Browsing Category:

My Parenting Tricks of the Trade

    Top 15 MUST-PACK Items for Taking a Toddler to the Beach

    Toddler Beach Packing List

    Two years ago, after a couple of trips to the beach with a then-little baby Landon, I wrote a post that has gone on to be one of the most popular posts I ever wrote.  My Top 15 MUST-PACK Items for Taking a Baby to the Beach is a great resource if you plan to head to the beach with a kid under the age of 1.

    2 years later, we are in the throws of Toddler-hood.  It is time to update our beach packing list to reflect hitting the sand and waves with a 2 year old.  There is definitely some overlap between the two lists, as some things have earned a permanent spot in our beach bag, no matter what age our kids are.  Without further delay, I present 15 MUST-PACK Items for Taking a Toddler to the Beach!

    1.  Beach Tent Sun ShelterFor shelter, shade and just a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the beach, these little tents are incredibly convenient.  A couple of things to look for: one that is extremely simple to set up and a bonus if it offers some sort of UV Guard Protection from the sun’s harmful rays.  Landon actually used to nap for hours at a time in our beach tent.  Both kids enjoy playing and lounging around in the tent when they want a break from the sun.

    These tents fold down to practically nothing and usually come with some sort of storage pouch which makes them super easy to store and travel with.

    baby beach cabana tent mc

    2. Construction Vehicle Toys – Give a truck-loving toddler a dump truck and limitless sand, and you won’t believe how long he’ll stay occupied!  We always fill up one of our big blue IKEA bags with some of Landon’s “diggers.”  Both of the kids have a blast filling and dumping sand and water.

    Dump Trucks on Beach

    3. Hat/Cover Up/Rash Guard – (or all of the above)  Hats keep sun out of your child’s eyes and off of his scalp.  Kids’ skin is super sensitive.  Sand is the archenemy of sensitive.  It is scratchy, itchy and finds a way into EVERYTHING.  Cover ups and rash guards help to protect a child from all things sun and sand.

    Landon Ready for Beach

    4.  Spray bottle with fresh water – Nothing fancy here, folks.  Pick up a run-of-the-mill spray bottle (dollar store, travel section of Walmart or Target, etc).  Fill it with clean tap water before you head to the beach.

    These came in handy multiple times on the beach when, despite our best efforts, the kids insisted on grabbing, holding, scraping and eating sand.  A quick spray of water on them (or on our hands first and then splashed onto them) and we were able to significantly cut down on the amount of sand that they ate for lunch.

    water spray bottle

    5.  Sippy cups or juice box holders – Cut down on sand that blows into drinks simply by using lidded cups or sticking juice boxes/pouches in holders with handles.

    Nuby Juice Box Holder

    6.  Small Inflatable Baby Pool and Bath ToysYears ago, my cousin suggested buying a tiny little baby pool for the beach.  Time and time again, it proves to be the best boredom buster to keep the babies cool and entertained.  Throw in some bath toys for an instant hit.

    Baby Pool on Beach

    7. Jogging Stroller or Wagon (bonus if it has all-terrain/off-road wheels) – We picked up a jogging stroller with big ‘ol tires at the last consignment sale specifically for things like the beach. We loaded up baby Landon and our beach gear and pushed him pretty effortlessly across the sand. The dry sand was a little tough in spots, but the wet sand was a breeze. Landon was happy to sit and eat or lay down to nap in his stroller and I loved that it kept him out of the sand.

    It was also convenient for those just-before-naptime moments when he was cranky. I simply took him for a walk down the beach and he was out for the count.

    landon beach jeep jogging stroller mc

    As he has grown up and no longer enjoys the stroller as much, we have transitioned to a collapsible wagon.  This thing rocks!  Takes up ZERO space in the car but gives us an instant option to toting Landon AND gear across the beach.

    MAC Collapsible Wagon RED

    8.  Water-Resistant Blanket These things are all the rage!  We have actually owned a couple for a few years.  They have earned a permanent spot in each of our cars and have given us a nice dry spot to sit at many horse shows, beach trips, fireworks nights and more.

    You can see my sister’s blanket in this pic that I took of Lily while she was hiding from the attack seagulls as she ate her lunch!

    hiding from seagulls beach avalon mc

    9.  Baby Powder – Regular old baby powder comes in handy at the beach for sand removal.  Just rub some powder on those sandy legs, feet, arms, you get the idea.  The powder helps the sand come off without irritating the skin.

    johnsons baby powder

    10.  SunscreenSounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget to throw the sunscreen into your beach bag.  Make sure you lather up the kids before you leave for the beach and then reapply according to your product’s instructions.

    the honest co continuous spray sunscreen

    11. Swim Diapers and Other Essentials Maybe you’re not going to haul the entire diaper bag to the beach with you, but be sure to pack enough diapers (regular and swim) and wipes to get you through your day!

    Huggies Little Swimmers Disposable Swimpants (Character May Vary), Medium 18 Count

    12. Snacks and waterThink about what meals and snack time(s) are going to occur as you sit on the beach.  Pack plenty of bottled water as well as snacks and food for yourself AND your kids.  Think about any bottles, formula or other feeding essentials that you might need and pack for them into your beach bag.  We love our Pack-It Cool bags for beach days and road trips.  The entire bag is essentially a big ice pack, keeping everything cool for hours.

    Pack It Cool Cooler Bag

    13.  Ziploc bagsI admit, I am pretty obsessed with Ziploc bags when we go on a trip.  They help me to compartmentalize and organize all of our STUFF from snacks to toiletries.  The beach is no exception.  Since Ziplocs are sealed WATERproof bags, they are ideal for keeping items away from the water and sand.  I like to pack food, diaper essentials and also spare outfits in Ziploc bags.  Bonus – turn an empty Ziploc into a trash bag for any food wrappers, dirty diapers, etc.

    beach packing with ziploc bags mc

    14.  Mesh BagsPick these bags up anywhere from Walmart to the dollar store.  Sometimes they even come in sets of multiple bags.  Tuck these bags into your beach bag and at the end of the day, throw anything super sandy inside.  Clothes, toys, etc will shake some of their excess sand off as you walk to your car or hotel, cutting down on the amount of sand that is dragged into your living space.

    mesh laundry bags mc

    15.  Beach Chair – It never fails – we get our beach area all set up, turn around, and find one of the sandy, ocean-soaked kids living it up in OUR beach chairs!  Solve that  problem quickly but bringing kid-sized chairs.  I especially love the chairs with sun shelter.

    Kelsyus Kid's Canopy Chair


    Top 15 MUST-PACK Items for Taking a Toddler to the Beach

    More Summer fun you might enjoy…

    DIY Beach Sand Hand and Footprint KeepsakesGoldfish Beach Party Cupcakes 2mason jarbaby to the beach must have items titleNo Bake Sand Cake Bucket Dessert10 Fun FREE or CHEAP Things to do with Kids in the Outer Banks, NCdisney dream cruise review mama cheaps10 Ideas for Easy Backyard BBQ Fun for Kids15 Brilliant Tips for Camping with KidsCamping Trail Mix Snack10 Fun Last Day of School TraditionsThe ULTIMATE Eastern Pennsylvania Road Trip Guide (100+ Day Trip Destinations!)


    Don’t Watch Your Family Vacation from the Sidelines

    mine train disney

    When you make a 2,000+ mile round trip drive with someone, chances are good that you will talk about a variety of topics.  Bob and I travel well together.  We log our miles chatting about our past, our present and our future.  We reminisce, we discuss our kids, we gossip about this person or that event.  We turn up a good song on the radio and belt out the lyrics.  He farts, I act shocked and appalled, then we roll down the windows.  We lament that we have passed a Starbucks every 100 yards for the last 100 miles, but when we WANT a drink from Starbucks, there are of course none to be found.  We take turns handing the kids various snacks or boredom busters as our car hurtles down the super highway.

    A couple of months ago, our trip home from Florida began much like any other road trip.  We had just spent a week in Disney and on a Disney Cruise and had enjoyed every aspect of the vacation immensely.  We had plenty of things to talk about, including trip highlights and things that we’d like to do differently on the next one.  Then he said something to me that I had never heard him say before.  He said, “So, did you have a good vacation?  Like, did you truly enjoy the vacation?  Because for the first time in a long time, I really felt like you were having fun TAKING PART IN the trip – not just watching us have fun from the sidelines.”

    His comments took me by such surprise, because I couldn’t believe that he had noticed.

    Here’s the thing: I love planning our vacations.  I am always in charge of planning every aspect of every trip because I genuinely find it fun to do so.  I am always happier when I have a trip to plan!  I love pouring through travel reviews, adding fun stops to our travel itinerary, etc.  I love packing (okay that’s a little bit of a stretch).  I don’t mind packing our clothes, snacks and boredom busters.  I love counting down to the trip itself and usually can’t sleep a wink the night before we leave because I am so excited.

    But once we hit the road, something shifts.  I tend to become more of a vacation observer than a vacation participant.  I take the pictures while Bob takes the kids on rides, for a swim in the pool, you get the idea.  90% of our vacation pictures are usually guaranteed to be missing one person:  ME.  I’m not sure why or how I fell into this pattern, but a pattern it became.

    Shortly before this year’s vacation, I made a silent promise to only myself that I was going to try to participate in the fun.

    It was time to dive in head first and be more of a do-er and less of an “I’ll just sit here with the baby” watcher.  I did this a few different ways.

    I bought a bathing suit.  A real bathing suit.  Not a t-shirt and shorts.  Not a tank top and a long skirt.  Not a beach cover up.  A real, spandex-y bathing suit.  A couple of years ago I found myself very inspired by The Mom Creative’s post about wearing a bathing suit.  Her words kept rolling around in my head as our vacation countdown got lower and lower.  Your kids don’t care that you didn’t lose the 10 (or 40) pounds that you wanted to lose before vacation.  Your kids don’t care about cellulite, stretch marks, or any other battle scar of pregnancy that your body might carry.  Your kids only care about YOU jumping in that pool, ocean or lake WITH them.  That’s it.  So for the first time in at least 7 or 8 years, I bought a real bathing suit from Land’s End.  I put that suit on and rode the Aqua Duck on the cruise ship with Lily.

    Disney Dream Aqua Duck

    The next day I put that suit on again.  I spent the day on the beach with my family.  I don’t have any pictures of me floating in the lagoon on Castaway Cay because I was doing just that – FLOATING around IN THE WATER with my kids and Bob!  For hours!  I must have remarked at least 5 times that I was having the best day.  I can’t remember the last time I swam with my kids.  That makes me sad for the past, but extremely excited for the future.

    This is the only picture that I have with PROOF of the SUIT (see the straps?!)  LOL – but like I said, I was too busy PARTICIPATING in our day and water fun to snap pics.  The thought of Bob dropping my phone into the crystal clear water also didn’t sit too well with me.  :)

    castaway cay disney dream

    I went on rides.  Like, lots of rides.  I NEVER go on rides unless they are tame, let’s-all-go-together-on-this-slow-boat type rides (like It’s a Small World).  Kids are going to remember the moments that you jump into the action.  The screaming on the coasters, the hands up on the log flumes, the funny pictures that the ride takes at the most inopportune, unflattering moments.  You’re completely excused from this one if you are afraid of thrill rides, get motion sick, have a medical limitation, etc.  I have none of these and therefore have no excuse.

    I rode the coasters, went up and down and around on the carousel and more.  I went on more rides this past vacation than ever before.  I left my excuses at the gate and we used child swap so that Bob and I could both ride.

    And ride, we did!

    disney carousel

    devon lily dumbo disney


    I got in the picture.  And not just the haphazard selfie.  I made a conscious effort to really get IN the pictures with my family.  I did this two ways – 1)  I made a point to ask Bob to take my picture with the kids.  He doesn’t always think to snap a pic but he’s always willing to do so.  2)  We purchased Disney’s Memory Maker.  I know the price is steep at almost $200, but when you purchase Memory Maker, you need to make it your job to seek out those Park photographers.  Get in that picture!  Memories can be fleeting – a photograph can last a lot longer!

    spirit of aloha dinner

    epcot visa disney meet and greet

    disney world

    disney world matching shirts mickey

    I had some silly fun – even if it meant a little self-embarrassment.  Dancing with the kids during the parade, singing along to our favorite songs during the castle show, even, yes, wearing matchy match shirts.  While all of these things were ever-so-slightly out of my personal comfort zone, the more my kids’ eyes lit up with excitement, the more I jumped into the fray.  These are the moments that they will remember.  But also?  They are the moments that I’ll remember too.

    disney world matching shirts

    joes crab shack

    fireworks bay lake tower

    This vacation broke down several barriers for me and I plan to make sure that those barriers never build up again.  I had so much fun living in the moment on this trip, creating so many beautiful memories with my husband and our children.  Once I fully understood the positive impact that my participation had on my family, I found it impossible to turn a blind eye.

    Live life.

    Put yourself into life’s moments, even the small ones.

    Step out of your comfort zone and realize what beautiful memories you can create with your children by jumping into the trenches with them, not just watching them from the sideline.

    If I can do it, you can too.


    Consignment Sale Shopping, a 6 Year Old and Lessons in Money Management – A True Tale!

    Money Management for Kids 101

    I know, I know, somewhere buried not-too-very-far from the surface is my former self.  My TEACHER self.  The one that tends to find teachable moments everywhere and anywhere.  And even though I don’t use those skills in a classroom these days, they are put to good use with my kids.  Lily started Kindergarten last month and prior to her first day she already had a decent age-appropriate concept of money and telling time.  At the ripe old age of 6 she already understands (not saying she likes it, but who does?) that both money and time are limited, always.

    Some of the best lessons ever taught are those that make the learning come to life… the ones that make them really really REAL and that show real-life situations.

    Last week we shopped half off day at the JBF sale.  Lily is a consignment sale veteran at this point.  She loves them!  What’s not to love?  Tons and tons and TONS of toys, books and movies… and she understands that the prices are decent enough that mom usually says, “YES” to buying at least something while we shop.

    So for this sale, Bob and I decided to have a little (educational) fun with her.  We told Lily that she was going to get to buy something at the sale.  We reminded her that she had received $6 for her 6th birthday (get it?) from her Great Grandma.  We told her that she could take that $6 to the sale and make a purchase.  Then we challenged her to see how many things she could buy with that $6!

    This lesson was multi-faceted.  She was able to read the price tags on her own but since it was half off day, we had to help her to figure out what the new prices were.  This was fairly easy for her to do with whole dollar amounts but the half dollar amounts were challenging.  There was much back and forth and she hemmed and hawed over what she wanted to buy.  Many things were picked up only to be put back down when she figured out the price or found something else that caught her eye.

    I think she did pretty great!  She learned early on that the tags with stars on them were still full price and she wasn’t willing to consider most full price items… except for one thing – a Frozen hat.  For that hat she was willing to shell out face value.  :D

    Take a look at all of the treasures she came home with:

    JBF Just Between Friends lilys finds

    Minnie Mouse art supply travel organizer – $.50
    Pack of animal cookie cutters for baking or Play-doh – $.75
    Wizard of Oz witch doll – $.50
    American Girl activity book – $.50
    American Girl Julie activity book – $.75
    Frozen winter hat – $2.50  (only full price item purchased)

    Total spent: $5.50 (50 cents under budget!)

    I really enjoyed watching her mind work as she shopped.  Her money had value to her which is something that I think we sometimes take for granted thanks to credit cards, etc.  She understood that she had to decide which items she wanted more than others.  She had to compute (with some help) discounted prices to figure out what she could afford to buy.

    Giving Lily this challenge took such little effort on our behalf.  We simply incorporated the math lesson into our everyday lives.

    How do you use everyday life to teach money skills to your kid(s)?


    My Simple Solution for the Kid Who Asks for 999 Snacks Every Day

    pick your snack - title

    “Can I have a snack?”

    If your house is ANYTHING like mine, you might hear this question asked no less than 1000 times every single day.  It sounds innocent enough, but when it is asked over and over and over again, it’s enough to drive me right up the wall.

    We were only about 5 days into summer break when the “Is it snack time yet?” broken record started to give me a twitch.

    Then one morning, I had a brainstorm.  A real light bulb moment!  I came up the easiest, most simple strategy that would not only (hopefully) give me a shred of sanity, but would also teach my kid some lessons in patience, rationing and independence.

    I have big pocket organizer hanging on the back of the food pantry door.  Each morning (or at night before I head to bed) I pick 2 -3 fairly healthy self-serve snacks and place them in a bottom pouch, one that Lily can reach easily.

    Those are her snacks for the entire day.  Those snacks are aside from her meals of course.  She is free to eat these snacks whenever she wants throughout the day.  If she wants to eat them all at 10 am, so be it.  But that’s it, no more.  Snacking is done for the day.

    We are about a week into this new system and so far it’s working great.  She loves feeling like she’s in control of her food and I enjoy letting her be independent.  (Okay, who am I kidding?  I also love the fact that she’s not pestering me for a snack every 7 minutes!)  The next time I go to the dollar store, I am going to pick up a small plastic basket and use that for refrigerated snack options such as string cheese and yogurt.

    pick your snack

    Tell me – how to you enforce healthy snacking habits with your kids?


    FREE Printable Tooth Fairy Receipts – Several to Choose From

    Fair warning – seriously cuteness ahead!

    One night I was checking out the various free tooth fairy receipts on Pinterest, I had fun looking at all of the different styles there were to choose from.  We are getting super close to “loose tooth land” and Lily absolutely cannot WAIT for her first visit from the Tooth Fairy.

    Choose your favorite from the following and get printing!

    FREE Printable Tooth Fairy Receipt from Oh My Gluestick

    tooth fairy receipt 1

    FREE Printable Tooth Fairy Receipt (boy or girl versions) from The Polka Dot Posie

    tooth fairy receipt 2

    FREE Printable Tooth Fairy Receipt and Tooth Record from A Little Delightful

    tooth fairy receipt 3

    FREE Tooth Fairy Printable Kit from How Does She

    tooth fairy receipt 4

    For even more tooth fairy ideas, check out my post:

    tooth fairy receipt glitter money title

    Other posts you might enjoy…

    FREE Disney Vacation Planning DVDFree baby board booksleg warmersudder coverminky pillowTop 5 Disney Postsbaby to the beach must have items titlefathers day handprint gift