They may be king or queen of the sandpit by now, but taking a trip to the seaside is a whole other kettle of fish. First up, there's a lot more sand, and baby might not like how easily it sticks to their fingers and toes. My toddler took a great dislike to sand when they first gave it a try, although they calmed down a bit after a little paddle in the sea.
If your little one is as cool as a cucumber in the face of weird new textures (sunblock and pebbles included), you might just have a happy mini beachcomber on your hands. To prepare for that first sandy outing – whether you're heading to the local pebbly resort or on your first overseas family adventure – here's my guide to braving the beach.
beach essentials for baby
If it’s summertime, you’ll need the usual sun-safe accessories like sunblock and a hat. A lot of baby swimwear is designed to provide UV protection, and you can pop some cool shades on them too to protect their eyes.
Swim nappies are better at coping with the beach environment, but pack a spare baby swimsuit just in case of mini explosions.
Top tip: apply the sunblock before you reach the beach, otherwise you’ll end up with a pebble-dashed baby. To avoid bringing the beach home, bring a bottle of water and a soft towel to wash the sand off, then pop their feet straight into a pair of shoes that you've kept safely in a bag.
beach activities for babies and toddlers
Younger children will start off by trying to grab the sand, simply getting used to the feel of the grains on their fingers. Some little ones will try to eat it – which is, of course, a baby's natural response to any and every new object (how else would they keep us constantly on our toes?).
Older babies may spend hours solemnly transferring sand from one container to another, so plastic cups make great baby beach toys. Toddlers also love digging holes (just be careful how deep they go!), and you can help them make their first sandcastles.
The sea can seem very big, so rock pools and sea puddles make for a gentler start to paddling. On a calmer day, introduce baby to tiny, foot-tickling waves. Begin by standing in the shallows, holding your baby or toddler up so they can see the sea. Gently lower their toes into the water – and see what they do!
When they’re happy with the sensation of the sea on their feet (and it may take a few attempts), hold tightly to both their hands and let them have a little paddle. For easier water play, fill a bucket with water, and have lots of messy fun on the sand!
rainy days at the seaside
For the most part, toddlers really don’t care if it’s drizzling. Get out the waterproofs and wellies, and head for the coast. You’ll find the beach pleasantly empty, and at low tide, there’ll be plenty of room for scampering on the sand. Search for little stones, shells or sea glass, then take them home to turn them into a picture or mosaic.
On cooler days when it’s not raining, head back to those rock pools to explore. Older toddlers can look out for little sea creatures, or splash in shallower pools in their wellies. Just be sure to pack a change of clothes – a day on the beach isn't complete if someone doesn't get soggy!