscreen to their faces (which we also do sometimes even if wearing a hat).

16. Crocs or water-friendly footwear

Crocs are a summer staple footwear for both our boys.  They’re comfortable, durable and waterproof.  Our boys love wearing them too.  They are the beach footwear of choice for our boys.

17. Sunscreen

It’s bad form these days to let kids get a sunburn.  Every parent we know is very diligent in applying sun screen.  Personally, I think the pendulum has swung too far since a little sun is good, but a day at the beach definitely requires slathering on the sun screen.

I’m a big fan of the spray sun screen because it’s so easy to apply to legs, arms and torso.  We use an organic zinc-based sunscreen for faces.

18. Particularities

Don’t forget any particular items your kids may require.  Our two year old loves soothers so we can’t leave home without it.

Just thinking about packing all that makes me tired.

It also fills up the car. We laugh at how much stuff we have crammed into the car pretty much every time we head to the beach.  It’s nuts.  However, taking 30 minutes to pack the important items makes for a much more enjoyable day at the beach.

Next: 21 Fun Beach Activities for Kids

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