This is probably the most important item in your beach bag. Make sure you have sufficient sunscreen protection for yourself and your children. The sun's ultraviolet rays are at their strongest during the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, so limit your time in the sun during those hours.
Choose a sunscreen lotion that is at the very least 15 SPF, more appropriate for children is an SPF of 30 or more. Be sure to adequately apply the sunscreen to all exposed skin, including ears, nose and neck. Speak to your doctor about sunscreen and babies under six months of age.
Don't forget your lips! Bring along sun protective lip balm with an SPF of 15 or more. An aloe-based after-sun lotion is a great way to soothe your skin after a day in the sun so apply after your day at the beach.
Sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays, sun hats with brims, and beach umbrellas are all wonderful items to have along for added protection. Babies under six months old should wear protective clothing, a brimmed sun hat and if possible, baby sunglasses that protect from harmful UV rays. Babies should not spend a lot of time in the sun, but if they are, keep them protected! A first aid kit with bandages, an antibiotic cream and other essentials is an excellent idea as well.
There are chairs made specifically for the beach, they sit low to the ground and fold up neatly, often they include a handy shoulder strap. Don't count on the beach having chairs for its guests! A blanket is another nice thing to bring along. Not only is it comfortable to sit on, but it's a welcome comfort from the hot sand on bare feet.
Kids love digging and building in the sand, it's a must for a beach visit. There is a huge variety of toys on the market made specifically for water play. Nerf balls and lightweight canvas Frisbee discs are great because they float and often come in neon colors so they can be seen easily.
Don't forget the standard shovels and pails, sand diggers and sand sifters, all which are great for building sand castles, sifting for shells and rocks and pouring water into makeshift motes. Bring along a plastic jar to collect shells. A butterfly or small fishing net can be loads of fun for catching small minnows near lake shorelines! Let's not forget the old beach standby, the beach ball. Squirting water toys are also a blast and can keep the kids busy for hours. Goggles and water masks are great, but can be easily lost in the water. Be sure to bring along extras! There are hundreds of different kinds of beach and water toys, bring along what your family will enjoy.
Most public beaches do not allow items such as floating rafts, noodles, or "arm floaties" as they are not Coast Guard-approved swim or safety wear. Check with your beach lifeguards or town officials to see what they will or will not allow. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are welcome and recommended for young swimmers, even those who have recently learned to swim, for safety purposes. Many beaches offer free loaner lifejackets, or they offer them for a nominal fee.
Bring towels along for each member of your family. Bringing along an extra or two cannot hurt, especially of little Timmy decides to take his into the water with him!
Being in the sun can quickly dehydrate you. Bring along bottled water, enough for everyone in your family. Check with your beach and see if coolers are allowed so that you can keep it nice and cold. If your beach does allow coolers, this is a great way to save money on snacks. Instead of buying from the beach concession stand, bring along fresh fruit, pretzels, cold sandwiches and carrot sticks.
Bringing along an extra T-shirt or pair of shorts is not a bad idea. If your beach trip will continue on into the evening, bring a windbreaker or sweat jacket for everyone, just in case the temperature dips down. Be sure that everyone has adequate footwear -- swim shoes are a great idea as well, especially for rocky beaches.
Don't forget your camera! You can purchase waterproof disposable cameras to capture all of those sunny moments. Inexpensive one-time-use cameras are also available for underwater use!
Now that you are ready to head off to the beach, here's a summarization of everything we have suggested. Check each item off to see if you are ready to roll!
___ Sunscreen (at least 15 SPF)
___ Lip balm
___ Aloe after sun lotion
___ First aid kit
___ Sun hat
___ Beach umbrella
___ Chairs, blanket
___ Pail & shovel
___ Nerf type ball and/or lightweight nylon Frisbee disc
___ Sand digger and sifter
___ Goggles or masks
___ Plastic jar for collecting shells
___ Life jackets
___ Towels (and extras)
___ Bottled water
___ Snacks (if allowable)
___ Extra clothing and footwear
___ Water/swim shoes
___ Waterproof camera or waterproof disposable camera
A special note: remember, if you find live snails, crabs, fish, starfish or other underwater lifeforms, observe them, then put them back. Only take home empty shells, fossilized starfish and rocks.
Be sure to discuss water safety with your kids before going, and enjoy your trip to the beach!
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