How to survive a day at the beach with a toddler

I forgot what it is like to bring a small wiggly child to the beach. I forgot how needy and curious a wee one is. And how little he can hold in his attention or for what impish amount of time. It’s easy to forget this at home where everything is baby-proofed. But you can’t baby-proof nature. Can you?

My oldest son, Loud Child is now four. He is content to dig a hole in the sand until he remembers that there is a body of water that he can splash and jump and swim in. He no longer requires my constant hovering. He gets a slathering of sunscreen, a bucket of sand toys and instructions to stay between this and that.


I spread out a blanket but I don’t get a chance to get cozy in a sunny spot. Not with a newly minted toddler in tow. Something as simple as spreading a blanket turns into comedic calamity pretty quickly.

This is what I mean:

Me: Spreading out a blanket on the sand.

Child: Jumps on blanket while half of it is still floating down toward the sand.

Me: Remove child from blanket and try to straighten the now trampled blanket.

Child: Screeches in delight as he throws his entire body at the airborne blanket.

Me: Pick the child up and put him in the stroller, start over with the blanket.

Child: Escapes from stroller because I was too frazzled to remember to strap him in.

Me: Jump nearly out of my skin when I see my child flying through the air AT THE DAMN BLANKET AGAIN!

I give up about the stupid blanket. I let him lose his mind jumping on it, playing peek-a-boo under it, and then spitting up on it.

You win kid. It’s yours now.

Meanwhile, Loud Child is happily chatting up a pack of other children. Every one of them has a stick or shovels in hand and is ready to bury someone or something in the sand. A tween volunteers his body to the cause and my kid beats his chest like a warrior and shouts, “YEAH!” along with the other kids. They begin digging a giant hole.

Having already given up my comfortable beach blanket, I plop down on a towel in defeat. Sensing that I have less than no interest in the now funky smelling blanket, my toddler waddles over to me and puts his head on my chest. He’s tired. He wants to nurse. I foolishly think this means he might nap. Wrong.

While lying in my arms and latching on he gazes down and notices shells and rocks, sand and sea glass. And oh my, how lovely those must feel and taste in a toddler mouth. He wiggles free from my arms and begins his misadventure in taste testing the entire beach.

An hour later I am ready to cry. This is what I mean:

  • The last of the sunscreen splattered out of the tube after being jumped on.
  • The bottle of water was dumped out into the lunch box ruining my sandwich.
  • I cut my toe when I stepped into my shoe and found a broken crab shell.
  • A toddler meltdown over my removing sand from his mouth.

By the end of the trip Loud Child had successfully been initiated into a band of hooligans hell bent on burying everyone at the beach. The toddler had worn himself out from each of his 732 dastardly plots to upturn the beach in his on going search to gratify his curiosity.

And I was ready to drive straight home and pour a glass of wine.

Summer isn’t a relaxing deal with little kids. There is no poolside lounging. There is no catching up on reading. There are soggy sandwiches, ingested sand, and burning red skin.

But it is fun. When I remember to let my guard down.

Recommend this article
Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Sarah Cottrell is a member of the Stay-At-Home-Mom Club and proud herder of two loud boys. She earned her MFA in 2012 and then accidentally washed it in a load of laundry. Sarah's work can be found on popular websites like Mamalode, BlogHer, and Scary Mommy. Her work will appear in two new parenting anthologies in 2015.