15 Parenting Hacks for the Beach

It's almost summer (hurray!) and chances are, at some point, you and the family are going to head to the beach. Whether it's just for the day, a whole week, or even longer, it's a trip that everyone looks forward to. There's something for everybody: swimming, sandcastles, and sunbathing! But when you're traveling with kids, no matter how big or small they are, a trip to the beach can be anything but relaxing! We're bringing you some brilliant beach hacks to help you keep your cool while you enjoy the sun, surf, and sand!

15 Time Your Trip

If you time your trip just right, you can get to the beach, find parking, and score a sweet spot on the sand. Go really early, before everyone else gets there. The sun won't be as strong (but you still need protection!) and it won't be quite as hot. You can get home in time to get the kids cleaned up, feed them lunch, and down for a nap.

If you head to the beach later on in the afternoon after everyone else has had their time in the sun, you'll still probably get lucky with parking because people will start packing up and heading for home just as you're arriving. Enjoy a picnic dinner on the beach and watch the sunset after everyone else is at home nursing their sunburns. Go home, have everybody take their showers, and go to bed after a long afternoon at the beach!

14 Keep the Car Organized

Before you hit the road, get your car serviced, and then give it a good decluttering and cleaning. You can buy an inexpensive, but fancy and functional trunk organizer or a pocket organizer that hangs on the backseat. Or you can repurpose things that you already have. Try using an over-the-door shower caddy with pockets to stash little essentials like your snacks, games, and first aid kit.

You can also give each kid their own shower caddy bucket to keep their books, games, and snacks separate - this will help stop backseat battles before they even start. Look for a car seat mat with pockets that will slide right underneath the car seat. The pockets are great for stashing toys, and the mats help to catch crumbs and keep food from getting smashed into the upholstery.

13 Dirty Diaper Trick

Don't be stuck on the blanket and missing out on all the fun because someone needs to hang back and keep an eye on the valuables. Take a clean diaper, deposit your valuables in it, and wrap it up into a diaper sausage so that it looks like a dirty diaper. If you leave it lying near your stuff, nobody will mess with it because they won't think your cell phone or wallet is stashed inside. Just be super careful that you (or a helpful kiddo, or your well-meaning spouse) doesn't pick it up and toss it in the garbage!

There are some other sneaky ways to hide your valuables while you're at the beach. Take a tennis ball, cut a slit in it, and use it to stash your cash. You can also reuse an empty sunscreen bottle. If it's big enough, you can screw it apart and use it to hide your cell phone!

12 Fitted Sheet

Don't try to cram everyone on a big, bulky blanket. A spare bed sheet (or even an old table cloth!) is lighter, easier to fold and pack, and will be easier to shake the sand out of when you leave.

An even better idea? Take a fitted sheet with you. Stick things like your cooler, backpacks, shoes, and towels in the four corners to build up a little wall. Now you have a little "wall" to keep sand from being blown or kicked onto your towel. Just make sure you clean off your feet before you step onto the sheet!

If you don't mind spending the money, there's a variety of sand-free mats and blankets out there to make shaking the sand off a snap! The Sharper Image sand-free beach mat is made out of specially woven cotton that lets sand sift right out!

11 Baby Powder

No matter how hard you try, you're probably still going to end up with sand all over your feet and legs. Here's an easy trick to help you get it off!

Stick baby powder in your beach bag! You can use cornstarch, too. You use baby powder to absorb moisture on your baby's butt. It can do the same thing with wet, sandy feet! The baby powder helps absorb water and leaves your skin dry so that the sand can't stick. Shake some on feet (and hands!) and rub the sand off before stepping onto your beach blanket, sitting down to eat snacks, or getting in the car.

You can also keep a jug of water and an extra towel in the trunk to rinse off dirty, sandy feet when you get to the car!

10 Kids Hate Sunscreen?

Most of the time, it's nearly impossible to smear sunscreen on a squirmy toddler who's excited to go play at the beach. Older kids don't want to be bothered. And, oops! Sometimes we forget to reapply.

To make sunscreen time a little easier (and faster) make sure your kids wear rash guard shirts (like a surfer!) over their swimsuits. You can find short sleeve and long sleeve versions. Even though it's an extra layer, they're thin, lightweight, and they dry quickly. You can find girl and boy versions; sometimes swimsuits even come in a set with a matching rash guard, like this cute suit set from Gymboree.

And what about when the kids are just running around in the yard playing? You can wash sun protection right into their clothes! There are now specially formulated laundry treatments that add a layer of UV protection to your clothes right in the washing machine! After a wash, the treated clothes will have a layer of SPF 30 protection that lasts up to 20 washes!

9 Pack Your Bag!

Take a gallon-sized freezer bag and fill it with water or ice. Freeze it overnight before you head to the beach so that you have an ice bag for in your cooler. This way you can keep drinks and snacks cool, or, if you pack ice cubes, you can add ice cubes to drinks.

When you're ready to leave, or when the ice melts, you have a bag to toss your trash. Have the kids scout out the sand and clean up your area, being sure not to leave any trash behind. If you don't use the bag for trash, you can also use it to stash wet swimsuits or hats on the way home! No damp swimsuits soaking through a bag or any other clothes!

Put some extra bags in your bag! Plastic baggies come in handy for keeping items like cell phones wallets, books, and cameras protected from the water and sand. Pack extras for bringing home seashells and other treasures.

8 Balloons

Who doesn't love playing with water balloons? Balloons are pretty versatile when it comes to heading to the beach. First, fill your balloons with water and tie them off. Stick them in the freezer, and voila--you have ice balloons that you can stick in your cooler or lunch bag! As the ice melts, the kids can play with the water balloons. An icy way to cool down, that's for sure!

Empty balloons can come in handy, too. If one of your little ones complains of water in their ears, blowing up a balloon can help equalize the pressure and force the water out.

Just be sure to clean up any balloons or balloon remnants and don't let any get into the water. Latex balloons are very harmful to the environment. Birds, fish, turtles, and other animals can ingest the balloons, which then fill up their digestive tract, leaving animals unable to receive sufficient nutrients.

7 Take your Laundry to the Beach

A plastic laundry basket is a great way for keeping all of your beach stuff together in the car. It also makes for a great way to tote things to the beach and back to the car. Some baskets have wheels, others are curved to sit comfortably on your hip. Sand and dirt can shake out easily through the holes, and when you get home, stick all of the beach toys in the basket and squirt them off with the hose. Leave them in the basket to dry!

You can also use mesh laundry bags to carry your stuff. Give kids their own laundry bag or mesh backpack to carry their toys and seashells. Again, you can shake all of the loose sand out before you head home!

6 Don't Spend a lot on Beach Toys

You don't have to spend a lot of money at a beach side souvenir store to get overpriced beach toys. Stop at Target or Wal-Mart on your way! Look for toys that you can use when you're at home in the backyard, too--things like Velcro toss and catch games, Frisbees, bubbles, and water guns.

Raid the kitchen before you go! Younger kids will love using plastic cups, bowls, and spoons for shovels and scoops.

5 Run and Play

Try to avoid the cries of "I'm bored!" by having some ideas for games and activities at the ready. Here are some easy ideas that require little or no toys.

How low can you go? - have kids compete against each other to see who can dig the deepest hole. Or have the kids work together to see how big or deep of a hole they can dig.

Fill 'er up - place buckets near your blanket and give each kid a small cup or scoop. Have kids race each other to the water's edge, scoop up some water, and run back to the buckets. See who can fill their bucket up first!

Bowling or Bocce - use empty water bottles or soda cans and a beach ball to set up a beach side bowling alley. Or use seashells and other beach treasures to make a bocce set.

Kids can also just use their hands in the sand to play games. You can easily draw a tic-tac-toe board, play hangman, or draw a hopscotch board out in the sand!

4 Made in the Shade

If you have one and don't mind packing it in the car, take a big tailgating tent to the beach with you so that everyone has a spot in the shade. Your littlest one can be a beach baby, too, with baby-sized tents designed to keep the sun and sand out! Stick a stroller fan or a small portable fan in there to let your baby enjoy the ocean breeze!

If you really want to splurge, you can invest in a portable play yard with a shade or cover. Graco's Pack 'n Play Playard is lightweight, comes in a carrying bag, and pops up easily in seconds. The base is sturdy and there is a zippered mesh door/window for easy access and ventilation. The canopy also provides UV50 protection.

3 Keep Baby out of the Sand

It might seem excessive, but if you have a really little one, you might want to consider bringing some sort of seat for them to sit in so that they're not constantly on their back or tummy--or in someone's arms!

Bringing a bath seat will give your baby some support as well as keep them out of the sand. Use a bath seat with a safety belt or harness for safety. If you have a baby tub with a seat in it, then that's a bonus! Your baby can sit in comfort and you can add some water to keep him or her cool!

A Bumbo seat isn't a bad idea, either. It will help baby sit up and sit still for feedings--kind of like a miniature high chair!

2 Leave the Stroller at Home

No matter how lightweight your stroller is, it can be a pain trying to push it around the beach, so you might as well leave it at home. If you have a wearable baby carrier, you're better off using it. You can carry the baby but leave your hands free to transport all of your other gear.

Another option is bringing a wagon. You can use the wagon to tote your stuff, or use it as it's intended--to tote your tots. These days, the little red wagon can come with a ton of upgrades and accessories. You can get canopies, cup holders, and cushions to make your little one's ride as comfy as can be!

1 Chill Out!

Make sure you have some aloe handy for the inevitable summer sunburn. While there's no "cure" for a sunburn, the aloe can make things feel better in the meantime. Keep aloe or other cooling creams in the fridge for an extra soothing comfort. You can even freeze aloe in ice cube trays and rub them over your skin.

You can also take cool showers or pat yourself down with cool, damp washcloths or towels to try to relieve the pain of dry, tight skin. Even though it's tempting for some, don't pick or peel your skin. Letting your skin slough off naturally will help it heal more evenly. Avoid creams with petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine. These ingredients can trap heat in  your skin and make you even more uncomfortable. You don't want that!



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