My guess is that most first-time parents would love to keep their babies in a nice, safe bubble. A nice, safe, dirt-free, germ-free, bug-free, and anything-else-they-can't-control-free bubble. Just me?
Shaking loose my innate helicopter parent tendencies was necessary if we were to continue doing things we loved, like oh, I don't know, living? But seriously, my husband and I were active people who enjoy the outdoors -- with the beach being a true favorite -- so I ultimately came to terms with the fact that babies get dirty, put things in their mouths, and eat sand.
But safety is still our number one concern. And now with a whack of beach vacations under our belts with babies and toddlers in tow, I'm happy to share our tips about keeping babies, toddlers, and little kids safe and happy beside the surf.
The number one tip for sun safety for babies and toddlers is to protect them from it! Set up shop under a beach umbrella or palapa, and adjust your arrangements as the sun moves. Shade is especially crucial for the littlest babies, as those under 6-months-old are too young for sunscreen. If you're unsure if your beach of choice has suitable shade, bring your own portable sun shelter. There are some great ones out there that are big enough for you, too.
It's not an option, sunscreen is necessary for every member of your family over 6 months. Choose children's formulations for the younger set, and avoid putting it on baby's hands (you know where those hands always go). SPF swimwear is also a great (and easy) way to keep kids' skin safe from the sun.
Playing at the beach is thirsty fun and it's important to keep everyone hydrated -- make sure to have plenty of fresh water and other fluids on hand. Extra water also comes in handy for the inevitable mouthful or eyeful of sand. If breastfeeding, offer extra feeds and make sure to drink enough yourself.
Also essential, hats protect little scalps and tender eyes. When they stay on, of course. Look for ones with good, strong Velcro but sometimes you need to go the route of the string. Make sure you have extras on hand -- hats do have a mysterious way of disappearing when you're not looking.
Break for lunch:
It's important to shake off the sand and take a break. The sun's rays are strongest between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., which also happen to be ideal times for snacks in the shade, and then lunch and a nap indoors. You'll head back to the beach or pool refreshed and ready to play.
The more elaborate beach toys you bring, the more you'll have to carry and keep track of. A few buckets, shovels, and a beachball are really all that's needed, and when your beach babies are old enough, have them pitch in to help carry the load.
Things can happen in the blink of an eye, and you don't want that blink to happen at the beach. A watchful eye is essential at all times, not just at the water's edge, but also to avoid ingesting seashells, or stepping on something sharp. Toddlers with a tendency to bolt should be relegated to full-time life jackets, and PFDs, water wings, and other floaties are not substitutes for supervision. Even very strong little swimmers should always be within arm's reach while in the water.
Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel - inspiring, motivating, and helping families travel with babies, toddlers, and young children since 2007. Connect with her via Facebook or Twitter.