What a Beach Day with Toddlers is Really Like

It's not quite fun in the sun.

What a Beach Day with Toddlers is Really Like

My husband is a beach guy. He has olive-colored skin that never seems to burn and runs into the waves without any hesitation. He grew up a block away from the ocean, and his childhood memories include endless summer days of body surfing and playing beach volleyball with his cousins.

My memories of the beach include long treks from the blazing hot parking lot to the actual sand, and my mom never bringing enough sunscreen or enough potato chips. I always, without fail, ended up with a massive sunburn and three pounds of sand in the crotch of my bathing suit that I’d have to sit with the entire hot car ride home.


Still, I cannot escape a whole summer without at least one trip to my husband’s Happy Place and so, we are embarking on the dreaded Beach Trip. Here is my diary:

5:20 am: Toddler wakes up, asks if it is time to go swimming. We tell him no, it is not even time to be awake. Big brother wakes up. Wants us to know he hates the beach and does not want to go.

7 am: Breakfast. Husband makes the boys pancakes, and I lie in bed planning the logistics of taking my children to the beach. My dear friend K texts to say that she and her family are also headed to the same beach. They are already packing up the car.

8:30 am: We still have not left the house. Also, I have run out of the sunscreen with the picture of the sun on it, so I must bribe Big Brother with Hershey’s Kisses so I can lather the “yucky” sunscreen on his precious epidermis.

8:45 am: Finally in the car, and there’s an accident on the BQE because FUCK ME. Both kids want snacks. I remind them they’ve just had breakfast. Big Brother reminds us that he hates the beach. Toddler asks if we are swimming yet. Big Brother would like the radio to play “Hello” by Adele RIGHT NOW and refuses to believe that the radio does not take requests.

9:50 am: We have arrived at my husband’s aunt’s house by the beach. It has been only ten minutes, but I am already building up resentment that my husband gets to enjoy some alone time on the beach while setting up the umbrellas and chairs.

10:20 am: Text from husband saying that he’s just about ready for us. Both children proclaim an inability to use their legs, so I am stuck carrying one 2 year old and one nearly 5 year old in each arm, plus a diaper bag and my own beach bag all the way to the beach.

10:35 am: I’m sweaty, and the kids are slipping out of my arms. My husband – who has already taken a refreshing dip like it ain’t no thang – has set us up with a small village of sorts.

10:50 am: Big Brother has to poop and only wants me to take him.

11:20 am: Rosé time and early lunch. Hooray! We’ve brought tuna sandwiches and many kid-friendly foods that my children are now refusing to eat. My friend and I settle into a nice conversation, and I start to get a buzz. I wonder if maybe the beach isn’t so bad after all.

12 pm: Hot as blazes now. Big Brother decides he is interested in looking at the ocean a little more closely, insists that I come with him. I’m annoyed because I was enjoying convo with my friend and also that rosé. Meanwhile, Toddler has been throwing himself kamikaze like into the water since we got there, giving me a heart attack every 30 seconds. Ocean is still far too cold for my liking.

12:10 pm: Big Brother has change of heart with regard to ocean, wants to go all in. Wants Mommy to come in too. Why don’t my children enjoy other kinds of beach activities, like building sand castles, or digging for crabs or condoms? My friend’s kids are engaged in burying each other up to their necks, while my son says he likes the water, but he still “hates the sand.” Everything my kids are interested in doing here requires adult participation.

12:30 pm: Ah! The clarion sound of the ice cream man! A late lunch for my boys since they didn’t eat any of the food I’d brought.

1:15 pm: Everyone is hungry, and all we have are some warm grapes. Somehow all the towels we brought are already soaked through and heavy with wet sand.

1:30 pm: Toddler refuses to nap like the other children around us who are now snoozing in little tents or on their parent’s stomachs. Instead, he is pouring sand on his head and crying because it keeps getting in his eye. I hint at my husband that maybe it is time to think about heading back. He hands me another Solo cup of rosé.

2 pm: Toddler meltdown, and also a poop diaper. There is nothing worse than changing a poopy, sandy swim diaper in the heat of the day with only ocean water with which to clean your hands. Nothing.

2:20 pm: Oh thank heavens – a few dark clouds are rolling in. Husband says that it will probably blow through. I give him a look like, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME. My skin stings, my hand smells vaguely of poop masked slightly by baby wipe smell. Big Brother is working on a sunburn that’s getting worse by the minute, and Toddler is going to spontaneously combust if he doesn’t get into his car seat to nap stat.

3:30 pm: Husband disassembles all the beach stuff while I shower the kids and steel myself for another long drive.

4:30 pm: BQE traffic due to the fact that this is the BQE on a Sunday and also just because. Big Brother is definitely sunburned. Everyone is hungry.

7 pm: I shower for the second time and find sand in crevices I didn’t know existed in my body. I decide that first thing tomorrow, I will be on the hunt for a club in the city that has a rooftop pool.

Original illustration by Shanequa Simpson for Well Rounded NY.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.


    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

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