Where else can your toddler run screaming at the top of his lungs into a giant sandbox? The beach, of course. Taking a toddler to the beach means you’ll be embarking on a thrilling, unpredictable adventure that is guaranteed to burn that kid’s energy and brighten his day. The first time can be difficult, so here are some tips for toddlers at the beach.

1. Set boundaries. Decide in advance if you want your toddler to go in the water or stay on the sand. A wide beach can help keep your child away from the waves, as well as setting up your chairs as far back as possible. When we are not planning to stay all day (or don’t have access to a shower/hotel room), we keep Baby J from the wet sand and water. Tell your toddler the rules in a clear way, such as advising him to stay between umbrellas or signs, stay with his brother or sister, or to bring mom or dad before going into the water. Be prepared: your toddler will probably not listen or follow the rules you’ve set, so closely supervise and enforce when necessary for safety.
2. Engage with sand toys. The best way to keep your toddler occupied the beach is with sand toys, either newly purchased, hidden for a while or rented from your hotel. Show your toddler how to use the toys by example, as some can be really cool once you figure out how they work. All your sandcastles may immediately be crushed and all your buckets of water promptly spilled, but this is part of the learning process. Just wait until they discover sand crabs!
3. Find friends with new things. Once the excitement for your sand toys has petered out, look for other friendly families on the beach to share with. The beach is one of those places where you can virtually walk up to someone and start a conversation without looking like a weirdo—especially if you both have kids. Scope out the people who’ve brought kites or sports balls (or bring your own toddler-size Ball Set, or offer to help dig that ubiquitous sand tunnel. You’ll probably make friends easily in such a relaxed atmosphere. Since parents aren’t usually the ones to tune out with iPods and sunbathe, don’t worry about ruining their relaxing beach day.
4. Buy or rent a beach tent. Your toddler can still have nap time, at the right time, with a cozy beach tent and a few cuddles from you. Unlike an umbrella, a beach tent will remove outside distractions and let your child fall asleep in peace. Decide if you want a small one for just him, or one that fits the whole family. Beach shelters are also great to eat under, nurse your baby or change diapers. If the rental options at your hotel are slim picking, you can always add a UV Protective Stroller Shade to your stroller.
5. Keep water handy and make it fun. Remind your toddler not to drink the ocean water by bringing a fun souvenir cup (free from a restaurant!) or giving little sips from your bottled water. On those beach days that a toddler just won’t sit down to drink, it helps to make hydration exciting! Encourage trips to the drinking fountain. You won’t know your child is dehydrated if her diapers are soaked anyway, so trick her to drink every chance you get.
Beach trips with our toddler are always changing. Sometimes she is content to play in the sand; sometimes she runs straight for the water. Days we get our heart rates up chasing her from the waves are followed by days when we languish (like the good old times) on the sand, wondering why she hasn’t gotten up in a while. A toddler certainly keeps you guessing at the beach!
Photo by Daquella manera