Toddler laying in sand on beach

Post Summary: A complete guide to the absolute must-have beach essentials for toddlers and babies as well as a list of what’s really nice to bring, but not absolutely necessary.

Beach Essentials for Toddlers

Long days lazing at the beach stands out as some of our happiest times spent together as a family. I’d also be remiss to say it can also be some of the most stressful and agonizing times to be together. It’s funny how that works. When going to the beach with a baby or toddler, preparation of all the right beach gear is vital to avoid meltdowns and fatigue. After having lived close to the beach for 15 years and planning our own toddler beach days, we now have it down to a science and have crafted the ultimate packing list of beach essentials for toddlers.  

We’ve made two lists for your beach planning purposes. The first one is a toddler beach essentials list that we think is absolutely necessary.  The second list is things to bring to the beach with a toddler that would be reaaaallly nice and make life a lot easier, but can be skipped if you’re traveling to a beach vacation with a toddler and don’t want to bring too much stuff.

Table of Contents

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Beach With Toddlers Checklist

1. Toddler Swim Gear

Top of the list for beach must-haves is making sure you have all the proper swimming essentials for toddlers. Even though most babies won’t be swimming in the ocean per se, you’ll want all the protective swimwear to keep their skin safe from the sand and sun.

  •  Rash Guard Buying a rash guard that covers the entire arm is a great way to protect your toddler’s sensitive skin from the harsh midday sun.  We love the Hurley Swim Set (for boys) and the Simple Joys (for girls) because it has UPF 50+ protection and has a lightweight dry-fit design. Check here for other highly rated rash guards.

  •  Floaties or Life VestEven though most toddlers won’t be swimming, having them wear floaties or a life vest when they are playing is a great way to reinforce safe swimming practices. We like this life jacket from Body Glove because it is coast guard approved. Because it’s meant to be a life-saving device, it does not inflate and deflate, so it may not be the best choice for travel. If you want something that can flatten and take up less space, you can opt for this space-saving swim vest from Splash About. It helps kids float and learn how to swim, but isn’t created to be a life-saving device. Since most parents aren’t leaving their wee ones to swim in the water, it’s a good option for casual beach days.

  • Baby Carrier – Another excellent option for swimming with a toddler or a baby is the Bitybean Ultra Compact Baby Carrier. It’s a baby toddler carrier that can be submerged into water, so you can wear your toddler while walking through the shallow waters. We love it and always bring it as an option when we’re going to the pool or beach.

  • Swim DiapersPretty self-explanatory, but where there are babies, there are diapers. While cute re-usable swim diapers like these are the most economical and environmentally friendly choice, you can also opt for disposable swim diapers. Swim diapers are different than everyday diapers in that they won’t absorb water and weigh your baby down, but will keep everything in if they soil the diaper.

Toddler Beach Shoes


We think the best toddler beach shoes are the Jefferson slip-ons from Native Shoe Company. They are waterproof shoes that can easily be worn in the water as well as afterward when your family is strolling along the boardwalk. Their versatility, along with their lightweight slip-on design and vibrant colors, makes them a clear cut win when looking for beach shoes for toddlers. We like to travel light, so anything that can be used for multiple uses is a winner for me. Check here for current prices.

If you want classic water shoes that are affordable and simple, then buying a basic water shoe like this will be all you need to protect their feet from the hot sand and rocks.

Lastly, you can also opt to use all-purpose beach sandals for toddlers. The Teva Kids Sandal is great for days at the beach or hiking along creeks and riverbeds.

2. Sun Protection for Toddlers

One of the most important things in your beach necessities for toddlers list is excellent sun protection. Their sensitive skin needs a lot of care, so it’s best to go overboard when it comes to these things.

  • Toddler Sun Screen – The best sunscreen for toddlers will be a mineral-based sunblock that has no harsh additives like parabens or fragrances. While sunscreen sprays and sticks can seem convenient, the safest bet is to use a cream sunblock like Goddess Garden’s gentle sunscreen for babies. We like that it is mineral-based, is reef safe, and is only 3.4 ounces so it can easily be packed with carry on luggage.

  • Sunhat – There are so many cute sun hats to choose from, but after trying everything from baseball hats to sun brim hats, we found the best sun hat for toddlers is one that has neck and side flaps to offer the most sun protection. We love this hat from Brook + Bay for its cute patterns, UPF 50+ protection, quick-dry material, and it’s front strap.

  • Sunglasses – My boy would never wear sunglasses when he was a baby, but something shifted after he turned 1, and now he loves wearing his sunglasses when it’s sunny outside. We always opt for sunglasses like these from Cocosand that offer 100% UVA and UVB protection. They are built to be handled by toddlers (smashproof) and come with a strap, so fiddling fingers can’t pull it off.

3. Blanket and Beach Towels for Toddlers

While any beach towel will do the job, we prefer oversized microfiber quick-dry towels like these that double up as blankets and towels. While they don’t have the big fluffy feel of a towel, they are more convenient because they don’t trap sand, and it folds down to a compact packable size.  We also can’t resist the cuteness of hooded beach towels for toddlers like these. They’re so easy to throw over so that even when they’re drying off, they can continue to move around and play.

4. Toddler Beach Toys

The great thing about the beach is its nature’s playground, so there’s no need to lug in a bunch of toys from home. All you need are a few tried and true classic beach toys for your toddler beach packing list.

Sandbox Toys – Is there anything more classic than building sandcastles or digging through sand for hours on end at the beach? A simple set of sandbox toys will keep your toddler delighted for hours.  We like this sand toy set because it’s an 18 piece set that comes with a mesh bag making it easy to pack in and pack out.

Other simple beach toys for toddlers are:

5. Beach Snacks For Toddlers

Keeping an even-tempered toddler is paramount to having a great day at the beach. Bringing lunch, snacks, and water is top on the list for things to take on the beach with a toddler. While you know what your child likes best, we find you can never go wrong with fresh-cut fruit, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and salty chips.

For water or liquids, we always use our hydro flask cup. Put ice in the flask before you leave, and it will stay ice-cold for up to 24 hours. We love that we don’t have to pack a cooler and that it doesn’t sweat.  Check out colors and prices here.

6. Toddler Beach Bag

Lastly, you’ll want a see-through mesh bag to pack up all your toddler beach essentials. We like a mesh bag like this because it has multiple compartments for storing things, and it’s mesh design allows you to easily shake off the sand at the end of the day.

If you want a deluxe bag, you can try out the ToteCooler bag that comes with a built-in cooler. Check here for current prices.

A few extra things to remember to pack into your beach tote for your toddler beach day are:

  • extra diapers
  • change of clothes
  • wet/dry bags or plastic bags for wet items
  • wipes
Toddler Playing on Beach

Beach Essentials For Toddlers

Now that you know what is an absolute must when it comes to toddler beach essentials, let’s look at items that aren’t dire, but will go a long way to make your day or vacation at the beach even more enjoyable.

Optional Beach With Toddlers Checklist

Beach Wagon For Toddlers

Having a beach wagon for toddlers may seem like an unnecessary expense, but these collapsible wagons with thick wheels can often replace a stroller and are useful for many other things than just a beach day. We love them because it makes transporting little ones and all the supplies so much easier! When looking for the best beach wagon for toddlers, you’ll want one that packs up easily, has a sunshade, comes with large all-terrain wheels, and an extended handle, so you don’t have to bend over to pull it. We like the Beau Jardin push wagon cart.  Check here for more reviews and the current price.

Beach Shade For Toddlers

Making sure you have adequate shade is just as much for you as it is for your kids. You can make your stay as comfortable as possible by investing in a beach tent, or you can get an umbrella that you prop against the ground or push into the sand.

While there are small beach tents explicitly made for kids, we think the best beach tent for toddlers is one the entire family can enjoy. When choosing a tent, make sure to get one that easily pops open, so you don’t have to spend 30 minutes putting your beach tent together. Some people also like having a beach tent so their baby or toddler can take a nap. I want to meet these unicorn toddlers that take naps at the beach, but if it works for you, it’s a great perk!  We like this UPF 50+ pop up tent from Easthills Outdoors. 

If you want something smaller, you can’t go wrong with a big beach umbrella. We like the Sport-Brella because it has vented sides and side flaps for extra protection.  Check here for reviews and prices.

Beach Chairs For Toddlers

Having a comfy beach chair while your child plays goes a long way in making the day more comfortable.  While I’m sure there are beach chairs made specifically for young kids, there’s really no need to buy beach chairs for your kids. For you? Yes. We recommend buying cheap beach chairs from a local store and making it easy. If you’re wanting something with more durability and extra frills, these lightweight camping/beach chairs are highly rated on Amazon. Check out the price and reviews here.

Beach Hacks For Toddlers

Now that you’ve got a handle on what the main beach essentials are for toddlers, here are a few mom-approved hacks you can use for your day at the beach.

  • Use bentonite clay to remove sand from feet. Sprinkle a little bit of dry clay on your little one’s feet to easily remove the sand from their feet.  You can also use baby powder, but I prefer clay because I can’t stand buying things I don’t use a lot. With bentonite clay, I can make fun face masks at home! 
  • Bring a small kiddie pool that your baby or toddler can play in. Fill it up with ocean water and sand and rest easy knowing they are safe and away from the sea. It’s also a great way to keep them out of the sun if you can prop up a beach umbrella to cover it.
  • Set your phone timer to go off every hour, so you remember to reapply everyone’s sunblock. 
  • If your toddler is potty trained or in the process of being potty trained, bring a portable potty with you.  So much easier than using public restrooms.

Enjoy your fun in the sun with your toddler! We hope you enjoyed our list of beach essentials for toddlers. Leave us a comment and share your best tips for going to the beach with your kids. 

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Baby playing in sand on beach
Boy playing on beach
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