Beach Essentials

You know what's bad timing?  Starting a homeschool blog right before school ends for the year.  I promise I will have a lot of homeschool-related posts on this blog come August.  Right now I'm just waiting to figure out if homeschooling through our current school district is going to be a possibility or if we're going to be going it alone this year.  Once I have an answer, I'll start buying curriculum and posting about my picks.  Pinky swear.

Now, in the meantime, let's talk about the beach (because I haven't done that enough on the blog yet, har har).

(I'm not exactly sure what's happening in this picture or why I'm making that face but I'm going with it)

I'm not an expert on many things but at this point I like to think that I am a semi-expert at beaching (is beach a verb?  It is now) with kids.  I've also worked hard over the years at really paring down what we bring to the beach to ensure that, while we have all the essentials packed, I can carry them all without collapsing under their enormous weight.

In our early days of beaching with kids, we would bring beach chairs for the adults and kids, a big hard-sided cooler, a beach tent, and a whole host of other pretty unnecessary (IMHO) things.  Now, I have one beach bag (with beach necessities), one small cooler, beach toys, boogie boards, an umbrella, and THAT'S IT.  I also keep a bag of dry clothes (with a dry towel) in the back of the car for the kids' post-beach outfit change.

That said, here are some things that I highly recommend if you're heading to the beach with little kids in tow and want to make your life a little easier:

Giant Bag

The bag we use is an oldie from L.L. Bean.  I think we bought it maybe 5 years ago and it's still going strong.  The important thing here is to get a bag that can hold it all (towels, blanket, sunscreen, etc.) and is still easy to carry.  Washability is also key because the bag will get trashed.  This canvas beach bag is similar to what we have and is that L.L. Bean style without the price tag.  I also like the idea of this collapsible bag, which would be super great if storage at home is a problem.

Sunscreen

As my husband will tell you, I'm not the best at sunscreen application.  But you know what?  It's hard to apply sunscreen at the beach!  If you try to apply it when you're covered in sand (or are even just a little sandy), it ends up super patchy and you come out of the day looking like a Dalmatian.  I've found that I prefer spray sunscreen for bodies and cream sunscreen for faces.  This combo seems to be the best at keeping burns at bay and is fairly easy to reapply throughout the day, despite the obstacles presented by the sand.  My ride-or-die spray sunscreen is Alba Botanicals but I also really like Sun Bum.  For cream sunscreen, I like to stick with Sun Bum.  It smells good and doesn't feel super greasy or oily.  I use all of these same things for my kids - I don't buy special kid sunscreen.

Beach Blanket

Like I said, we used to bring beach chairs to the beach and never bothered with bringing any kind of beach blanket.  But you know what's easier to carry than chairs?  A blanket.  The blanket we use now is an oldie from Target (it was on Eleanor's bed when she was a wee toddler until she told me she hated it because the color looks like moldy cheese...) but Amazon is brimming with lovely blanket options.

This blanket is super cute and looks small and light.  This one is cute too and it folds down into its own bag.  This blanket is the most expensive of the three but it also folds up nicely and comes in super cute prints (I love the green triangle) - it's also 20% off right now.


Umbrella 

This isn't a very exciting category but it's necessary, especially for those really hot and sunny days.  We have an umbrella that looks almost exactly like this one and it's really great.  It's easy to put up and take down and the case has a handy little strap for carrying it from the car to the beach and back again.

Toys

Beach toys are just the worst to carry from the car to the beach (and even worse to carry from the beach to the car when the kids are tired and don't want to help).  They're bulky and cumbersome and just plain awkward to hold.  Last year I made a change and bought a set of toys at Target that I love.  All of the little toys stow away into the biggest bucket so instead of carrying lots of small toys, I just hand the big bucket to one of the kids and call it a day.  Easy.

If I didn't already have a set of beach toys, I would buy these collapsible buckets (and they come in a pack of three...perfect for my pack of three), this massive set of toys that comes with its own mesh backpack, and/or this set of eco-friendly toys that are a little more expensive but also look indestructible (because how annoying is it when you break your third shovel or bucket of the day?).  You also need to have a sturdy big shovel because every kid wants to dig a giant hole at the beach.

If you live near a beach or visit a beach with a lot of awesome seashells, these shell collecting bags are great.  The beach we go to a lot has some amazing tide pools and the kids love looking for shells and adding to our ever-growing collection.


Waterproof Bag

I keep a waterproof bag in my beach bag and this is where I store my wallet, car keys, and phone.  The bag I use is old but what I love most about it is that it's clear so I can see what's in there and easily get what I need without touching everything with my wet, sandy hands.  This one seems like a great bargain and it's clear.  This one is also cute and comes in a few colors.  If you aren't a fan of the waterproof bag and want something a little more stylish that you can keep on your body, this waist pack by Herschel is adorable (and might have just made my beach wishlist).

Towels

This is an obvious one because, duh, you're going to want to bring towels to the beach.  But what kind of towels?  I like for everyone in our family to have their own designated towel so there's no confusion when packing for the beach and no fights over towels when we get to the beach.  So, last summer I let my kids each pick out one of those $10 character towels from Target and that's what they've been using ever since.  However, I can tell that we'll probably only get another year out of them before they basically disintegrate.

My favorite towels are super thick, durable, and will last you years (seriously years...we have a couple of beach towels that pre-date our 9-year marriage by years...I don't even know where they came from).  The really good towels tend to be a bit more expensive but once you buy them, you will never need to buy them ever again.  This Pendleton towel comes in amazing prints and will last a lifetime (don't let the price deter you...if you go to the beach a lot, it will be worth it to have a towel that stays soft over the years and washes well).

Some friends of our recently introduced us to hooded changing towels and my goal this year is to find three great ones for the kids (George has one that we were gifted that I think came from Amazon but it's really thin and he says it's itchy - I do not recommend).  We're trying to convince Eleanor to do a surf camp this summer and if she does, I think I might splurge and get her this one by Pendleton.  I love love love the prints and the material is just as lux as the towel linked above.  As a less expensive option, this brand makes a shark print and a rainbow print that are really cute.  The reviews are also awesome.  I've also been scouring Poshmark and eBay to see if I can find any good deals on secondhand hooded towels.


I think that's about it folks.  Like I said above, we also always bring our two boogie boards (Costco sells them every year for a great price) and an old L.L.Bean soft-sided cooler.  If my husband is coming with us and is up for it, he'll also sometimes bring his surfboard.  Less really is more at the beach and makes getting there and getting home so much more manageable, especially if you find yourself taking the kids alone like I often do.

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