Beach-Bound Toddler: 11 Essentials for Fun in the Sun, Sand, and Surf

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I remember when the beach was a relaxing place to be. When all you had to bring was your tanning oil (tsk-tsk), your towel, your thermos of cold wine, and a stack of magazines and chick lit. Those were the glory days.

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Alas, now, going to the beach looks very different. When kids are in the picture, you need about four giant bags with clothes, diapers, swim diapers, snacks, drinks, toys, snacks, SPF 20, SPF 50, SPF 100, and did I mention, SNACKS!?! No, the beach is no longer a place of relaxation. Quite the contrary—but, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not a totally fun and completely worthwhile family excursion. It's still awesome—it just requires lots of STUFF. (Then again, doesn't everything when kids are involved?)

To celebrate the start of beach season, we've rounded up 11 absolute must-haves for a day spent playing in the sand and dipping in the surf (or, you know, chasing your sun-exhausted toddlers around the dunes). I'm sorry to say it, but you may need a bigger car.

1. igloo Cooler Tote, $25: Cold drinks and refreshing snacks are a necessity when you have two toddlers who overheat like mine do. This cooler tote is small enough that I can throw it into my huge beach bag, but big enough to accommodate all of our refreshments.

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2. Pacific Breeze EasyUp Beach Tent, $65: The tent is best when you have a non-mobile infant, but it's still useful for toddlers who like to nap, snack, and seek refuge from the relentless rays. This one pops up right up with minimal assembly required.

3. Babiators, $20: If your little will keep a pair of shades on his or her face (cuteness!), then these are the best!

4. Blue Lizard SPF 30, $29: I have tried my fair share of "baby-safe" sunscreens, and this one is by far my favorite. It's extremely effective without the use of harsh ingredients and chemicals. And unlike many of its competitors, this SPF lotion is much thinner and easier to apply. Also, the bottle turns bright pink when it's exposed to harmful UV rays to remind you to reapply to yourself and the kids!

5. Sandusa Towel, $50: With kids in the picture, it's nearly impossible to avoid trekking heaps and piles of sand back to the car, but this towel helps. It's the first waterproof and sand-proof towel—which means less mess for you to clean up!

6. Earth's Best Yogurt Smoothie, $23 (12 pack): I always pop a few of these fresh from the fridge in the cooler bag before we hit the beach. They make healthy and refreshing on-the-go treats.

7. iPlay Protective Sun Hat, $12: I love the ample brim on this unisex sun hat. It also boasts UPF 50—so it's really working to protect your toddler from the sun.

8. Tommee Tippee Filtered Water Bottle, $7: Juices are great and all, but fresh drinking water is an essential at the beach. This bottle filters out all the bad stuff as your little drink—so you can refill it at a water fountain, as needed.

9. Folding Chair, $20: Sometimes my babies like to sit in the sand or on the blanket; other times, they want to lounge in their own chairs just like Mom and Dad. These mini versions of adult beach chairs are not only cute, they also fold up slim, and feature a built-in shade-umbrella.

10. Stride Rite Made2Play Phibians, $36: This genius shoe is a cross between a rubber croc, a sneaker, and a water shoe. It's pretty much the greatest invention ever. Toddlers can wear them in the water, on the sand, at the playground, and everywhere in between.

11. Kidoozie Portable Castle Sand Pit, $27: While this doesn't quite keep the kids corralled, I do like that it gives them a designated home base for playing and building sand castles.

 This is not a sponsored post. It may contain affiliate links. All opinions are our own.

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