Ah, the Big Beach Day. Whether you live down the street or few states away, a day in the sand and sun with kids means bringing enough gear to keep them cool, covered, and busy! In order to help you pack your beach bags, we found a few handy things that are designed to make surfside fun smarter, not harder. Scroll down to see them all.

photo: Solar Buddies

1. Make Them WANT to Put on Sunblock
Anyone who’s ever tried to put sunblock on a toddler’s face knows that the struggle is real. The makers of Solar Buddies set out to create a sunblock applicator that would make slathering on sunscreen something kids would want to do. The shape of the bottle is perfect for little hands, while the spongy head and roller ball applicator controls the flow of the lotion so that it spreads out evenly. And the best part? The bottle is refillable, so parents can use whatever brand of sunscreen they want.

Cost: $10.37 and up.

Where to get it: solarbuddies.com.uk

photo: Cool Cabanas

2. Get Some Shade
It only takes a few hot minutes to realize you need serious shade if you want to spend the whole day in the sand. And while beach tents are great, they can be cumbersome to set up and take down. Enter the Cool Cabana, a swanky-looking canopy tent that is easy to carry and set up (it folds up and stores inside an umbrella-sized carry bag), gives you about twice the shade of a regular beach umbrella, and is held down by attached sand bags. It’s also wind-resistant and has handy pockets in the legs to store water bottles, keys, or small valuables.

Cost: $99.

Where to get itcool-cabanas.com

photo: Sandusa

3. Keep the Sand at the Beach  
This sand-resistant and waterproof towel from Sandusa Beach will keep sand where it belongs—on the beach. It works using a dual-sided design: One side is an absorbent cotton terrycloth like a regular beach towel, the other side is made of nylon with a layer of waterproofing material in between. Want to make it home without soggy car seats? Just wrap the towel around your soggy kiddos and let them sit down wherever they please.

Cost: $49.95.

Where to get itsandusa.com

photo: Swimlids via Facebook

4. Keep Their Hats On
Sun hats are great… when they stay on your kids’ heads. Unfortunately, most caps can’t withstand the wind, waves, or water of your typical beach day. Swimlids aren’t most hats. Using a patent pending construction, these nylon/spandex-based hats have a UPF of 50+ and won’t blow or wash off during an active day at the beach. They stay on while swimming, and dry quickly afterward. Sizes run from newborn to adult, and there are several snazzy designs to choose from including pink polka dot, anchors, and swimming turtles.

Cost: $9.95 and up.

Where to get itswimlids.com

photo: Beachmate

5. Carry All Your Stuff in Style
Packing perfectly for the beach can be a conundrum: You need to bring all the towels, toys, snacks, and drinks, but you don’t want to carry so much that you’ll be overloaded. The Beachmate is an all-in-one stackable storage system that is designed to consolidate all your beach stuff into one bag. How? The five plastic compartments inside the bag pop out and can become sand buckets. Flip the buckets over, and you’ll have lunch trays, cup holders, and even a small seat. The bag also comes with a cooler, a fully-lined tote bag, and two industrial-sized shovels for your little castle builders. And, there’s a velcro strap on the outside for strapping on a towel, blanket, or beach umbrella.

Cost: $78.50.

Where to get itmybeachmate.com

Got any tips on how to make a family beach day even better? Tell us in the comments section below!

— Melissa Heckscher