[Note: This post was written by KFDC Contributor Emily Moise, a local writer and mom of two young children. Along with being a great writer, she always has excellent recommendations for toys, books, and local explorations for little ones. See more of them here, here, and here.]
Summertime and the livin’s eas…ier. This weekend marks the official start of summer, and pandemic-era parents rejoice as the season brings infinitely more room to roam and water to splash in. But the muggy, buggy DC area climate can quickly damper even your greatest plans if you are not well-equipped.
Whether you are bringing your little ones to the local zoo and animal parks, the area’s best playgrounds and splash pads, your community pool, or the Maryland and Delaware beaches, it’s time to make sure your bases are covered with some summer staples.
I almost always venture out solo with my four- and two-year-olds sans stroller (read: no storage space). Given this, my summer must-have list for little ones must be edited. These are my “deserted island items” — the essentials for summer survival!
I recently invested in some better warm-weather equipment for my role as “snack lady.” I replaced the traditional diaper bag with a backpack that was entirely insulated, because what else is even in there besides food? This small one fit the bill perfectly, and here’s a similar style with more pockets. I love this larger sized one too.
Thermos Water Bottles
While we’re talking food and insulation, these thermos bottles are hands-down my favorite. The stainless steel is safer and cooler in the sun, and impossibly, ours still look like new after four months of use. There are lots of fun colors and character designs to choose from.
Sunscreen (+Bug Spray)
The trick is finding one that little ones will let you near them with — because hell hath no fury like a child resisting sunscreen! A few ideas: 1) find one with appealing branding like this, 2) find one that includes insect repellent like this to kill two birds with one stone. Also consider a separate, no-tears option for the face.
Compact Portable Potty
Admittedly, I haven’t purchased one—yet. But I have had to borrow one from a friend twice in the past month. I’m generally that parent finding the nearest bush for my child to pee behind, but sometimes nature is less squat-friendly. These potties are incredibly compact, and perfect for the more discerning parent and child.
The shoe of the season! Natives are the gold standard, but there are other more budget-friendly options like this and this that are suitable for all-purpose play. Crocs (and similar styles) are even better for quick on and off during backyard play.
Kids bathing suits are not all created equal. For girls, nothing beats a two-piece suit like this or this for potty time and quick changes. For boys that aren’t potty trained, this one is a recent find and new favorite (similar to baby swim diaper suits you may be familiar with). Top it all off with towels that double as cover-ups.
Like sunscreen, the key is finding one that your little ones won’t resist with all their might. These bucket hats set the record for longest amount of time on my kids’ heads during a recent beach trip. They are breathable, secured with drawstrings, and come in a variety of colors and sizes.
Kids can go from playing contently one minute to unbearably hot the next. Portable fans come in hand-held designs like this and this that will appeal to little ones, and I’ve seen this one on many must-have lists for new moms. Added perk: fans are one of the best mosquito repellents.
Buckets & Shovels
A good ol’ pail and shovel can get you far. On a recent beach trip, we brought everything—you name it, we had it. My little ones used small-sized shovels for 99% of our beach time. A set like this or this one (with collapsible buckets!) is perfect for the minimalist beach-goer.
What’s on your summer must-have list? Tell us in the comments below!