Not too long ago, our travels brought us to the gulf coast of Florida, where we were lucky to spend the extra day off beach and poolside at the Postcard Inn. I have a soft spot in my heart for the property after two of my best friends had a wedding reception in the hotel’s breezy, magical courtyard a few years back. From the soaring, whitewashed shelves of books in the lobby to the surfboards in each room that remind visitors to get outside, it’s an unassuming boutique space with loads of charm. It’s also the perfect location to walk out of your room with your beach bag in one hand (tropical frozen booze-fueled beverage in the other), plant your butt on a chair and spend an afternoon lounging in the sunshine….
…unless you are the parent of a small child. For you, my dear, the anatomy of a beach day will focus far less on the “relaxing” and more on the “running.” There will be time spent making sure your little one doesn’t eat enough sand to turn his or her diaper contents into painter’s spackle. There will be moments of panic as they swan dive into the surf like Scrooge McDuck into a vat of dollar dollar bills. Forget floating dreamily in the gentle, lapping waves–your toddler will most likely use you as a human buoy, rewarding your attempts to guarantee that they’re not pulled out by the tide with a kick to the face as you drag them kicking and screaming onto the shore. The sun is an enemy. Seagulls are tiny winged-terrorists trying to snatch snacks and fingers from your bundle of joy. You tear pages out of the paperback you brought to read because Junior suddenly has a runny nose and the nearest bathroom is about 1000 miles away. And that frozen margarita? By now it’s a sad, melted puddle from which you’ve taken exactly zero sips (also, it looks like one of those birds may have revenge pooped in it.)
Ok, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Actually, hitting the beach with a baby or toddler can be an incredibly fun time, but like most things do after having children, it requires a bit of re-working to accommodate the peanut. Here are a few tried-and-true-tips to make your journey to the shore a bit easier, from a born “beach baby.”
1. Supersize your blanket. Don’t rely on a few towels hodge-podged together to sit on. Bringing a large sheet or beach blanket makes all the difference when you need a place to lay a sleepy kid down. If your baby isn’t walking yet (or even if they are) you might want to consider a small pop-up tent to give them their own space and shade.
2. Bring baby powder. When it’s time to pack up and go home, sprinkle a little baby powder on hands, feet, face–wherever there is sand–and voila. It will fall right off. If you’re looking for something chemical and talc free (that smells like vanilla bean!) I recommend Ora’s Amazing Herbal Baby Powder.
3. Sunblock is your lifeline. If your baby is over 6 months, slather them up from head to toe before you put their bathing suits on and leave the house. That will give it enough time to dry and you can avoid fights with a child that just wants to play once you’re there. I am very cautious about sunblock and only use products with a high EWG rating. Look for something without avobenzone, oxybenzone or UV chemical absorbers like this SPF 50 from ThinkBaby. It’s also water-resistant for 80 minutes. In addition to block, I love a rash-guard top for extra sun protection. Get it in a fluorescent color so you’ll be able to keep a close eye on your kid against the sand and sea.
4. Leave a mini cooler in the car stocked with cold drinks and fruit. When you get back to the steaming hot vehicle with a worn out, overheated, hungry munchkin in tow, you’ll be so happy you did.
5. The early bird gets the worm. It’s best to hit the beach in the morning before the sun is at its peak. It will be less crowded and you’ll have perfectly raked sand to play in, not to mention, kids tend to be at their best (and most tolerant) in the morning.
6. Pack a few wet bags. I like to keep my electronics (phone, iPod) in one and have another on hand for soaked, sandy swimwear. These from Itzy Ritzy are cute, cheap and come in a million colors.
7. Keep it simple. Bring a few simple toys to play, snacks, water and a music player (this one is awesome for the beach.) Don’t pack your entire house up and try to relocate it to the beach. The point is to enjoy the scenery and discover the environment together.
8. “Changes in latitude, changes in attitude.” Jimmy Buffet is basically the Steve Jobs of relaxation. Take a cue from him and calm down. Make memories! Splash in the water! Jump over waves! Let them bury you in the sand! Dig for shells! Point out different kinds of birds! Have an oceanside singalong! Try not to stress too much over your kid shoveling sand into her mouth or that terrifying news segment about dry drowning you watched yesterday. Recognize that what you hoped to be a full day could wind up being 30 minutes. The beach can be sensory overload for many children, so be prepared to honor the meltdown if it happens.
Happy beaching, friends!
SHOP BEACH STYLE