The beach is great at entertaining kids all on it’s own. There are seashells, hermit crabs, sea glass, and tide pools with star fish and sea anemone, plus sand and pebbles for building and burying. But there are a few things that come in handy when spending the day at the beach.
The #1 beach rule is: Bring plenty of water! I usually keep a couple re-usable water bottles in the freezer that I can throw into the beach bag. Also, we have an Igloo Sports Jug that works wonderfully well! We fill it up with ice cubes and water and the water stays cold all the way to the last drop.
Plus, we have been lucky enough to find an alternate water source on our island- Niu (Samoan for coconuts). In American Samoa they grow everywhere. A few weeks ago, we headed out for a beach day and by the time we got to the beach, we realized that most of our water was gone (our kids had been very thirsty). There’s nothing worse than being thirsty at a hot, salt-water beach. There weren’t any stores nearby, so we went hunting for coconuts. We harvested a few, cracked them open, and enjoyed the sweet, refreshing waters of some young Niu.
A towel at the beach can have many different uses, the most obvious being, to dry off. A towel can also be used as a screen for a shy swimmer to change behind. It can be laid on the ground and used as a picnic blanket, nap mat, or changing pad (for diaper-wearing babies). A towel can be used for protection from the hot sun or a sudden rain shower. It can be wrapped around and used as a sarong.
Our favorite towel is one from Simple Sarong. It’s a terry-cloth, convertible cover-up, that doubles as towel and sarong. It’s cute, comfortable, and handy. It buttons around you, so there are no complicated wrapping methods to remember and you can be confidently hands-free for more important things like holding little hands or newly discovered sea shells. It’s one potential flaw is that it can get heavy when wet. Luckily, the buttons keep it held securely up, but if it’s wet, I wouldn’t recommend wearing it for long hikes back from the beach.
Sun burns are the worst! And totally avoidable! I keep a bottle of water-proof sunscreen in the beach bag, ready to go. Medical professionals suggest using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and no higher than 50. The recommendation is to apply sunscreen early, thick, and often: at least 20 minutes before sun exposure, two millimeters/ square inch (which means it should be visible), and reapply at least every two hours.
Most people don’t use enough, do you?
Keep in mind that applying sunscreen is not the only recommended protection from the sun’s rays. High-quality sunglasses are necessary for protecting your eyes. Also, make sure to seek out some shade for part of the time.
Whether we’re spending an hour or all day at the beach, we like to bring food with us, so we’re not forced away by growling stomachs. We bring a variety of salty and sweet snacks. We usually relax the rules of healthy eating on our beach days, combining a mixture of healthy and junk.
Our bodies need electrolytes when we’re sweating in the sun or working hard playing in the water. The best way to replenish them is through the foods we eat. Healthy choices might include: Nuts, seaweed, bananas, raisins, and celery. You can guess the less-than-healthy options: Chips, pretzels, and sports drinks. Sometimes we just crave something sweet after playing in the salty water; we like to bring a combination of fresh fruits (melon, grapes, papaya, bananas, apples, and oranges) and cookies (make sure they’re the kind that won’t melt all over).
Our family loves being able to get into the water and explore the world below. If you’re planning on snorkeling, you’ll want to make sure that you have the full set-up: Mask, snorkel, fins and wet-suit (if necessary).
As opposed to goggles, a mask is necessary if you’re planning on diving down. Most of us don’t dive deep enough to be in danger of our eyes popping (unless your my part-fish hubby) but the pressure on our eyes quickly increases to the point of discomfort when diving down. The snorkel is the tube that allows us to breath under water, with one end staying above the surface. Before you enter the water, be sure to inspect it for cracks and proper seal if your snorkel has a splash guard on top or sump valve at the bottom.
Fins, though not necessary, help propel you through the water. If you’ve ever tried swimming without fins, you’ll know it can be slow going. Depending on where you’re snorkeling and how long you’re going to be in the water, some sort of wet suit is may be recommended. With just a little research you can be prepared for whatever water temperatures you’ll be diving into. Here in American Samoa, the average water temperatures vary from 82-87 F (27-31 C) year-round which is about the same as a warm bath, meaning that we rarely need to suit up when snorkeling.
Of course, there are more things that are handy or fun to bring to the beach, but with this simple list, you’re sure to have what you need for a fun time. Before jumping into new waters, check the water conditions and this Beach Safety Post, then you’ll be ready for a day of fun and relaxation!