The sun is shining, the ocean is calling, picnic packed we are heading to the beach!
Now i am going to let you into some of our beach disasters along with what we do now…. we have had some fantastic days at the beach, more recently probably now we have a few more strategies, but as usual we have learnt through Trial and Error!
So this was a day a couple of summers ago but still fresh in my mind…. it took us a good four hours to pack our stuff to go to the beach, luckily we were up at 5am! My little boy had already decided he hated the beach, sand and the waves and our boundless enthusiasm about the beach was just irritating him….his anxiety was growing and our energy was wavering and we hadn’t even set off yet! Our boot was full to the brim of stuff for every eventuality but not actually much to help what we were about to face!
So we reach the beach carpark after an interesting journey with hysteria everytime the sun went behind the clouds. He worries that the day will go to night instantly, daddy’s headtorch helped with this to ensure if the blackout occurred he was covered! We paid £7 to get in the carpark. We were parched as through the chaos of the morning we only had a mouthful of tea and left the rest to go cold as usual! But with old fond memories of childhoods on the beach firm in our minds we get out and start to suncream the kids.We had no boot space so cream them on the passenger seat ensuring we get all covered we stripped them off and put his newly purchased ear defenders on to block out the traffic noise.
Just at that moment that we thought we were winning, he broke loose and decided to bolt out the door wearing only his ear defenders, head torch and birth-day suit!! Luckily hot footed Daddy was hot on his heels! So family re-united and with a ton of stuff we obviously ‘needed’ we head onto the beach, the crying started, he didn’t like the noise of the waves, the sand felt funny, he needed a wee ect….we were kind and softly spoken trying to reasure him, but nothing was helping. We found a spot after walking for a while (big mistake). He decides he still needs a wee so we explain we need to head near the car to the loos. He proceeds to instantly wet himself in the only uv suit we have with us! He then completely refusing to stand on the sand, so balancing on top of a bag and refused to put his dry clothes on as they are not ‘beach clothes’……Massive meltdown complete sensory overload, we can’t do this anymore it’s not fair on him or us,or anyone….and home we go….5 minutes after arriving…we go home..massive walk to the car carrying a million bags, a child each, one covered in wee obviously, we battle on ….defeated and sad…….
This was definatly one of our low points but we definitely had our high point today! We feel really lucky and proud of our big lad! We have learned so much about Sensory Processing and we are still learning as we go!
Today our superstar let us put on his UV suit and wetsuit, he built sandcastles, he dug a hole, played in rockpools, dug a bigger hole, body boarded!!! He ate his lunch without a wobble, he told us when he was struggling with the noise/ sand and we had strategies to deal with it. He loved it! He said how much he loved it and how he wanted to go another day!
Below is what we do now… it works for us and although we still have wobbles some big some small, we try and have a solution waiting in the wings!
1. We sun cream at home while he is pottering. He is safe in his environment and puts up less fuss, we also try and use a bit of pressure to get a bit of proprioceptive input in before the beach.
2. On wobbly days he wears his wellies to the beach, this way he decides when he feels comfortable to touch the sand.
3. We always have the sun tent which is sand free and shaded, block out bright light/wind or close it up for a sensory den cosy space.
4. We make his normal pack lunch, we used to take yummy special food as a treat…this is not a treat for him and in his words ‘he doesn’t understand his lunch’. I put all aspects of his lunch in seperate tuppawear so if he feels one element of his lunch gets contaminated with sand he doesn’t reject the whole lunch.
5. Take loads of digging stuff, the proprioceptive input (heavy work) is great and a project like a massive castle or ‘sand tractor’ keeps his mind off external noises and worries. Throwing the ball for Polly our dog is also good for this!
6. If he can cope with the sand on him we bury his legs the deep pressure is great to de-sensitise the body and he finds it funny!
7. When we hit a wobbly moment and he gets into a rhythm of anxiety we do something completely different like have an ice cream!!
8. We bought some ear defenders just for the beach/pool they are a different colour and have made a huge difference!
9. We choose beaches which have carparks close to the beach. If you have an uba-meltdown a speedy exit is key! Position of your ‘spot’ on the beach is also important! We like to try and get near the entrance to the beach with enough of a distance to the water so we can catch him up if he bolts before he reaches the sea/traffic but also so it’s not to far to the sea if he refuses to walk!
10. We take a Potty on the beach, public toilets are a nightmare still and it’s less stress for all 🙂
11. We take a big bottle of water this way we can pour over his hands anytime if he needs to de-sand it’s quick and stops worry from building up.
12. Travel mugs and flasks are the way forward, no faffing with trips to the café leaving Mummy or Daddy out numbered in a bolting incident and coffee refills your superpowers in a meltdown I am sure!
13. We take a full spare set if UV suits somtimes we can extend of beach trip by another hour by stripping him off drying him and putting on a fresh sand free suit.
14. We pack the footwells and leave the boot mostly clear. This means we can use the boot (open obviously) to contain him while we do last wees in the potty and do any last minute dressing of hats ect also great for dressing at the end into dry clothes 🙂
15. We have different expectations on the beach then we did. It is not a relaxing day out, it is fun, challenging, we need to be on the ball and ready to react with a solution but we love it and have seen a massive change in the way we do things with a positive outcome which is rewarding!
I try and take loads of photos especially ones where he is doing amazingly and make little social stories for the wobbly days which seem to help. We really enjoy the beach now, not in the same way, but in a way that works for us and our family.
I would love to hear your beach top tips! We are always looking for new solutions 🙂
Hope you enjoy a beach day soon like we did today….