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On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

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On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby dreamshark » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:37 pm

Our 7th trip to STJ is coming up in July, and for the first time it won't be adults only: our 3-year-old granddaughter will be with us. Her favorite movies are "Moana" and "Finding Dory" so you can bet that she is excited to be visiting "a island!" I'm looking for ideas for activities she'll enjoy.

Like most 3-year-olds she loves splashing in the water, but can't actually swim. All her beach experience has been in Oregon, where it's mostly too cold to swim, so I'm not sure she understands that she'll be able to go in the water. She keeps asking if there will be lots of sand, but isn't interested in trying the little snorkel mask her parents bought her. She's been to aquariums, so I think she's imagining all the fish to be in tanks.

I figure we'll start out at Trunk Bay the first day since it sounds like the most cleaned up beach with working facilities. I still remember the magic of the first time I put on a mask and stuck my face in the water and discovered that there were fish swimming all around my feet! I'm hoping we can give her that experience and then she'll understand what the mask is for. But if I'm remembering correctly, there aren't a lot of fish right near shore at Trunk Bay.

If we can talk her into putting on the mask, I'm thinking we'll take her to Francis where the reef is so close to shore that a couple of grownups can carry her out to it and let her see the fish. Are the turtles at Maho close enough to shore that we could float her out to see them?

For non-beach activities, she likes "esplorin' trails" and will love eating at open-air restaurants with chickens running around the tables. It would be cool if the soldier crabs are marching while we are there! We will actually be there over Festival (July 2-10), but that seems like a pretty grown-up and slightly overwhelming set of events for a little one. Any thoughts?
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby RickG » Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:55 pm

What a delight, I've taken my daughters to St. John from 5 months to their current 21 and 26 years old. I have some opinions that I will pass on.

Number one, when we have youngsters with us I make a point of living on their schedule - up early with the sun (it will be bright), breakfast, pack lunch and head to the beach. Nap on the beach. Back to the villa for pool time/shower and an early dinner. I literally get up at dawn and I'm asleep by 9pm. If you want dinner out, I found my girls at 3 would be asleep in the restaurant by 5pm. Pro tip - La Tapa has some tables with bench seats against the wall for crashing kids.

We brought a PFD/flotation vest for my girls. They loved and gained a lot of confidence in the water. My nephew got the nickname "Bob" at your daughter's age because he would just go right out and bob around and be happy for hours. Water shoes are great. If you go to Salt Pond at all, there are thorns in the sand and in the water that water shoes will protect you from.

My daughters did not use fins until they were significantly older. Snorkels took a while too. Masks they got into as soon as they had something interesting to see. A float with a clear sea through panel for watching fish was a great start.

Bring shade, there is less on the island. Still, we alway brought a wee popup and a blanket for naps. We packed a lunch and adult beverages and the girls would nap on the beach in their shade. Bring a gallon of water to rinse the young one off before getting in the car.

Frank Bay has a board walk through the mangrove. Check at the NPS Visitors Center for any interpreted tours while you are there. Jumbie Bay and Little Lameshur Bay have some rock walls with water creatures, whelks and crabs. The right side of Maho Bay has creatures in shallow water and can have sting rays, turtles and minnows, as well as the occasional manta ray.

Use your judgement for the festival events. We have seen pan concerts during that time, including the kids band, that was a lot of fun. Parking can be an issue and the walk from the gravel parking lot can be long, but back then I just popped the youngster up on my shoulders. If you can get a table at Cruz Bay Landing during concerts in the square that is great.

You'll have a ball. I can't wait to bring the grandkids one day.

Do you know about Kid's Night In babysitting? Leslie and her team are great.

Cheers, RickG
STJ for Halloween 10/25-11/3
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby dreamshark » Tue Jun 05, 2018 4:32 pm

Thanks, Rick! Great suggestions. I did buy a little shade tent, but hadn't thought about the float toy with window. I wonder if we could rent one on the island? We should be able to rent a little float vest at the snorkel shop, right?

Little Lena LOVES eating out and is unlikely to fall asleep. In Portland they have an astounding number of family beer-pubs with play areas for small children (no, not kidding). I suppose the STJ equivalent would be family-friendly restaurants with outdoor tables where the kids can play nearby. Maybe Beach Bar? What restaurants are popular with families?

Thanks for the tip about the right side of Maho. And definitely ranger walks if there are any scheduled. I love ranger walks.

We probably won't need baby sitting services (since Grandpa and Grandma are always happy to stay with Lena if her parents want a date night out). But I would like to see Leslie! We met her on a trip in 2013 and she's a sweetheart. What's the best way to contact her?
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby Ed S » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:44 pm

Leslie's website and contact info is below:
http://kidsnightin.com/
Sadly, The Beach Bar will not be open yet when you are there in July. High Tide is the only restaurant/bar open on the beach (right next to the ferry). Banana Deck also seems like a great place for families. Also, Skinny Legs has (or at least had the last time we were there pre-Irmaria) a sandy "play area". There are probably other great places for families - it's only every my wife and I on STJ so we are not typically in search of those places LOL! Have a blast!
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby RickG » Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:50 am

dreamshark, bring the inflatable float with a window with you - it will be small. Call ahead for a PFD/floatie to make certain you can rent one. I would check Just Beach and Low Key.

Ed mentions two good alternatives. La Tapa, Cruz Bay Landing, Ocean Grill, Sun Dog, Greengo's in Cruz Bay are a good start. We are looking forward to Lucky Chops in October. The Coral Bay restaurants will all pretty much work.

Cheers, RickG
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby dreamshark » Thu Jun 07, 2018 5:09 pm

Thanks for all the great ideas, Rick! Since I was already ordering stuff for the trip on Amazon (so much for all the money I saved with award flights!) I ordered the Sieco Clear Bottom Inflatable Raft and a little car pump. One more thing for our luggage - so I guess this won't be one of those "carry-on only" trips. I also ordered a 3-piece set of SPF protectant beach clothes for Lena and threw in the Stearns Puddle Jumper floatie vest (at $15 probably cheaper than renting). The most expensive item of all of this was the cute little girl clothes. But if you can't waste money on cute clothes for a cute grandbaby, what's money for?

20180513_0904c.JPG
New swimsuit I bought for her last month
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby RickG » Thu Jun 07, 2018 6:12 pm

Fun!!
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby cocosmom » Tue Jun 12, 2018 12:17 pm

Our first trip our youngest was 4 but a swimmer. She started on the shore at trunk until we handed her an underwater disposable camera ( years ago) . She was thrilled and wanted to go out to the trail to take more fish pics, even diving down to get closer. Don't know if they still sell them but she may put the mask on if she has one.
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby dreamshark » Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:22 pm

@cocosmom. Wow, a 4-year-old that can not only swim but free-dive with a camera in her hands is pretty impressive! Did she grow up to be a Navy Seal? :D
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby PA Girl » Wed Jun 13, 2018 1:43 pm

I agree with RickG, what a delight!

We started taking our son at 4 months old, sometimes twice a year, and he is now 12 yo so we have experienced every stage on STJ.

My random thoughts –

Yes to a well-fitting, comfortable PDF. I would also take along a really fun float for her, a flamingo, a fish, etc. that she might enjoy while the adults are hanging in the water.

Definitely take her mask, she might surprise you. Don’t bother with fins or a snorkel. Start simple.

There were always a lot of fish near shore, around our feet, at Francis. I remember fish close to shore at Maho in February but the turtles are further out.

Yes to gallons of water for post beach wash offs. Take along a clean set of clothing, our son was happy as a clam, freshly rinsed and dry and would fall asleep on the way back to the villa.

Off the beach, Catherineburg is a great ruin for a child her age as its restored and she can run around.

At 4 yo, my son had a love-hate relationship with the festival. He loved the kids area with the bouncy houses. He HATED the parade, too long and too hot. He also didn’t like the overwhelming bass of the speakers at night. Early in the evening, we didn’t have any concerns taking him downtown but yes, the noise and crowds were overwhelming.

All the current restaurants on STJ are welcoming to kids. If she used to going out, no worries.

If you are so inclined, come back and tell us about your experiences.

Have fun! I would do those young year trips 1,000 times over, fantastic memories.
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby Teresa_Rae » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:19 pm

My girls are 5 and 8 and have been going to STJ annually since they were 1 year old each.

One thing that kids don't typically care for is sunblock application (and we use the reef-safe type that has physical barrier, not chemical barrier ingredients, which is thicker and harder to spread), so we always have multiple rashguards per kid. It makes for significantly less sunblock application. We have that same cute pink swimming suit in your picture, but rarely did my girls wear it to the beach (they're almost exactly 3 years apart, so they both wore it). Anytime one would want to wear it, I'd say "are you sure, I'm going to have to put a lot more sunblock on you if you wear that?," and usually she'd pick a rashguard instead. Two piece suits also make potty breaks a lot easier.

Speaking of potty breaks, we have this travel potty and take it to the beaches; when a kiddo needs a potty break, I find a discreet place to use it; it folds up pretty small/flat:

https://www.amazon.com/Kalencom-Potette-Travel-Potty-Trainer/dp/B0016KV73W
Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.
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Re: On island with 3-year-old in July - ideas?

Postby cocosmom » Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:27 pm

Dream shark. Ha ha... not a navy seal but a Division 1 scholarship swimmer. Started teacher my kids to swim at 2 and at 4 passed the deep water pool test . The girls practiced in the pool with the snorkel before we hit the ocean. I have a Fuji underwater camera that my now 4 year old granddaughter Loves to go under in the pool to take pics. It is reasonable and sturdy with a wrist band. The gkids love it.
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