How to have a perfect day at the beach
Now that you've got kids, gone are the days of strolling down to the beach with just a towel draped over your shoulder and a book in your hand. These days you have to be a ninja beachgoer – ready to avert every crisis and attend to every whim. Here's how ...
Get to know your beach
If you have a favourite beach get to know how it responds to the tide; some beaches are better for boogie boarding at low tide while others lose a lot of sand at high tide, leaving little space to sit. Download a tide app from ITunes or check your local paper.
Keep it short
Two to three hours is plenty of time at the beach, especially with young kids. If you're driving, pack the car the night before and try to arrive by 9:30am. When tummies start to grumble, pack up and seek some shade for a quick picnic lunch or snack, then head home.
Wear your togs
Be ready for action by wearing your togs to the beach and applying sunscreen before you leave the house. Pack undies and dry clothes for everyone to change into before you leave the beach to head home.
Pick a good spot
If you've got young kids, sit as close to the waves as you can without getting your stuff wet. Always sit between the flags and show your kids an indicator of how to find you (a nearby umbrella or life guard's tent). Sitting near the water means you can keep an eye on your kids and your stuff while they're swimming and it makes the million trips to the waves to refill the bucket your toddler is using much quicker.
Keep the under-5s happy
Big kids are easier to entertain – they can swim, catch the waves or just loll about. But the under-5s get hot and if they're whining, no one has fun. A bucket and spade are good, but as your kids get older (aged three to five), a few other toys will stir the imagination and keep them busier longer. For example, a few plastic dinosaurs or Polly Pocket dolls will have fun exploring Mount Sandcastle.
Pack some snacks
If you keep your visit short, you may not need to pack lunch, but you will need snacks. Fill a soft cooler bag with an ice pack or two then toss in fruit, bottles of water and a box of crackers. Nuts and hard boiled eggs are good too, if you're not allergic.
Take an old stroller
If you still have a child that needs to be wheeled, be sure to take a dingy old stroller that you don't mind getting ruined – sandy wheels are hard to fix. If your child doesn't sit in it, use it to carry your stuff.
Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. Apply it before you leave and regularly after that. Rashies (long sleeve if possible) are also essential. For the kids, pack two hats; one that can get wet and one that stays dry. For older kids who spend hours in the water, smear a thick zinc-type cream across their nose and under their eyes to protect their face against the sun's rays as they reflect off the water and back onto their face. A beach tent or umbrella are useful, too.
Sand rubbing against your feet (even after you've rinsed and dried them) can feel like sandpaper when you put your shoes on. But if you shake a little talc over your feet and rub it in, the sand becomes soft and smooth. Just a warning: once you start, you'll never go back!