A beach vacation is supposed to be relaxing but if you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, taking a trip to the shore can sometimes seem more stressful than anything. Frequent beachgoers know that going to the beach means leaving with sand everywhere and if you have little ones, that also means sand will likely end up in their mouth. Whether you’ve experienced this already or not, you might be wondering if there’s a way to stop your baby from eating sand at the beach.
The best way to prevent your baby from eating sand at the beach is to bring another surface to sit on, provide water and snacks, ensure there are plenty of toys to keep their attention, and keep a close eye on them.
Keep reading for our best tips on how to stop your baby from eating too much sand and to learn how to keep your little one safe if they do swallow a mouthful.
How do I stop my baby from eating sand?
Since babies and toddlers love to put everything in their mouths, if you plan on putting your little one down at the shore, there isn’t a sure-fire way to completely stop them from eating sand. However, there are ways to keep your baby safe in the sand and still have a fun beach trip. Being prepared is one of the best ways to keep your baby from ingesting too much sand and there are plenty of ways to keep even the smallest kids occupied during your visit to the beach.
If you’ve ever taken a little one to the beach, you’ve likely had to wipe the sand out of their mouth at one point or another. There isn’t one way to stop your baby from eating sand, but there are some ways to prevent it. For most babies, eating sand is a pretty unpleasant experience, so they may only try to eat it one time. But for those who are more persistent, there are some precautions you can take before taking your little one to the beach.
Here are some tips for keeping your baby from eating sand at the beach:
- Bring them another surface to sit on. Especially if your baby isn’t old enough to completely understand when you tell them no, you may have to avoid letting them roam around on the sand. Instead of placing your little one directly in the sand, bring a sheet or a tarp for them to crawl on. Bringing a fitted sheet to the beach is a great parenting hack because if you place the sheet upside down and use coolers or something of similar size to hold down each corner, you can create a personal play area for your baby on the sand.
- Give them something else to focus on. Babies may swallow sand because they like the texture, but giving them something else to focus on may keep them from being too curious about the way the sand tastes. Bring simple toys with you to the beach such as a pail and shovel. This will allow your little one to still enjoy the texture of the sand and explore the area while also keeping them occupied with something other than their mouth.
- Keep them close. Of course, you have to keep a close eye on all your kids when you go to the beach, but with little ones who are extra curious, it’s important to be even more aware of what they’re doing. Especially if it’s their first time at the beach, let them play somewhere near you so you can stop them before a fistful of sand makes it into their mouth.
Why do babies eat sand?
Every parent knows little kids love to put everything in their mouths, no matter what the object tastes like. We may not know what babies find so appetizing about sand, but they likely try to eat it because it’s an interesting texture. Wet sand is soft and squishy between their fingers and when babies grab something new, it seems like the first thought in their head is always “Can I eat it?” Babies usually put objects in their mouths as a way to explore the world around them.
Sand also might be appealing for babies and even toddlers to eat because the texture is a little rough. Many parents of toddlers have said their little ones seem to eat sand, especially while they’re teething, and the roughness may feel good on your baby’s gums.
The reality of your kids putting everything in their mouths means not only will they eat sand, but they’ll also try to eat anything else they find on the beach. Once you find a spot on the beach for your kids to play, be sure to check the area for any shells, trash, or other objects. Unfortunately, if the beach wasn’t recently cleaned, it’s common to find trash such as cigarette butts in the sand. We’ve even found things like rusty nails and broken glass at the beach!
To avoid your little one putting something else harmful in their mouth, comb through the sand with your fingers before putting your baby down.
What happens if you swallow sand?
If your little one does swallow sand, you may be wondering if it’s safe. In most cases, if your baby eats sand, it will simply work its way through their digestive system. If it’s a small amount, you usually don’t have anything to worry about. As soon as you realize they’ve stuck some in their mouth, try to rinse the sand out if you can, though, to minimize the amount.
The most common concern about babies eating sand is the possibility of them ingesting harmful bacteria, which can make them sick. Even clean sand isn’t totally safe though, because sand can be a choking hazard and it can cause an issue in their intestines if they ingest too much.
If your baby eats sand, it’s not the end of the world, especially if they only ingest a small amount. Exposure to germs tends to build up a child’s immune system, so eating a little bit of sand every once in a while isn’t necessarily harmful. If you’re able to, wipe their mouth out and have them drink a little bit of water to rinse the sand out of their mouth.
If you don’t notice any gastrological symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, then your baby is most likely okay. But if you do notice any of those symptoms after your beach trip, contact your baby’s pediatrician right away.
Can eating sand make a baby sick?
If you’re wondering about the possible risks of your baby eating sand, it really depends on how much sand your baby eats and how clean the sand is. Eating sand definitely can make a baby sick, although it is rare for sand to cause serious illness on its own. If you plan on taking your kids to the beach, it’s important for you to know the risks involved and to know what to look out for.
Even if the sand is clean and free from bacteria, it’s still possible for your baby to have an upset stomach after ingesting a handful of sand. Due to it being a substance your baby’s tummy isn’t used to and the rough texture of the sand, it’s bound to upset their stomach as it makes its way through their digestive system.
When you notice your baby or toddler eating sand, have them sit on a beach towel or blanket instead and make sure they have beach toys or something else near them to play with. If they continue to eat sand, it may be best to save your beach trips for when they’re a little bit older. Many parents have to avoid the beach during the first few years of their child’s life when they have a little one who loves to snack on a handful of sand.
Is beach sand toxic or unsafe?
Regardless of how clean the sand is at the beach, beach sand isn’t meant to be eaten. But in most cases, it’s not toxic if your baby ingests a small amount. What makes beach sand really unsafe is the potential for them to swallow harmful bacteria.
The main concern around your baby ingesting sand is the potential bacteria that could be present in the sand. Especially when the sand is wet, there can be plenty of harmful bacteria present in sand, including fecal matter. According to the ACS journal Environmental Science and Technology, sewage-contaminated water at the beach can cause stomach aches, diarrhea, and rashes. What’s even more shocking is their claim that scientists have found levels of fecal matter in beach sand that are 10 to 100 times higher than the matter found in seawater.
Another concern is the possibility of a toxoplasma infection, which could occur if your little one ate sand that was contaminated by the feces of an infected cat. Parents are often warned of toxoplasma if their kids are playing in the dirt or a sandbox, but it’s also possible to catch this infection on the beach or anywhere else an infected cat has been.
No matter how much sand your baby ingested, it’s important to monitor them for signs of stomach upset, fever, or abdominal pain. If your baby experiences any of these symptoms, be sure to contact their doctor right away.