Siesta Key has nearly incomparable white quartz sand that is clean, cool, and beautiful. However, the island is far more developed than Sanibel and the density of accommodations is much greater = far more people around. Our favorites on Siesta are Siesta Dunes (great pool for little people) and Midnight Cove (beachside). There may be more "off-beach" activities available to you in the Sarasota / Siesta Key area if that is part of your plan. Check out www.sarasota.com for ideas.
Sanibel Island is renowned for the fact that local government tries to keep it as natural as possible. No condo or other building can be taller than the treetops (about 4 stories). The beaches are not as lovely as at Siesta Key, but the tradeoff is that they generally offer very good shelling...an activity that most toddlers can "get into" very quickly. The children would need beach shoes to protect their feet from possible sharp shells. However, there are areas that do not have shells as well where they can just play in the sand.
A favorite mode of transportation on Sanibel is bicycling and you can rent bikes with child carriers or the little pull behind seats. There are many options for where to stay...one of our favorites is a small complex (Sayana) where you can almost count on having the pool to yourselves...kind of nice with small children.
Where to go is a personal choice. Obviously, we have chosen Sanibel over Siesta Key. Maybe you could try one this year and the other one next time. Have a wonderful time, whatever you decide!
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