We have been spending all our long Summer days together at the beach and it has been so beautiful. By beautiful I mean not just the gorgeous scenery, but watching Mila and her fearless demeanor when running into the waves is out of this world amazing to see. Going to the beach was one of Ryan’s favorite Summer activities. He has that same fearless attitude when it came to water and pouncing into the shoreline. Seeing Mila resemble her big brother in that way nearly takes the breath out of me. I feel so lucky. Of course, remembering Ryan always brings on a bit of bitter to the otherwise sweet scene. Though thinking about him, talking about him is worth the pain … simply because it always ends up reminding me of the great he was. The great he still is within us all. Especially his little sister.
Heading the beach with Ryan those first few times as he at the peak of his toddlerhood was daunting. At first I really wasn’t expecting the struggle and down right cardio it took to rangle a toddler on the sand. The beach really must seem like a giant open play area equipped with water and a never ending sandbox. Both kids run wild the second their feet sink into the sand, they either run straight into the waves which gives me a heart attack or head straight into another families beach set up to check things out. Because who believes in personal boundaries when your two years old? Now, I realize that all little ones are different. But all I know is wild, which I am grateful for. So beach going with Ryan proved to be interesting, hard at first but I soon got the hang of it. Last year taking Mila to the beach was quite easy because she wasn’t crawling or really interested in the water. We sat under the umbrella and enjoyed the sound of the waves. This year we spending the majority of our time holding on to her as thinks she can swim right into the crashing shoreline. We build sandcastles so she can demolish them. And we eat a hefty amount of re-fueling snacks. Gone are the days where heading to the beach meant laying out on a towel, reading a book or falling asleep while listening to my iPod. Now we head to the beach for a full day of sandy fun and try to keep up with our ever curious kid. (I’ll enjoy the later every day if I could)
Since we are heavy beach goers I have developed a few tricks I like to do that make my life a bit easier. I am no pro and honestly I am pretty casual compared to most. I love letting my kids get dirty and explore on their own. But if you are heading to the beach with a toddler here are few things to possibly keep in mind …
Applying sunblock to a squirmy child could be a sport. Of course both my kids are redhead and fair skinned and both my kids loath putting on sunblock. Especially when I put it on their face. If someone wanted to rub lotion all over my body I’d lay still and enjoy it, but I’m not a toddler I guess. You might already to do this, but try applying a nice full coat of sunblock before heading down to the beach. I like to do this to so getting sandy isn’t an issue. I also apply a layer of sunblock while my kids are just in a swim diaper. This way I can get every inch of their body in case their bathing suit or rash guard moves. Try and use a sunblock that contains zinc, I love Supergoop Play Mineral Mist sunblock and their new Super Power Mousse. I’ve been using Supergoop ever since Ryan was little and just love the products. The consistency and texture is smooth and goes on really easy. I also love that it rubs in and absorbs quickly. Which helps a ton when your kid is screaming their head off. I’ve also found that offering Mila a snack while applying that second layer of sunblock mid-day is helpful. It keeps her occupied and still. For me I think you can never have too much sunblock on!
I love love love a baby in a bikini! But truthfully full coverage is key and kids in bathing suits are downright adorable … keeping them covered and free from sunburn is better. Both of my kids wear rash guards which I have found to be the easiest way to have peace of mind when playing in the sun for hours. I buy them big at the start of summer so they can wear them all season long. I will say, having kids in just a rash guard and bathing suit bottoms is easier. Last week Mila wore a one piece and the rash guard over, which was fine at first. But it made diaper changes a little more difficult because I had to completely undress her. O’niel makes great rash guards for kids!
Nap time at the beach is touch and go. Mila has never been a great napper and I typically follow her lead when it comes to day time sleep. If she seems overly crabby and keeps rubbing her eyes I know its time for a little rest. I always undress her completely, rinse her off and put a fresh swim diaper on. I wrap her in her towel and she’ll go down (in my arms). With Ryan we were able to lay him down under an umbrella, but Mila is a bit more high maintenance. We rinse off her bathing suit and lay it out to dry so when she wakes up we put sunblock on again, her semi-dry suit and she is off to the races again. Recently a friend on Instagram mentioned baby powder as a way to get sand off. I tried it and it definitely works. I bought a travel size and keep it in my beach bag now! This works great if you have to get sand out of their diaper area ;) or their face and hands before snack time.
Ok so snacks at the beach are a huge highlight for my kids. Scaring me as they charge the water is their favorite, eating comes in as their second favorite. I have found that keeping a stash of healthy snacks that are unique to the beach has been helpful. This way anytime Mila begs for a “nack” I can offer her a variety healthy options like; fruits, granola bars and cheese. I also try and offer snacks that she doesn’t normally get at home. For example, nectarines she gets excited for at the beach because she doesn’t eat them at home. I switch up her normal cheese sticks and give her new granola bars. I don’t know really why I started to do that, maybe because I thought it would keep her attention longer so she would sit still and eat rather than roam around and eat. Which always leads to her tripping and getting the snack covered in sand. But I do always remember getting special treats when on vacation as a little kid, so this is probably an extension of that. Some snacks we enjoy are; That’s It bars, Annie’s Fruit Bunnies, Natures Bakery Fig Bars, mini boxes of raisins and stone fruits (which travel well to the beach). We keep a small cooler lunchpail and only drink water. We use Klean Kanteen water bottles which keep our water ice cold all day!
You know, you can only play in the sand and get pummeled by waves for only so long. One thing we like to do is go for a walk. We’ll take our personals, but otherwise leave our stuff and take a nice walk down the beach and back. It is a nice way to break up the day and get Mila’s wiggles out. Right now she is obsessed with birds and loves chasing them down the shoreline. Taking a walk always seems to ground us in a way, Dan and I end up talking about upcoming Summer plans or stay quite and soak in Mila. I think a lot of the time we both end up thinking about Ryan and have our own way of embracing our life as it was and as it is now. Honestly, if all else fails. Go for a walk to clear your head, get your wiggles out and remember why life is so damn good. Even in the midst of dark times you can seek goodness to be had. Promise.
Sand games are a huge hit in our family! Right now Mila is all about destructing sand castles, but soon she’ll grasp a few games and beg to play them. Here are few ideas you can do with your little ones; Set up 8-10 bucket sand castles and race to destruct them all. Outline 6 different shapes in the sand a few feet from each other, then have your child jump into the shape you call out. Dig 3 holes at various lengths away from you and toss a ball into the holes. Designate points for each hole and who ever has the most points in the end wins. (Winner gets to dump a bucket of water on their opponent!)
In all honestly I think the main thing to remember is, sand everywhere is inevitable. Embrace it. A full beach day with your toddler will be messy, but great fun. Follow their lead and soak in every moment (even the hard ones). Take a ton of photos that also include YOU in them (don't worry about your body). You and your children will love to look back at the fun you had together! Cheers to Summer and the gift of beach days with our little ones!