12 Essentials for an Epic Trip to the River with Kids

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Thank you Tampico Beverages for sponsoring this discussion. All opinions are my own.

One of the greatest things about moving to Texas is the river running through our town. It’s a spring-fed, crystal clear, 72 degree, river that is perfect for swimming, tubing, wading, or kayaking. Oh, and it’s free to play in.

However, taking multiple kids to the river, can be tricky, scary, and stressful. There are spots where the river flows fast and gets deep quickly. Due to spring rains this year, it’s higher than normal too. There are no lifeguards either.

But I am not one to avoid something just because it appears “hard.” And what else are you supposed to do in the hot summer Texas heat than go swim (especially if you’re pregnant)?

Generally speaking, I don’t take my kids by myself to the river. First, it’s not nearly as much fun as having a girlfriend or a husband to share the adventure with. Second, I like having an extra pair of hands and eyes to help with my littlest ones, especially since my best friend has kids who are 10 and 13 and very helpful.

I have taken my (at the time) three kids to the river by myself. We survived and had a good time. I just don’t prefer to do it. Just in case.

Along with another person there are several other things I take with me to the river to make it not only safe, but extremely enjoyable for all.items to take to river swimming with kids

What to Take to the River When You Have Young Kids

I don’t like to bring more than I absolutely have to when I go most anywhere. The river is no exception as there is almost always a fairly good walk from the car to the river, especially when it’s the weekend or a holiday and everyone else in town is also going to the river!

A photo posted by Katelyn Fagan (@whatsupfagans) on

1.) Swimsuits. If you get a swim shirt for your kids or yourself you’ll also worry less about sunburns.

2.) Towels. My kids have a tendency to get cold and wanting to come out and warm up in my lap for a while. Towels are also helpful for wiping off dirty hands before you eat and keeping your car seats from getting drenched.

what to take to the river - sunscreen3.) Sunblock. The spray kind is amazing. Make sure it’s waterproof and a high SPF. I still prefer a lotion kind for applying to faces though.

what to take to river with kids - tampico drinks4.) Drinks. Playing outside in the sun and water zaps your body of hydration. Bring an insulated water bottle so your water will stay cold, put drinks like Tampico in an ice chest, and if you can figure out a way to keep them frozen, Tampico Popsicles are a fun easy way to stay hydrated too.

what to take to river with kids - aqua socks5.) Aqua socks. For kids and adults. Rivers are full of seaweeds and rocks along the bottom, and it super helpful to have aqua socks so no one complains of sore feet, slimy stuff, or even hot rocks.

6.) Swim diapers. If you have a baby or toddler still using a diaper, you need these. A regular diaper will swell and ooze out its absorbent beads everywhere. Leaving extra in your purse/diaper bag as well as in your car ensures you don’t forget them!
taking kids to river safety 7.) Flotation Devices.
My 3 year old son has a Puddle Jumper to help keep him safe in the water. My baby uses a baby float. I picked up a very simple one for $1 at the Dollar Tree the other day (where I also picked up a box of 8 Tampico popsicles) with two inflatable rings. I’ve used it in the river several times and it works great. It gives my back a break from holding a baby the entire time. Plus, I discovered you can part the current with your body and the baby float will stay right in front of you without you having to constantly be holding it! My baby loves the water, and this allows her to enjoy it without constantly being in my arms or lap. But, they are not life saving devices and you need to be with your child while using one the whole time.

8.) Sunglasses or hat. My eyes are sensitive to the light and I prefer to wear sunglasses when outside as much as possible. If I’m chilling with a baby in the water, my head isn’t going under water anyway. My husband has a bald head and a hat provides extra sun protection. A sun hat for baby is a great idea too (we don’t currently have one). Just take them off before going under the water.

9.) Regular clothes. This includes dry underwear, your day clothes, regular dry diapers, and regular footwear (a pair of flip-flops works). If you need to run to the store afterward or for some reason need real clothes, you have them. We don’t always change before heading home, but having the option is super smart.

10.) Hair ties and bobby pins. If you have long hair, water can make it a tangled matted mess. Our friends usually braid their daughters’ long hair before swimming. I always put mine up in a ponytail and tie back my bangs and short postpartum baby hairs in bobby pins or a headband.

11.) Camp chairs. If you go to a part of the river that is very rocky, think about bringing camp chairs. Sitting on the ground or a rock for extended periods of time isn’t the funnest thing ever.

take to river with kids - food12.) Food. Kids get hungry. Adults get hungry. Think about packing some coolers and food for a snack at the very least. Remember that chocolate things will melt (including granola bars with chocolate) and stick to finger foods as much as possible so you don’t also have to bring plates and utensils. Grab napkins or wipes to clean up hands and faces and be sure to throw any trash away appropriately or take it home with you to do so properly later.

However, sometimes I purposefully don’t bring food so that I can lure my kids away from the fun “so we can go get food” without tantrums. They want food more than they want to keep playing at a certain point.swimming in river with kids - tampico

Extras: It’s fun to bring goggles, nets, buckets, and other water toys to the river, but they are optional. So are things like a bluetooth speaker, water guns, and even a canopy.  If you forget them, you’ll survive just fine, but you may want them too.

See this post for more water safety tips for kids. 

As long as I have the necessities, and even if I don’t, my family usually has a great time swimming in the river, which is good because it’s what you do in the summertime here in Texas!

What do you take to the river with you when you have kids in order for them to be safe and have a great time?

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  1. says

    A crystal clear river? I’ve never heard of such a thing! The river’s here in Ohio are nothing I”d want to swim in so I’m totally jealous. 🙂 Puddle jumpers are the best, aren’t they! We have three now, and they hold the kids so well when they’re in the water. So much better than those inflatable arm floaties. Looks like you had a great time. I hope you have a great week!

    • says

      Yes! It’s beautiful! And I grew up in Wisconsin where the rivers are a yucky murky brown, so definitely not rivers I swam in ever, or the lake they flowed into (other than to do things like tubing or jet skiing).

  2. says

    Summer is here and we are all longing for long sunny days at the river. Helpful article for parents who enjoy their time on river.Thanks for sharing.


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