After a full summer day at the park, my children arrive home then coated in sand and cracker crumbs…and often partially wet from running through the fountains, but it’s far easier to clean them up then the entire house. They are then gloriously hungry, tired and ready for bed (Even if the summer sun is still pouring in their bedroom windows at 8pm.)

So what have I found to be the most important items in our bag for summer afternoons at the park?

1. Snacks. If I pack twice as much food as I think my kids can possibly eat, it’s not nearly enough. So I throw in an extra bag of carrot sticks and a bonus box of crackers and hope for the best.

2. Cups. I’m too lazy to fill up water bottles these days so we bring a stack of cups and let the kids fill them up at the drinking fountain. These also double as sand toys when needed.

3. Sunscreen. Even though it’s more expensive, I have opted for the small containers of sun screen just so that I can stash them in my purse, in the car, and in the park bag.

4. Swimsuits. Our favorite summer parks have water features that can keep my kids occupied for hours.

5. Towels. These will possibly be totally soppy, sandy, and disgusting by the end of the day, but it’s nice to have them on hand.

6. Dry clothes. Having a couple of outfits on hand prevents yogurt spillage from being a deal breaker.

7. Band aids. Somehow this small piece of flexible plastic seems to convince my children that their wounds are instantly healed.

8. Plastic containers. OLd sour cream tubs make fantastic sand castles and are much smaller and easier to pack than sand buckets.

9. Mom gear. If I am going to spend six hours at the park, I have to remember those items that will keep me content. For me it’s almonds and chocolate, sunglasses, a charged cell phone, and maybe even a book.

10. Friends. O.K….these don’t really fit in a beach bag, but having a few friends for a casual playdate make the entire experience so much more fun. Children get to see their buddies and parents get a chance to celebrate the victories and failure of parenting. (Hopefully while laughing hysterically at both.)

Have I missed any key components? Are you packing cloth diapers, wipes, and other baby gear at this point as well?