Picture this, you just spent months planning the perfect family vacation and at least a week packing for what feels like a small army. You have visions of playing in the sand, jumping waves, taking so many pictures and creating a ton of memories. You finally arrive at your destination, the coolers are packed, the kids are lathered in sunscreen and you are ready to put your toes in the sand but unfortunately, not everyone is as ready as you.
Insert a toddler covered in slippery sunscreen, wearing their hat, beach shoes, adorable swimsuit skipping down the path and chatting excitedly about how much FUN they are going to have at the beach that day. When BOOM, the tip of their big toe touches the sand and SCREECHH, the tears start flowing, they can’t stop yelling and your picture perfect beach day is not looking so hot.
Mamas, you are not alone. There are many children who have a strong (to put it lightly) reaction to the shock of sand on their feet or other body parts if they warm up enough to make it further than a step. This can be upsetting, frustrating, and honestly annoying for parents who wanted to enjoy their upcoming days at the beach with their family. While it feels like this aversion to sand is going to put a damper on your perfect beach week, have no fear we are here to help.
Below are some recommendations to help your child adjust to sand:
- While the saying normally goes to “put your toes in the sand”, we are changing it up to “put some sand in their hands!” Feet are naturally more sensitive because they are covered with socks and shoes most of the time and don’t receive the variety of tactile experiences in comparison to hands. Especially after a long winter, get your child accustomed to walking barefoot outside on different surfaces i.e. dirt, grass, and pavement, which will help desensitize those little feet in preparation for your beach experience.
- Know it’s okay for them to be a “shoobie” on the beach. Full converge water shoes can help solve the problem “in the moment” and give yourself grace for giving into their distress. Remember this may be a brand new experience for them and we want to help them become comfortable. Baby steps mama, this aversion to sand shall pass.
- Pack toys. Yes, you heard us right, haul that large mesh bag of toys down to the shore. Toys like a pail and shovel, cups or castle building molds can help them keep their “distance” from the sand touching their hands and acclimate slowly. These toys may be just the distraction they need to put their fears at bay and maybe, just maybe, you can read a page or two of that book you brought.
- Slow it down mama, your beach days will get better but first you need to allow your child to explore new textures on his own terms. Never force your child to play when he is noticeably upset or in a state of stress. Trying to force him to enjoy the sand quicker than he is ready will only reinforce a negative association and makes it less likely he will play with this texture in the future.
- Set a good example. Your kiddos are always listening and watching what you do and many times they look at your facial expressions and body language to gauge the safety of new situations. If you seem happy and look like you are having fun (even though you are ready to shed a few tears with them), they are more likely to engage.
Trust us, a nice family beach vacation IS possible and sand will not ruin it (but a seagull eating their snack just might… but that could be a topic for another blog). Happy beaching, mamas!