You can picture it in your mind. Sitting in your comfy beach chair, toes in the sand and beach waves crashing in the not too far distance. The sounds of your small children laughing with delight fill the air around you. Wait, what? That is not at all how it actually goes. One child doesn’t like the feel of the sand on their feet, another is running around chasing the sea gulls and screaming at them, and the quiet one he is headed straight for the water without an adult. Yep, that sounds more like it. Going to the beach for a week or even a day can be so stressful for parents.
As the summer winds down our family decided we needed one more trip to the beach before school. We have learned through the years how to have a successful day at the beach without too much stress, but it took lots of trials and errors to get us there. I thought I would start August by sharing some of our tips and tricks that may be helpful for your family too.
I know my kids, so I know before I get out of the car, I remind them of our golden beach rule. No one is allowed in the water without an adult. I gather my focus and set my expectations low. That may sound odd to set your expectations low but honestly the lower they are the better the day is for us. I know there will be tears and yelling today from my kids, but I also know there will be laughter and fun. That they will get that gross motor activity my youngest needs so badly and my oldest will get his sensory needs met by having the waves hit him over and over again while my middle gets to explore and ask questions about everything he finds. I know I will need to remind myself that I don’t know anyone else on that beach and will never see them again so if we have a tantrum or two and get some looks it is all good.
Sand, where do you even begin. I have a son who is a sensory seeker and one who is an avoider. My family can all now manage the beach in flip flops. We have been able to leave the water shoes at home for a bit now and know to wait till we get to our base camp to touch the sand. But water shoes can be a life saver if your child doesn’t like the feel of sand. We worked really hard to get here but here we are walking across the sand in flip flops. I always bring a sheet with me for our base camp. I tend to like a fitted sheet inside out better. Then you can create pockets to fill with sand or shoes to hold it down. The sheet is our no walk zone. (A work in progressfor everyone to understand this.) This means you can’t walk through the sheet, only around it. We bring a travel sized baby powder with us as well. Sand on my son’s hands is still a huge deal for him. So instead of wiping his hands off in a towel which is probably filled with sand too he sprinkles baby powder on them and rubs them together. Sand free and happy again. And yes, we go through an entire travel sized baby powder every day at the beach because he does this himself.
Running, is a must at the beach for my oldest. Actually, any wide-open space is. So, after base camp is set up, we turn to getting boundaries set for him. Sometimes this means we have to put a random beach chair away from where we are sitting but most of the time, we just use the houses and buckets to mark where he can go. He is old enough now to help determine this with us. It gives him the freedom to feel the wind in his hair and us to not be exhausted chasing him.
Exploring, opportunities abound at the beach. Children are naturally curious. We have learned that the more our children know about where they are and what they are seeing the more at ease they feel there. So, we actively encourage them to explore what they see, feel, and hear. We started this out by talking to them about what the sand is. We got shells and let them pulverize them into sand like bits. They got to see that the sharp sand is just shells not crushed enough and not a big something coming out of the sand to bite them. Exploring the actual water is newer for us. We bought a net for each of them two years ago and have even now graduated to masks. A favorite of theirs is to put on a life vest and float in the shallow waters trying to catch the small fish. Yes, each of my children have a life vest and 9 times out 10 if they are in the ocean, they have it on. Again, we talked to them about what a life vest is. Why it is important for them to wear one and let them be part of the process of picking out their own.
At the end of our trip we will have had some tears, someone will have yelled at least once or twice but we will also have played, laughed, and explored together as a family. As the summer draws to the end our family is looking forward to our one last beach trip and I hope yours does too.
By Kim Nolder