Planning a beach day with young children can be overwhelming — the timing, the parking, the packing, etc. But, as a mom of five kids living near many beaches, I’m here to tell you that once you’ve got a system, beach days are totally doable — and really fun! Here’s how.

Where to go

Maybe you’re lucky enough to live near beaches and are familiar with your local options. If not, this list of family-friendly beaches in the Greater Boston area is a great place to start. Here are some things to consider when choosing a beach:

Parking: Is the parking close to the beach itself, or will you be walking a distance with tiny humans? This matters — especially when it’s time to go home! Additionally, some beaches have limited parking, which means you need to get there early or reserve a parking spot in advance. Other beaches only offer parking for residents during summer months.

Fees: Be prepared to pay a fee for visiting some beaches and/or for parking. Many have gone to app-based payments and/or kiosks. 

Accessibility and terrain: If possible, try to get a sense of the accessibility features and terrain, especially if you’ll be pushing a stroller or pulling a wagon. Are there ramps or access mats to make getting onto the beach easier?

Access to shade: Consider if there are shaded areas where you can take a break from direct sunlight. 

Bathrooms: Are there public bathrooms available? Port-a-potties? Changing tables? With little ones — especially potty-training little ones — it’s important to know what the bathroom situation will be in case they’ve got to go.

What to bring

When it comes to packing for a beach day with kids, I’m always ready by having my beach gear easily accessible in my car. In the summer months, consider keeping your beach essentials in your car, garage, or somewhere that makes it easy to grab and go. Here are some staple items:

1. Pop-up cabana, tent, or umbrella: You’ll want shade! Be sure to read reviews to learn if the product fits your needs, but having something that sets up and breaks down quickly and can travel easily is ideal.

2. Backpack beach chairs: These are great for the adults, and the back-pack style makes them easier to carry. 

3. Wagon or beach caddy: As minimalist as you may try to be, visiting the beach with littles requires a lot of stuff, so having something to lug it all around in is key! 

4. Turkish towels: Oversized Turkish towels are lightweight and great in sand — and they don’t take up much space. They’re perfect for using as a beach blanket or for drying off.

5. Mesh tote bags: Mesh bags are great for sandy beach toys and wet clothes! 

6. Waterproof pouches: It’s great to have a waterproof pouch or two for phones, watches, and anything else you want to keep dry!

7. Stroller fan: Attach it to your tent or beach chair for a little breeze on the especially hot days. 

8. Foldable kiddie pool: We love taking this foldable “dog” pool to the beach! It doesn’t need to be blown up, and it’s a great way to let your little one play safely.

9. Portable booster chair: Time for lunch or snack for the toddler? It’s great to pop your toddler in one of these booster chairs to keep them contained and keep their hands — and food — sand free for a bit.

10. Pop up playpen: Depending on the age of your little ones, having a playpen like this can be helpful! Be mindful of anchoring the playpen on windier days!

11. Pop-up potty: Better safe than sorry if you’re at a beach without easy bathroom access.

12. Toys: We try to keep it simple when it comes to beach toys. Our kids love these shell collection bags for all of their treasures. A few shovels or a set of cooking utensils (spoons, spatulas, etc.) from your local dollar store can go a long way. Collapsible beach buckets are wonderfully sturdy and great for saving space. This beach ice cream set has been a hit with my children. And we often bring watercolors and paint brushes for painting shells. 

Navigating the day

To best manage your day, consider what time you’ll be going, how long you plan to stay, and what your children’s needs will be during this time. Here are some tips and hacks that help us every time:

Take a look at the tide. Low tide is almost always the best time to be at the beach! You’ll get more beach area and lots of tide pools to play in! Knowing whether the tide is coming in or going out during your trip can help you to prepare for where to set up. You don’t want to be moving your tent, chairs, etc. multiple times if the tide is creeping up on you.

Apply sunscreen before you leave the house. You’ll need to reapply, but having that first application done is a huge timesaver when you have excited little ones! We also love using makeup sponges or brushes to apply sunscreen for a smooth, fuss-free application.

Consider appropriate footwear. Are you headed to a rocky beach? Will you need water shoes? Is the sand hot? Can they walk in the sand in what they’re wearing? We love Crocs at the beach because of their versatility. They can be worn in or out of the water, they let the sand pass through, and they tend to stay on our kids’ feet.

Stay hydrated! We pack lots of drinking water and pause our kids often for hydration breaks. It can help to freeze a few water bottles in advance, too. They can serve as ice packs in your cooler, can be used for cooling down warm faces/bodies, and are ice cold for drinking as they thaw! Popsicles in a stainless steel tumbler are another great hydration hack.

Bring a change of clothes for everyone. Driving home in wet clothes/bathing suits can be miserable. Keep a dry change of clothes in the car for a happier ride home. We also love hooded cover ups that the kids can throw on while walking to/from the beach or when taking a sun break.

Bring a few empty plastic bags. Many beaches require you to carry your own trash out, so tie a bag to your chair for the trash you create throughout the day, then toss it when you find a barrel or get home. 

Pack baby powder. Baby powder is great for quickly removing sand from little hands when it’s time for lunch or snacks. Speaking of snacks — always pack more than you think you’ll need! 

Have a plan for keeping eyes on all kids. Make sure adults are communicating with each other about which kids they’re actively watching and when they’re handing that responsibility off to another adult. Talk about beach safety with your children, too! 

Prepare an exit strategy. Your kids likely won’t want to leave. Think about how you’ll keep them contained and entertained while you break down/pack up. Leave room in the wagon for the kid who won’t want to walk back to the car!

Beach days with kids can be a lot of work, but a trip to the beach can bring our children so much joy! As Boston moms, we are so lucky to live near so many beautiful beaches. With a little planning and a lot of patience, you’re bound to make great summer memories with your children!


Dr. Danielle Ricci
Danielle Ricci was lucky enough to grow up in Salisbury, MA with the beach as her playground. Danielle received her B.A. in English and Studio Arts at Stonehill College where she pitched for their softball team. She earned her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and her Ph.D. in Leadership in Schooling from UMass Lowell. Danielle is currently a high school principal where her background as an athlete has helped her to keep the concept of teamwork at the heart of her practice. Her expertise and research is in cultivating collaborative cultures. Danielle currently lives in Merrimac, MA with her husband and five children - Abigail (2015), Grace (2017), Emilia (2020), and twins Madelyn and Ryan (2023)! When she's not juggling life as a working mom, Danielle loves listening to audiobooks, writing, walking, visiting MLB baseball parks, and cold-water exposure - yes, she swims in the Atlantic year-round!


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