Nothing sounds better than a relaxing day at the beach with your family. However, before you sink your toes into the sand, you may wonder if your children are too young for the beach.
Public beaches do not have any age limits or restrictions posted. Private beaches may restrict children from swimming there, however. Children under the age of 14 should not be allowed at the beach without an adult. It is always safest to visit the beach with others rather than by yourself.
While there are no age restrictions posted for most public beaches, there are some guidelines parents should follow before taking their children to the beach. Here, you will learn everything you need to know about bringing children to the beach!
Beach Age Limits
As we mentioned above, there is no specific age limit for all public beaches. Conversely, private beaches may have specific age limits. However, it is always smart for adults to accompany their younger children to the beach, no matter what the rules say. Regardless of the beach you go to, be sure to reach out and verify that the beach you plan on visiting does not have a specific age limit.
Since no laws explicitly deny children entry to the beach, you may be curious as to what age to show your children the joys of the beach.
It is best to introduce your child to the wonders of the ocean early on in their life. Start at a swimming pool or a calm beach. Do not let them leave your side. While many wait until their child is three or four years old to teach them to swim, others start much earlier.
The American Red Cross offers swim lessons starting at six months old and beyond (source). While your six-month-old will not be able to swim independently for quite some time, these swim classes can help them feel more comfortable in the water. Obviously, this will come in handy when visiting the beach.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 4,000 unintentional drowning deaths occur each year (source). Unfortunately, many of these recorded deaths are children. Teaching your child to swim from a young age—as well as informing them on water safety—reduces their chances of drowning.
Since beach swimming is different than pool swimming, ensure your child has received some basic swim lessons before going to the beach. Teaching your child about beach safety may seem impossible, but it’s vitally important.
When done correctly, even the youngest, most rambunctious child can enjoy learning about beach safety. Read the following section to learn how to teach your kids about beach safety!
Teaching Kids Beach Safety
Teaching children about beach safety should begin long before their first beach visit. Prepare your children well in advance to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
As a general rule of thumb, your chilren should already have a few swim lessons notched under their belt before their first trip to the beach. These swim lessons will help your chilren know what it is like to be in calm waters.
Several days before you plan to visit the beach, educate your children on the differences between the pool and the ocean. If needed, show them pictures or videos while you explain this subject.
The water at the beach is not clear, the ground underwater is not always smooth nor level, and the water moves at fast paces in currents. Show your kids the following video to help teach them beach safety!
Children should also be informed of the number one rule, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” When a child faces the waves, they can know what is coming and brace themselves for it. However, if a child turns their back, they can be surprised by a large wave, panic, and get swept underwater.
Before arriving at the beach, teach your children to ask you for permission before getting in the water. Asking permission is a good practice to start at the local swimming pool too. When kids ask first, you can be aware of where they are and what they are doing, which will reduce their chances of drowning.
When you arrive at the beach, do not let your children immediately get in the water. Instead, tell them you are going to start with a game. Sit everyone down under the beach umbrella. While applying sunscreen or putting on life jackets, have your children point out everything they notice about the beach. All answers are valid and can help create spatial awareness.
Be sure to point out the direction, size, and speed of the waves. If there are any rip currents, point them out and remind your children about their dangers and how to escape them. If you’re unsure of how safe the current ocean conditions are for swimming, you can always refer to the color of the beach flags.
|Green||water is safe for swimming|
|Yellow||some surf present; be cautious when swimming|
|Red||too much surf for swimming|
|Double Red||the beach is closed|
|Purple||jellyfish (or other dangerous marine animals) are present in the area|
During this time, set a boundary for your children to stay inside. If they notice they have left the permitted area, they need to return to you.
Beach Safety for Parents
Keeping kids safe at the beach is not just their responsibility. It is also yours. As mentioned earlier, there is no age limit for beach attendance; however, there is the expectation that parents pay attention to their children to keep them safe.
Stay close to young children. You should not be reading a book, taking a nap, or playing on your phone if your child is in the water. The lifeguard may not notice that your child has gone missing, so you need to be the first line of defense.
You have already taken steps to protect your children by teaching them how to be safe at the beach from a very young age, but you can keep your children even safer by taking them to a child-friendly beach. Simply because there are no age restrictions does not mean every beach is safe for children. Visit the local surf shop and ask them which beaches are best for children. They should direct you somewhere with few currents, rocks, and drop-offs.
If you feel your children are not ready for the beach, continue teaching them about beach and water safety while at the pool.