We get so little sun in the UK that, often, going to the beach is a spur of the moment decision. Just chuck the swimming costumes in the car boot and go. But some parents are beach ninjas and are always fully prepared for a trip to a sandy bay or even a shingle beach. They know what to take to the beach with kids to spend the day in comfort and with the minimum of accidents!
Since this heatwave is predicted to last until August, here is my list of things you might want to keep assembled somewhere to throw in the car boot now that the long summer school holiday is in sight.
We recently invested in a little pop-up tent which offers just enough space to cram 3 of us in and becomes my shady hidey hole when the kids are off playing in the sea. It’s a safe space for leaving clothes, cool boxes and towels.
Obviously one of us has to stay there but it’s great to have a base if you’re spending a few hours on the beach.
If you have little ones and the tent is open to the air, it is a good place to let them nap. Never leave them in a pushchair out in the sun, particularly between 11 am and 3 pm.
At the very least make sure you have a shade for your stroller and ensure you don’t cover it with a blanket which will make the pram extremely hot in a very short space of time.
Another great idea is to use a fitted sheet with elasticated corners. Simply wedge a picnic box or bulky item against each corner and you have your own sand-free area for plonking toddlers in.
Picnic blankets will also work as they are generally waterproof and comfortable to sit on – especially on stony beaches.
Don’t forget that sun protection is very important though – here are my tips for staying safe in the sun.
If you’ve not got too far to walk, or at least have a spare pair of hands to help you lug stuff from the car park down to the water, a comfy beach chair can make all the difference.
A windbreak will offer valuable protection from the breeze when you’re wrestling with sandwiches and also helps create a focal point for your kids to find you, should they get lost on the sand.
Why not add a colourful flag or two or perhaps one of those windmills so that it’s obvious for your kids exactly where you are situated.
It all depends on how much you can carry, of course, but if you have kids with you, you must take precautions against the sun. Beach hats, beach umbrellas, sunhats and sunglasses will also help.
Make sure you take enough sunscreen and reapply frequently. It’s also worth taking a cooling aftersun lotion for the journey home.
Take plenty of water to drink and a couple of sports drinks just in case the kids find the heat too much.
A great idea to keep little ones entertained is to take along a small paddling pool. This means they can still play in the water like their bigger brothers and sisters but you can keep an eye on them.
If you’re staying all day though, you may find this expensive and the queues prohibitive so it’s best to invest in cool boxes and to bring your own food and drinks.
Make sure you take along plenty of bin bags to take your litter home with you. There’s really no excuse for leaving it.
The temptation for the grownups is to take along some beer or wine but don’t forget that alcohol and the sun don’t mix well – and somebody still has to drive home!
Take along plenty of change for ice-creams and car park fees.
A big bottle of water is useful not only for drinking but for washing off sandy feet before you all get back in the car.
Another great idea is to take frozen bottles of water to use as ice packs for your sandwiches. When they have melted you’ll have extra water for drinking and washing.
You’ll probably need lots of wet-wipes too for sticky hands and faces. Or, more environmentally friendly, use your bottled water and take along a flannel in a ziploc bag.
Ziploc bags are also really useful for collecting bits of rubbish in as well as portioning up sandwiches and other snacks.
Buckets for collection shells and spades for digging sandcastles are vital pieces of kit, of course, as are beach balls and beach cricket and tennis sets. If there are rock pools, take along some fishing nets.
If your kids are as accident-prone as mine are, though, you’ll want to take along a first aid kit or at the very least some Savlon and some plasters.
It’s worth investing in some beach shoes for your kids to protect little feet from sharp stones.
Take enough towels for everyone – hooded towels are especially comforting for tired, wet little ones. You can even just wrap your child up in one and let them travel home that way.
It’s worth investing in a decent rucksack to carry everything. If you are trying to wrestle small children up a sandy beach to a busy car park, having your hands free is a very good thing!
If there are loos, make sure you’ve got some toilet roll, both for loo trips and drying hands. Rest assured after 10 am on a busy day there won’t be any left!
It’s nice to have a clean, dry change of clothes for travelling home in. Give everyone a cool drink, slap on the aftersun and head off tired, happy and hopefully sand free.
If your little ones suffer from car sickness though, don’t forget you’ll need to give them their travel tablets at least 30 minutes before you get back in the car.
Is there anything you would add to my list of what to take to the beach?