Question: what’s pale, ginger and covered in sunburn that’s so bad it’s going to turn into heinous, puss-filled blisters? Answer: a 12-year-old me after spending a day on the beach baking under the sun while on a family holiday in southern Scotland. Yes, this is a true story. And yes, it does say southern Scotland. I really do burn that easily. But if you think this sensitive skin is going to keep me from larking about in the sand you have another thing coming.
For starters, I like basting myself in factor 50. Then there’s the fact my sister lives near the coast. And last but by no means least, I have a toddler who thinks going to the beach is the best day out in the history of the world ever.
Excellent. So he just runs around smiling and entertaining himself while my wife and I eat ice cream and mainline cocktails, right? Wrong. He plays happily for the first five minutes and then he jogs over and starts demanding I give him cash so he can go parasailing.
Not really. What he actually does is demand my wife or I play with him. Which, given we brought him into the world and have yet to a) provide him with a sibling or b) go on holiday with some friends who have kids his age, is fair enough.
So what do we do when this happens? Simple we invoke Operation Please Toddler At The Beach, which basically involves doing one of the following five things. Read, enjoy, commit to memory and then share with all your friends.
1. Digging a massive hole
Forget crafting a beach-wowing sand castle that features on a couple of Instagram stories and evokes envious looks from other dads. If you really want to create something that will impress a toddler on the beach get down on your knees and start digging. If you get deep enough to hit water, great. If you don’t, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is you make the hole big enough for your kid to jump into. And then out of. And then into. And then out of. And then…
2. Sand dune races
Finding a steep (but safe) sand dune to run down is officially awesome. Repeat: officially awesome (see video at top of post). Note to parents sunning it up on flat beaches: racing from our sun loungers to the water made my son just as happy when we were in Tenerife.
3. Throwing stones
Okay, okay, so as an isolated headline this doesn’t read like a particularly bright or socially acceptable thing to do with a toddler at the beach. But here’s the deal.
- Step one: You, the adult, take your toddler on a stone and shell hunt
- Step two: You, the adult, end the hunt at a quiet spot close to the sea
- Step three: You, the adult, deposit all the stones and shells that have been collected into a big pile
- Step four: You, the adult, watch for other beachgoers, while your kid runs back and forward chucking the stones and shells into the water
- Step five: You, the adult, gain additional parent points by shouting “plop” every time a stone or shell makes a splash in the water
4. Writing in the sand
Full disclosure: your kid’s going to enjoy this activity a bit less than the others in Operation Toddler At The Beach. But it’s 2018 and the world is obsessed with social media. So have you even had a good beach holiday, if you don’t come back with a picture of your kid next to a message in the sand that says ‘Majorca June 2018’?
As in actually going in the water? Yup. As in actually going in the water. Sure it’s cold at the beginning, but you’ll soon warm up once you see your little one’s smile. Wait, that’s a complete and utter lie. You’ll be freezing throughout. But hey, your toddler will have a ball and it’s your partner’s turn tomorrow.