Toddler Beach Essentials



Feb 23, 2022

Planning a trip to the beach with your toddlers? Or going to a lake beach in the mountains? I’ve got you covered with all the toddler beach essentials to bring. I currently have two toddlers and they both love playing on the beach. They might at times both be scared of the water, but that is a different story.

Nagshead toddler beach trip
My almost 3 Year Old Enjoying Nags Head

Taking toddlers to the beach is a mission in itself. It is important to prepare for the day and not to lug things around that aren't needed. You hands will be busy keeping track of the kids!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Rest assured all products I suggest are products I have bought or would buy based on personal experience or through my network of other mommas.

Toddler Beach Shoes and Sandals

A day at the beach normally involves sand, and lots of it. If not sand perhaps a rock beach or one with lots of pebbles. Either way you need to think about your toddler’s foot protection. Hot dry sand can burn tiny feet and rocks can be harsh to walk on.

The best solution is toddler beach shoes. Beach shoes are made to be worn on sand, rocks or the bottom of the sea. A good toddler beach shoe will fit your toddler snug and stay securely on their foot. A normal sandal will not which defeats the purpose.

I personally have my toddlers wear water sandals that can be dual purpose for a summer sandal and water play. They are great for the beach but also can be worn on summer hikes.

I love hiking with my toddlers. For more information on hiking read Hiking With Toddlers or Toddler Hiking Gear.

Best Overall Toddler Beach Shoe

If you are looking for the best toddler beach shoe Ubfen Water Shoe is the winner. The only concern is the smallest size is 8.5 Toddler. The shoe features a lightweight barefoot feel design with a rubber outsole that is slip resistant.

The Ubfen shoe is airy, cross ventilated, and dries quickly. The shoe will securely stay on your toddlers feet, and with an anti-collision toe design you don’t have to worry about them kicking a rock and hurting themselves.

If you plan on lots of trips to the beach and have an older toddler these are a great beach water shoe.

Best Young Toddler Beach Shoe

If your toddler isn’t yet in size 8.5 Toddler, the next best beach water shoe is the Merrell’s Bare Steps H20 Water Shoe. These water shoes also work great for a toddler with wide feet. When purchasing you can opt for the wide option.

The shoe is made from ECO friendly recycled material and has a rubber flexible grooved outsole. It is easy to wash, but a bit slower than the Ubfen to air dry completely.

Best Toddler Water Sandal

If you are like me and want a water shoe that does it all, beach to hiking in the mountains to an everyday sandal the Keen Newport H2 Closed Toe Water Sandal is hands down the winner.

These sandals are durable, high quality and comfortable for your toddler. My boys live in these sandals from May till about September, unless it is a seasonable cold day.

hiking with toddlers hiking sandals
My boys playing in the water in their Keen water sandals

Read Toddler Water Sandals form ore information on toddler beach sandals.

Best Toddler Beach Toys

A day at the beach with a toddler is not complete without lots of fun in the sun! To help facilitate that fun I recommend a couple of key beach toys. You don't want to have to lug too many toys back and forth!

Shovel and Buckets

Beach day cannot be complete without trying to build a castle. Toddler might not be the most coordinated yet, but will love to help their momma or dadda build. 

toddler beach essentials shovel and bucket
My 1 year old loving his shovel and bucket on a trip to OBX

Also if you have more than one child you will need a bucket and shovel per child. Children, when excited, don’t want to wait their turn to play. I also recommend having a spare shovel and bucket for yourself. This way you can all build together at the same time.

I own a set of three buckets and three shovels and find this the perfect amount for my family. With another on the way we might need to increase to four, one for each child and an adult. 

I have the Jumbo Castle 7” sand buckets. The bigger buckets are easier for the toddler to fill with sand. A smaller bucket will fill over more easily. Also you can go back and forth to the sea and collect water for a moat without it taking all day.

For the shovel I recommend a bigger shovel with a bigger handle. Again this is just easier for a toddler to navigate and also quicker to fill the buckets. The handle should be sturdy, preferably not plastic, so that it will last many years. My family uses the 16” long beach spades.

Outdoor Trucks

Another essential to bring is at least one outdoor truck. My toddlers love to push this around the sand and fill the bed with rocks, water or sand. 

I love the Green Toy Trucks. This company makes all their toys from 100% recyclable material and made locally in the USA. You can get many different types of trucks or vehicles in an arrangement of colors. The trucks also come in more girly colors and designs. 

toddler beach essentials play truck

My favorite for the beach is the dump truck design. That bed will be filled over and over again with different items. Other solid options are a boat that will float on the water and a seaplane. 

A truck per child is sufficient for a beach day. Bringing along 5 for one child will equate in carrying way too many toys to the beach. 

The great thing about these beach toys is that they can be used all year long, not just at the beach. My toddlers love the shovel and bucket to play with in the garden, in the snow and in the rain. The trucks are a favorite everyday outdoor toy.

Read My Favorite Outdoor Toys for 1 Year Old.

Toys you enjoy

My last toddler beach essential toy will change with each person. I recommend bringing a toy that you find enjoyable yourself. 

For example, my husband and I both play frisbee, so we like to bring a frisbee along. We throw the frisbee back and forth and this peaks my toddlers interest. Now they want to throw with us.

Toddlers are going to want to play with whatever they see you playing with. Maybe in your case it is a soccer ball, a volleyball or paddles. Bring it along and watch as your little ones take interest in what you are doing. 

Best Ways To Keep Toddler Shaded At Beach

Protecting your toddler from the sun is important. There are many different ways you can do so and I will go over the options and what I use when at the beach.


This is a must have for a day at the beach. I recommend putting the sunscreen on while indoors and allowing it to soak in before heading out with your kids. Make sure you reapply the sunscreen as needed. 

Toddler Hat Protection for Beach

Best Toddler Hiking Sunhat
Best Toddler Baseball Style Hiking Hat

Young toddlers can have very thin hair. Thin hair results in more of their scalp being exposed to the sun than an adult with a full head of hair. The best way to protect your toddler is to put a hat on your child. 

Sun Hat for Younger Toddler

toddler beach essentials beach hat for 1 year old
My son at 1 wearing his wide brim sun hat

For a young toddler I recommend a wide brim hat. This style hat extends in all directions from your child providing shade for their face and neck. 

I use the SimpliKids Baby Sun Hat. This hat comes with an adjustable chin strap that tightens with a toggle. For a younger toddler they might want to pull a hat off, I find if you tighten the toggle to under their chin the hat stays on. My one year old kept this hat on him all summer long. 

The hat also has an added adjustable strap on the head to accommodate different head circumferences.  This was a must have for us. Both my boys have very large heads and a hat sized for their age doesn’t always fit right. The adjustability ensures the hat fits their head shape.

For an older toddler you can also get this hat. It comes in many different sizes and colors. 

Sun Hat for Older Toddler

toddler beach essentials sun hat older toddler
My son at 2.5 wearing a baseball style cap at the beach with me

Once my toddlers outgrew the 12-24 month old wide brim hat I moved to baseball cap style hats. I could have kept wearing the wide brim style, however I chose not to.

In the summer I use baseball cap style hats on my boys while playing outside and hiking. I found an older toddler doesn’t constantly try to take hats off and I could tell them to leave the hat on. Since baseball style caps stayed on a 2 year old and up heads I didn’t find it necessary to also buy a beach specific sun hat. 

There are many different toddler baseball caps to buy. My personal favorites are below. I recommend reviewing sizing on toddler size hats and to make sure you measure your child’s head circumference. Also adjustable hats will last longer.

Toddler Sun Tent

A large shade is highly welcomed on a very hot sunny day at the beach. Having a designated spot for your child to be out of the sun will allow you to spend a longer time at the beach. 

toddler beach essentials beach tent
My Multifun tent we have used at the beach since my first was a baby

Also if your toddler is still napping, they will need a shady spot to take a nap. For a tent to be practical on the beach it should have stakes so that it doesn’t blow away. You might also want to consider the size and how easy it will be to carry to and from the beach. 

A nice affordable small portable beach tent for a toddler/baby is from multifun. Both my toddler and baby have taken naps in this tent while at the beach. It comes with a great carrying bag that I can easily carry over my shoulder and is lightweight and even fits in luggage.

beach tent for shade at beach for kids and babies
My 3 month old sleeping in the Multifun tent at the lake beach

Multifun tent will not require a lot of extra space in your car/suitcase and is easy to transport to your beach spot. These points were key for me. I didn't want to make multiple trips to the car and back to unload a large heavy tent. I also wanted to fly with it.

The tent takes no time to put up and take down and comes with four ground stakes. It also features an anti-soak base layer and UPF 50+ protection.

Alternative is a large shade tent or cabana. This however will be cumbersome to carry. If you are at the beach constantly in the summer or have a beach house this might be the best option for you.

Toddler Swim Gear for Beach: What Should my Toddler Wear to the Beach

Toddler Swimsuit

Just as you plan what to wear at the beach you should also be planning what your toddler should wear. A toddler commonly wears a rashguard top, bathing suit bottom or one piece rashguard suit.

If your toddler is not yet potty trained you will need a swim diaper. Swim diapers come in disposable and reusable. I have used both and prefer the disposable kind. A day at the beach is already full of sand, mixing in a reusable diaper and number two changes can be more than you want to handle. I prefer the disposables for the beach.

What is rash guard?

A rash guard is commonly a one-piece, short or long-sleeve shirt made out of swim fabric. The fabric is made to be UPF 50+ providing sun protection on your little toddler’s skin. Rash guards tend to be tight fitting and also protect from sand burn.

Rash guards are perfect for your toddler on a beach day. Pair that with a bathing suit bottom which rash guard sets sometimes include.

Toddler Floatation Device

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Safety first when dealing with toddlers. I don’t know any toddlers who are 100% water safe without swim aids in the ocean so this is a must have. 

My toddler in his dinosaur puddle jumper

When your toddler is around water you should ensure they are wearing a swim aide as well as paying very close attention to them. Toddler swim vest and puddle jumpers are going to be your best bet.

If you take a boat ride with your toddler they should wear a life jacket. The boat company will require this and if they don’t I wouldn’t recommend that company. 

Beach Towel

You cannot forget a beach towel for your toddler. Once they are done getting wet in the water and dirty in the sand you will want to towel them off. Towels with hoods stay on young people better and are a great beach towel option, although not required.

In practice any towel will work, even an adult size. As long as you have something to dry their hands for snack time and dry them off before heading home. 

Dry Pair of Clothes

After a day of fun in the sun you will want to have brought a nice clean dry pair of clothes for your toddler. Riding home in a wet bathing suit is no fun. Also, having to walk the boardwalk to find dinner is more enjoyable in dry clothes.

Food and Drink for Toddlers at the Beach

If you know toddlers you know they ask for food constantly! My three year old won’t even have finished his meal and he is already asking me what snack he gets next. 

Essential Equipment needed


If you plan on bringing refrigerated food and cold drinks a cooler is a must. I recommend putting all fruit in a cooler. Even though all fruit doesn’t need to be refrigerated, sitting outside baking in the sun results in less tasty fruit.

A cooler doesn’t have to be a huge heavy piece of equipment. There are some good over the shoulder smaller coolers that will do the trick. 

Travel HighChair

toddler travel highchair on beach
Love the Hiccapop Seat and the detachable tray for the beach

If you want your toddler to sit and eat at the beach I highly recommend a travel highchair. Without a designated spot to sit and eat your toddler might be too excited to stay in one spot. Carrying food around the beach will result in sandy food and lots of spills.

I use the Hiccapop Omniboost Travel Booster Seat and love it for the beach. The chair can sit right on the sand and my toddler can climb in himself. I can then fasten him in with a 3 point harness and pop on the removable tray. The seat is now secure and my toddler can’t get up and move around. He has a clean surface to eat off of and has to wait till I release him.

The travel highchair comes with a carrying bag making it easy for transport. To read more about this highchair check out Best Travel Highchair.

Hand Sanitizer

Before eating or after changing a dirty diaper you will be happy to have hand sanitizer. This is a must have for parents of toddlers when out for the day. Also recommend your toddler use the hand sanitizer before eating while at the beach. Sand can contain pollutants and germs.


A blanket is an essential piece of beach equipment for a family. Having a designated spot to lay down your items and claim your beach spot. 

In a pinch you can lay down a couple of large towels.

Toddler Water Cups/Bottles

My toddlers drink better from cups they are familiar with. When I am away for the day at the beach I pack their water bottles that we use on all our outings. My toddler will recognize that this is their water bottle and know where to go for water.

With my two toddlers I use the Skip Hop water bottles. The water bottles feature different animals and both my boys know which is theirs.

Best Toddler Beach Snacks

Fruit is a great option for toddlers at the beach. Fruit is full of water and when playing in the sun your toddler will need more water to stay hydrated. 

Tip: Precut your fruit for your toddler at home before packing in the cooler. Trying to cut fruit at the beach is a disaster waiting to happen.

My Go To Toddler Beach Snack List

  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Cheese 
  • Crackers
  • Cereal Bars
  • Pre-cut sandwiches
  • Goldfish
  • Animal Crackers
  • Chex Mix
  • Pretzels & Hummus

Fun Things To Do At The Beach With A Toddler

Build a dam

One thing my toddlers love to do at the beach is play in a water dam. This works best just after high tide when the water is retreating back to the ocean. If you can build a path and then a wall to stop the flow of water you will start to make a pool.

toddler beach essentials way to have fun: build a dam
My toddler loved this dam we built in New Hampshire beach

My husband’s and my goal is to collect enough water that we have formed a mini pool. The water in the pool ends up being warmer than the beach water, which is nice since ocean water can be very cold.

On one of our beach trips the dam we built was a favorite for all the surrounding families with young kids. They all came to splash and play in our dam.

After you are done playing, breaking the dam is just as exciting. Your toddler will watch as the water flows out and back towards the ocean, or absorbs through the dry sand.

Build Sandcastles With Toddlers

Building sandcastles is a must for toddlers. A younger toddler might constantly destroy the castles, but to them that is just as much fun as building them.

toddler beach essentials way to have fun: sandcastles
Sandcastles don't have to be glamorous to be fun!

This is where the shovel and buckets come into play. Mommas and dads you most likely will have to assist in these sandcastle creations!

Explore in the Water

Your toddler might be scared of the ocean water, mine always were initially. THe sound of the waves crashing is loud and the water is cold. Trying to get your toddler comfortable near the water might take a whole day or longer. Be patient.

I try different techniques to get them comfortable near the water. I try to have my toddlers chase the broken waves out towards the water and then run back before new water arrives.  Or we put our feet in the shallowest part of the water and watch as water comes and buries our feet.  

Once a toddler is comfortable in the water you can use floaties or rafts to play around. Your toddler should always be wearing a floatation device when near water or playing in it.

Collect Seashells

Collecting objects is another fun toddler thing to do at the beach. Seashells or sand dollars or whatever is around on that beach will do. You can use the toy truck to collect your findings and bring them home as a memento of your trip.

Play Sports

If the adults enjoy playing a sport or game at the beach your toddler will too. As I suggested in toddler beach toys, if you brought along a frisbee, ball or paddles for the adults to play with make sure you anticipate having young players as well. 

toddler sports on the beach
My husband and I love frisbee so our son loves to throw with us

You can bring an extra ball or frisbee for your toddler or be prepared for them to want to play with the one you are using. 

Take a Boat Ride

Many beaches will offer boat rides around the harbor or in the sea. This can be a fun activity to do with your toddler at the beach. Just make sure your toddler is wearing a life vest and is comfortable on the boat.

I took my two toddlers on a dolphin tour while at NagsHead South Carolina. They loved it! At first my 3 year old was scared of the boat, but in no time he was loving being on the water and spotting the dolphins. 

Bring a baby pool to the beach

If your toddler is afraid of the ocean you can bring a small pool to put on the beach. This can get them used to being in water and help them cool off. You most likely will have to cart buckets of water from the ocean to fill the pool once set up.

I wouldn’t suggest the effort for a one day beach visit, but perhaps if you are on a week long family vacation at a beach house. The ocean can be intimidating for a toddler.

Chase Seagulls

This is one you might question, really? But yes, toddlers love to chase birds on the beach. My almost two year old loves it! He runs after birds giggling and can easily spend an hour following them around. Don't knock it till you try!

Common Questions For Toddlers At The Beach

Should my toddler wear floaties at the beach?

swim vests at the beach with toddlers
My two at the lake beach with swim vests on

If your toddler is playing in the water your child should be wearing a floating device. Floaties are a great option for a toddler. Another option is a life vest or arm bands

Can the beach make my toddler sick?

Short answer is yes .ABC Action news reported that sand pollution is highest after rain storms. Sand can carry germs and bacteria that can make your toddler sick. Make sure to practice sanitary practices after playing in sand and before eating to reduce the chances of getting sick. 

Do I need a toddler chair and umbrella?

No, I do not recommend a specific toddler chair with an umbrella for a beach day with a toddler. I highly recommend a travel highchair instead. A chair that a toddler cannot get out of is more useful in my opinion.

Can you really imagine a toddler sitting for long periods of time in a chair they can get out of? At the beach a toddler will be interested in everything around them; unless the chair has a restraint your toddler will not stay in place. 

beach chair for toddlers - my son
My 3 year old in a grown up beach chair

And if they do want to sit in one place for a small amount of time an adult size chair will do. 

Safety for Toddlers On The Beach

Talk to your child so they understand the dangers that face them at the beach. The best way to keep your child safe at the beach is for them to know what is expected of them. 

  1. When playing in the water wear their floaty
  2. Don’t go into the water without an adult
  3. Stay close to your parents
  4. Don’t talk to strangers