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Best beach and sand toys for kids

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Sun, surf and fun!

Hitting the beach this summer? You'll need some good toys in tow for your kids to make it extra fun. Here are some great picks to keep your kids happy while at the beach.

Now that we have the unofficial start to summer behind us, it's time to start planning those beach days! You know the basics that you will need like towels and sunscreen, but what else should you take? Before you head to the shore, you need to pick up some great toys to enjoy with the kids.

So, what toys and beach gear are hot picks? From sand pails to water toys that are sure to make your kids smile, there is something perfect for everyone in our list. Check it out.

Sand toys

Melissa Doug Happy Pal

What kid doesn't like to plop down in the sand and pile it up? With these toys, your kids can get down and dirty in the sand while having a fun of smiles, giggles and laughs. They're going to love these ideas!

For the beginner: Have a beach newbie? The Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Happy Giddy Pail (toysrus.com, $9.99) is adorable for the littlest beach goers. It's big, happy smile, bright colors and finger-friendly handle are sure to get your child excited about heading to the beach, playing in the sand and collecting shells.

For the fun-lover: Sand castles aren't the only use for all that sand at the beach. In fact, if you have a kid who loves to just have fun (and cook!) then the Seaside Sidekicks Sand Baking Set (Fat Brain Toys, $14.95) is perfect. It comes with a bucket and kitchen tools such as whisks and measuring cups - perfect for creative beach fun.

For the intense sand-player: Have a budding competitive sandcastle builder? Give them the tools to build like the pros with the iPlay Beach Builder Create-A-Castle (amazon.com, $34.99). It's an 18-piece set designed to help kids pack, level and build impressive towering castles in the sand. And it comes with its own storage bag, so you don't need to worry about losing any pieces.

Beach games

Spalding Beach Toss

Games aren't just for family game night. These fun toys will help you take your family's gaming addiction to the sand, and have a lot of enjoyment in the process.

Back and forth: There is something so perfect about pulling out a Spalding Beach Toss (amazon.com, $5.99) set at the beach. The game allows two players to toss a ball back and forth, catching it in a nifty hard-plastic net. Also fun is the Franklin Sport Grip Paddleball set (amazon.com, $11.99). Anyone can play the fun game where you hit a ball back and forth.

Classic fun: When you have room on the beach, the familiar clink-clink of horseshoes is awesome fun. Check out the wallet-friendly Sportcraft Horseshoes Set (walmart.com, $20).

Laughter rocks: If you are heading somewhere with calm waters, the Fast Lane Radio-Control Thunder Racing Jet Boat (toysrus.com, $14.99) would be so much fun. Your kids can take turns zipping it around ... or get two so they can race!

Fun in the surf

Zebra Rideable Raft

When you are headed to the beach, of course the kids want to take a dip in the water. These toys will make it all the more fun!

Splash around: If your kids love spraying each other while playing in the water, then the Aquablaster (L.L. Bean, $17.95) could be the perfect toy to bring along. It's a water gun, but doesn't look like one (at all!) that is perfectly shaped for slipping into the beach bag. Just pump some water into the barrel and get squirting each other.

Ride on: It's so much fun to hop on a great ride-on toy in the water. The Zebra Rideable Raft (toysrus.com, $24.99) has plenty of places to grab onto ... and it's so darn cute.

Video: How to build a cool sand castle

Impress your kids! Get tips here on how to build a sandcastle.

More tips for fun in the sun:

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