This story was produced in partnership with our friends at Babyganics, whose mission is to help families prepare for all of baby’s adventures.
Whether it’s on the sandy dunes of a lapping ocean, the pebbled shores of a giant lake, or a silty knoll beside a flowing river, cozying up to a body of water with your family makes for a good outing. Of course, it’s not all idyllic: the bugs, the scorching sun, and chilly breezes can throw your day in the sun into a grumpy disarray. Some pre-planning is required. Whether you’re headed lakeside or oceanfront this summer, here’s everything you need to make your family outing a success.
Find shade. Step aside, beach umbrella, the best way to get shade when you want it, where you want it is with a pop-up tent. Look for versions that have mesh window screens to allow the breeze to ventilate the space, blowing away the black flies. If you’re in a jam, you can use a tarp or heavyweight sheet, jerry-rigged with two ski poles: Bury two corners of the sheet in the sand (place a cooler or other heavy object on each corner for weight) and secure the other two corners to the handles of the poles with rope or a bungee cord, before staking the pointy ends into the sand. The lean-to style allows the breeze to flow through but keeps the direct light out.
Sand-proof your snacks. Sand happens. Just don’t let it happen in your kid’s PB & J. The first step is to get a snap-close lunch box. But don’t stop there: You can effectively prevent sand from sticking to sandwiches when the wind blows mid-bite by wrapping them in parchment paper (the stuff you line the cookie tray with before putting it in the oven to bake). Peel back the edges and use the bottom half as a pocket to hold the sandwich in. The slippery smooth surface makes a great barrier between sticky hands and food, while also preventing sand from sticking.
Bring more towels. In a perfect world, you’ll have one towel to dry your child off and another for them to sit on when the ground gets soggy or the sand is too hot. Two per person might seem like a little much, but it’s the right ratio. Trust us.
As a rule of thumb, a party of three or more kids warrants a hard-shell carryall for lunch and other edibles. Here’s how to pack it:
First… freeze items like grapes, fruit cups, and drink boxes overnight. They will thaw in the sun, and you can use them in lieu of ice to keep the cooler cold without dealing with melting cubes.
Next… in the morning, pack heavier items (see above, in addition to hard fruits and veggies) on the bottom of the cooler.
Then… pack a layer of paper towels. They double as napkins or clean-up wipes and prevent any moisture from the frozen items from making sandwiches soggy.
Finally… top it off with sandwiches, chips, and other lightweight items.
Bonus… to keep the cooler from stinking like, well, tuna on rye, place a small refrigerator odor eliminator inside the cooler.
Get the right sunscreen lotion. Keeping your little one safe in the sun should be your top priority. Skip the products made with phthalates and parabens, and choose an option like Babyganics SPF 50+ Sunscreen Lotion, crafted from natural ingredients and featuring broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
Buy a big mesh bag. Stashing plastic pails, shovels, action figures, and more in a traditional canvas tote prevents toys from drying, leading to mildew. Instead, get a laundry-style mesh bag that keeps the toys in and lets the water run out as you walk from the beach to the car.
Bring more bags, while you’re at it. For items you can’t afford to get sandy — but can’t leave at home, either — sealable bags are a lifesaver. Cellphones, eyeglasses, and watches can be kept water- and sand-free until it’s time to leave the beach.
Choose your wheels wisely. There’s only so much you can jam into your backpack. Make life easier by piling your stuff into a cart. Look for “fat-tire” styles (you can find them on Amazon or any family store that sells beach supplies), as the skinny ones will dig a deep groove in the sand, leaving you literally spinning your wheels.
There’s not much point in wearing it if you’re not wearing it right.
Bring a bed sheet (or three). Use an old flat sheet from a queen or king-size bed as your basecamp to spread your stuff out. It’s not sand-proof or waterproof, but if a thunderstorm should suddenly pop up on the horizon, all you have to do is grab each of the four corners together and you have a makeshift bag to haul towels and toys to the car in a hurry.
Switch to spray sunscreen. If your kid hates the feeling of lotion being rubbed in — or complains the process takes too long — try Babyganics SPF 50+ Sunscreen Spray instead. The tear-free formula is made without irritating fragrances and is specially formulated to be gentle on an infant or young child’s delicate skin.
Embrace a wide-brimmed hat. All of us — balding or not — need to protect the delicate skin on our scalp from the sun. Same goes for kids, especially young ones with fine hair. A hat with a wide brim is your best bet.
Be prepared for battle with bugs. A breeze-free day at the beach means there will be bugs. Protect your family from gnats, black flies, mosquitoes, and other unpleasant critters with Babyganics Natural Insect Repellant. The DEET-free formula uses citronella, peppermint, and other essential oils to naturally discourage insects. Apply every 90 minutes for best results.
Pro Tip #3: How to Snack Outside
Sweat causes the body to lose important electrolytes like sodium which can lead to muscle cramps and headaches. Here’s what you need to keep kids feeling good:
- V8 juice and pretzels provide salt, which helps the body hold onto fluid instead of sweating it all out.
- Bananas are high in potassium, another key electrolyte that maintains a healthy heart rhythm and blood pressure.
- Raisins are a great source of electrolytes calcium and magnesium, which stabilize muscle and nerve reactions.
- Water is critical to make sure kids stay hydrated. The Institute of Medicine suggests children ages 4-8 need two quarts a day (about 5 cups), but that could go up to 2.5 quarts in the heat. Make sure kids take water breaks every 20 minutes or so if they are running around in the heat.
Go fishing with the fam. Most ocean beaches are swim-only, but if you’re river or lakeside, there will likely be a dedicated area for fishing. Showing your kids how to thread a bobbin, cast a line, and develop the patience to wait (and wait and wait) before reeling in the big one are all bonding moments you’ll carry with you for years to come.
Wear layers. Early mornings by the water can be nippy at the beach even in July in the south, while midday may feel downright tropical. And when the afternoon breeze kicks in, it gets surprisingly chilly in a hurry. Dress your kids (and yourself) in easy on-off layers, like a T-shirt, button- or zip-up hoodie, and an outer water-resistant shell.
Get the right beach chair. This one is for the grown-ups. Because by the time you hit your third decade of life, the idea of spending 7 hours sitting on a lumpy towel over hard sand at an awkward incline is just… no. Choose a lightweight, foldable version, and consider armrests if you plan on doing any reading.