Every parent should know the joy of seeing their young children experience the beach. After all, it's the ultimate place to bring kids, since they can stay busy digging in the sand and playing in the water for hours. It’s just truly a great way to have fun, get fresh air, and tire out energized kids. Whether your family frequents the beach year round or you’re preparing for a beach vacation, it’s incredibly important to consider ways to keep your kids and whole family safe while there.
Determine if lifeguards are on duty
The beach has more safety risks than a swimming pool, given its unpredictable nature. Also, not all beaches keep lifeguards staffed year round, so if you plan to visit the beach outside of the summer months, there is a good chance that there won’t be any lifeguards working. Always keep an eye on your children when they’re playing in the water, even if they do know how to swim. Never let them wander far enough out that you can’t see them. Even if you determine that there are lifeguards on duty, you should continue to pay close attention in case of an emergency.
Pay attention to flags
You always want to be aware of the conditions at the beach, so pay attention to the flags that are waving when you arrive. Most beaches will have either a green, yellow, or red flag to indicate the strength of the current. Green flags indicate that the water is calm and that swimming is safe, a yellow flag will indicate that some caution is advised, and red flags warn for strong surf and potential rip currents, meaning swimming is not recommended during these conditions. You may also see a purple flag which indicates dangerous marine life such as jellyfish, sting rays, or sharks.
Have young children wear flotation devices
You should always require your young children to wear flotation devices such as life jackets while playing on the beach. Even if they won’t be swimming in deep water, it is always important to exercise caution. One of the biggest risks for young children in the ocean is the possibility of getting knocked over by a wave, breathing in water, and even drowning. Small children can easily lose their footing, so having a life vest on will help them stay afloat, in the event that this happens.
Utilize sun protection
If you want to sit back and relax knowing that your family is safe at the beach, one of the easiest preparations is practicing sun protection. Always pack plenty of sunscreen, and be sure that you choose a non-toxic or natural brand so that you don’t expose young children to harmful chemicals. If you plan to spend a long day on the beach then you’ll want to reapply sunscreen at least hourly, possibly more if your kids are getting wet. Also you should bring along a beach tent or sun shade for kids to rest under so that they aren’t constantly under the direct sunlight. Be sure everyone in the family has a sun hat to wear and you may even want to bring other protective clothing such as rash guards and t-shirts for kids with fairer skin.
Watch out for rocks, sharp shells, and hot sand
Every beach is a little different. For instance, some have sharp rocks and shells beneath the surface of the sand. If you happen to be on a rockier beach, or one with sea urchins and oyster shells you’ll definitely want to have water shoes available for your kids to wear while they play in the ocean. These sharp objects could potentially cut bare feet and shoes will help prevent this from occurring. Beach sand can get very hot on a warm summer day, so you’ll want to have everyone protect their feet with shoes when walking to and from the water because the dry sand can get hot enough to burn or blister feet.
Keep personal belongings safe
Have a secure place to keep your valuables such as car keys, wallets, and cell phones. Since you’ll likely be walking away from your beach towel to chase after kids or go swimming in the water yourself, you’ll want to make sure these items are safely stowed away to prevent them from getting stolen. Keep your items covered up with an extra bag or shirt so that they aren’t laying out in plain sight.
Discuss safety rules beforehand
It’s important to talk with your young children before heading to the beach to make sure everyone in your family is on board with the safety rules you have in place. Talk to kids about why it’s important to not swim out too far and to pay attention to water conditions. You may even want to establish a signal (such as a whistle or wave) for when it’s time for them to stop swimming and come back to your towel or tent.
Pack lots of water and food
Always be sure that everyone stays hydrated and well fed when you’re planning on spending a long day out on the beach. Heat exhaustion can happen very easily on a hot summer day and playing in salt water will actually cause you to become dehydrated even faster. Pack plenty of water and food for everyone in your family.
Additional safety tips
- Teach your kids to be aware of other adults on the beach and to always call out for help if anyone says or does anything that makes them uncomfortable.
- It is important that kids never try to dive into the ocean, as determining the depth can be difficult and diving into a shallow area can cause serious injury to the head and neck.
- If you happen to visit an area where there are a lot of stingrays, you can teach kids to shuffle their feet in the water to avoid getting stung.
- Have a meet up time and plan that you establish before heading to the beach. Always have an emergency meet up spot, in case you or your children get separated from each other.
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