Between packing the diaper bag for a beach outing, getting sand absolutely everywhere, and worrying about squeezing in nap times and snack times, going to the beach with a baby can feel too overwhelming to be worth it.
But it is worth it. So worth it.
Beach babies are not only adorably photogenic (see below), but exposing them to the beach also introduces a whole slew of developmental benefits. Below, just 8 of the reasons to get your baby out of the air-conditioned, sterile playrooms and into the sand and sun.
1. They Explore New And Different Textures
We shell out a lot of money for toys, books and activity mats that incorporate different textures and sensory experiences. That's because exposure to various sensory experiences "can be therapeutic, improve motor skills, raise awareness of how the world works, and contribute to language acquisition," Rachelle Doorley, an early education specialist, writes on PBS Parents. Now just imagine the plethora of textures and feelings at the beach: dry sand, wet sand, rocks, shells, seaweed, water, warm sand, cold sand, wind, etc. Children act "a lot like scientists when they learn through their senses," Doorley writes, and we think the beach is a perfect laboratory.
2. They Conk Out
Sound machines that play ocean sounds and white noise have long been used to lull babies to sleep -- just don't place them too close to infants' heads or play them too loudly. But who needs a $30 machine when the ocean ambiance provides the real life version? According to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the best-selling "Happiest Baby On The Block," the sound of lapping waves and whirring breezes create a familiar sound for babies -- that of being in utero. Who wouldn't want to return to that comfort for a little while?
3. They Fall In Love With Nature
Where else can babies be exposed to such mind-boggling new things as hermit crabs or darting minnows? Research has shown that attitudes about nature are formed early and that being exposed to unstructured, outdoor environments like the beach helps babies and toddlers develop a lifelong appreciation for nature, which in turn leads to lower obesity rates and healthier lifestyles, according to a report from the Early Head Start National Resource Center.
4. They Breathe In Salt Air And Splash In Salt Water
Salt water is nature's cure for everything from a stuffy nose to eczema. Ocean water contains magnesium and its salt content can help reduce skin irritation while the beach's natural humidity can help hydrate stuffy nasal passages.
5. They Get Some Sunlight
While babies under six months old should be shaded and protected from the sun at all costs, some direct sunlight is important for toddlers and kids to produce adequate stores of Vitamin D. It doesn't take much, however. Ten to fifteen minutes is enough for most light skin tones (darker skin tones need a bit longer), which, conveniently, is about the time it takes to slather up your wriggling toddler at the beach.
6. They Are Endlessly Amused
Perhaps one of the most frustrating stages of toddlerdom is the dreaded "Again!" fascination. Toddlers just love repetition since "it’s their own scientific way of investigating the world and mastering new skills," according to Parents magazine. At home, this manifests itself by adults reading the same book over and over again or playing the same game of peek-a-boo. But at the beach, toddlers can be endlessly amused by the waves that never stop chasing them, the sand that never fails to disappoint when dumped from a bucket, and the holes that can be dug, filled in, and dug again.
7. They Gain A Sense Of Wonder
The beach is a brave new world for infants and toddlers. Think about how it feels to stand before the ocean's vastness, looking out to the horizon. Now imagine how that must feel for a toddler. This sense of wonder and awe, it turns out, is an important developmental experience as wonder has been shown to be an important motivator for lifelong learning.
8. They Can Turn Any Beach Into A Nudist Beach...
And everyone is jealous.