Run your beach days like a summer camp. Yes, there are rules but they exist for everyone’s benefit. It’s a great idea to review these things with the kids before arrival. Stick to them and it becomes a habit.
•Sunscreen is applied before stepping on the beach
If you’ve ever tried to apply sunscreen to someone covered in sand, you’ll know why this is at the top of the list.
•One bag per person
This means the kids, too. Once we had a mess of four boys and all of their beach junk coming with us, it was evident each person needed to have his own appropriately-sized bag. This avoids misplaced items and each child takes ownership for his own belongings. With the parents responsible for the food and drinks, Mom and Dad have simply to much to carry. Kids will come up with the most random things they want to bring to the beach. Our mantra is that if they can’t carry it on their own , it doesn’t come to the beach. That has settled many a dispute.
•Avoid bringing too much ‘stuff’
The one thing you can never bring enough of is water. Besides that, everyone can manage surprisingly well without a plethora of food and snacks, games and gear. If you feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff you have to haul, follow the rule above. If you simply can’t fit all of your stuff into one bag, try leaving extra magazines or shirts back at the car. Think of the car as your beach cabana, where extra items are stored and always on hand. You can get them in a pinch, but you won’t have to haul unnecessary items down to the beach. If you do take advantage of this, remember to bring something back to the car to stay put. This way you’ll have less to carry on the way back.
•No one gets in the water without their gear or a chaperone
Depending on the age of your kids, you can set up a buddy system where one always knows where the other is. With so much to do at the beach, it’s easy to lose track of where the kids are with swimming or beach combing.
•Everyone wears a hat at all times
Exposure to sun is greatly reduced when you’re wearing a heat. Wide-brimmed hats are the best, as they provide protection for the shoulders, too. Baseball caps? Not so much.
•Everyone eats together
Serving others lunch while huddled under an umbrella or sitting in a beach chair presents its own challenges, so there’s no need to keep doing it throughout the day, according to the whims of children. Give everyone a 15-minute window to get rinsed off and dried, while you set up lunch. This avoids spills and messes, those unfortunate things that really waste food and create frustration. We find that sandwiches are a mess, while pasta served in cups with a fork is easy and mess-free. Our kids are free to help themselves to the food bag for snacks after lunch.
•One cup per person per day
This reduces waste considerably. Paper holds up better than plastic throughout the day, doesn’t crack when squeezed and holds up to the wind or breeze. Recycled jars are the best because they can be reused indefinitely. Unless you’re on a rocky beach, there’s really no chance of jars breaking on sand.
•Sand is for sculpting, not for throwing.
Trust me, you don’t want to have to deal with a kid who has a few grains of sand jammed into his eye. This will ruin your beach day, for sure. In extreme cases, you may need to have to make a trip to the emergency room to have your child’s eyes flushed. Our boys get 10 minutes in the chair for any of that foolishness.
We institute some quiet time at the beach so there is at least a short period of quiet for all. This is especially effective on long beach days, when everyone needs some time out of the sun.
Our kids get a seat in the chair for this! We try to have them see things from a different perspective; that other people on the beach have come to relax and take it easy. Alright, no one is expecting library-quiet at the beach, but unnecessary, excessive or repetitive yelling is not just inconsiderate, it reflects badly on you as a parent. After the second or third time in the chair, the message comes across loud and clear. Trust us, this will take some time to get it right but all the effort will be worth it, for your peace of mind.
•Keep a schedule
The early bird gets the worm! The few times we’ve decided to get a late start to the beach has always resulted in not-s0-great beach days. When everything is prepped the night before, we get up and go. It’s that simple. You’ll feel like you’re on vacation, rather than spending a work day at the beach. Follow these tips to getting yourself ready and on the beach, relaxed and enjoying your day:
•Pack the car with all the bags and hardware from the night before. When you’re not rushing, you’re less likely to forget things.
•Any cooking or food preparation can be done in advance. Breaking it all up into do-able tasks makes the whole production less stressful and more fun. Pack food bag.
•Lay out bathing suits, flip-flops and t-shirts from the night before. In the morning, as soon as the little ones wake up, everything is there for them to dress themselves.
•Keep breakfast to a basic minimum or pack that and have breakfast on the beach! Even in the summer, the beach is still pretty cool in the early hours. The enjoyment of a hot coffee at that hour is priceless.
•Pack cooler bag. Avoid bringing soft drinks, as they make you even more thirsty.
•Double-check the checklist once you head out. It’s par for the course that something will be forgotten in the mad rush to leave. Bring a little order to the chaos by checking the list one last time.