The summer heat is a mixed blessing for families.
We all enjoy a day in the sun, but those balmy temperatures can also get uncomfortable. Keeping cool in summer heat is challenging enough, but getting the kids to sleep in a warm bed room can be even tougher.
Follow our tips on how to stay chilled in the heat, get to sleep when the temperature is high, and stay cool without air conditioning. It's not all hot air!
Why it's important to stay cool in summer
Getting too hot is not only uncomfortable, it can also have serious health implications. Kids are especially prone to the effects of direct sunlight and high temperatures. If body temperature gets too hot, they're at risk of developing heat exhaustion.
Warning signs are dizziness, fatigue, headache and feeling faint. If you suspect your child is suffering heat exhaustion, get them somewhere cooler and give them plenty of water to drink. They should recover fairly quickly.
In extreme cases, heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke. This is a much more serious condition in which a high body temperature can lead to organ damage, and is potentially fatal.
It's worth having a think about the different levels of protection your kids are getting from the heat. Sunscreen is not optional and should cover all exposed skin. Reapply after getting wet, even if using a 'water resistant' brand. Sun hats, shades and a shady place to cool off are also a good idea. Although it's tempting to strip off to swimwear in the heat, wear light clothing with a loose neck for better sun protection.
Kids and adults alike should also be drinking plenty of water to replace that lost through sweat, and to ward off heat stroke.
How To Keep Your House Cool Without Air Conditioning
Air conditioning at home is common in the warmer states of the USA, but is less popular in Europe and other temperate regions. It's not an ideal solution for everybody. Units can take up precious space, are sometimes noisy, and are very power hungry. A central cooling unit typically draws as much energy as 15 fridges - not good for your energy bill, or the environment.
But if you don't have aircon, how can you stay cool on those sweltering summer days? Here are a few ideas to drop the temperature in your home.
Open a pair of windows
It sounds obvious, but there's a bit of a trick to opening windows. On a calm, windless day, having your windows open doesn't have much of an effect. If anything, it can let in warmer air and make your home all the hotter. The best option is to open only a couple of large windows, preferably in separate rooms. This should create a through-draft, with air blowing between rooms. It won't remove the heat, but the circulating air will feel more refreshing on your body.
Partially close curtains or blinds to block out direct sunlight
You have to be strategic here. If you fully close curtains, you'll block out much of the light and through-draft. But drawing them across by half or two-thirds should keep things bright and breezy while also blocking much of the sun's radiation.
Invest in a portable fan or cooling unit.
A halfway step to full air conditioning is to buy a smaller, less power-hungry device. Fans are not as effective, as they only push the hot air around and only in a small area. Portable cooling units can have a marked effect on a whole room and work by evaporation of water.
Place a damp cloth over your head
It's not the most fetching look, but a moistened flannel or towel over the head or shoulders can work wonders on a hot day. The cooling effect is twofold. You get an immediate cold effect from the touch of cloth on the skin. Thereafter, steady evaporation helps to draw heat away from your body.
If you have space, consider indoor water fountains
These have a cooling effect on the surrounding air, thanks again to evaporation. And you don't have to go big. Small indoor fountains no bigger than pot plants are now available to help you beat the heat. They're also a good idea for adding a focus to a room, and kids love them.
Make sure you use a system that cycles cold water, though, rather than continuously draining. If you have a dog or cat, you could also get a pet water fountain for outdoors.
Take a shower
For a one-off burst of cool, take a low temperature shower. Leaving your hair wet will ensure you'll feel cooler for up to an hour.
Wear ice packs on your body
Ice packs are readily available from supermarkets and other outlets. You simply store them in your freezer or ice box and take out when needed. They're chiefly intended for keeping food and drink cool, but there's no reason you can't use them to help with body temperature. Placing the pack directly onto skin might be uncomfortable, so instead slip it into an old sock or small tote bag and place it under your clothing.
Refreshing Drinks And Snacks To Keep You Cool
Chilled food and cold drinks should also be in your armamentarium for keeping cool. You can't really beat ice cream for kids, though their health might suffer if you turn to them too regularly. Freeze fruit juice for simple, healthier ice lollies, or perhaps create a 'fruit kebab' to combine healthy eating with playfulness.
Frozen bananas or melon (perhaps dipped in chocolate) make exciting summer snacks on a hot day. Eat them neat, or use them to chill drinks. You can even eat frozen peas straight from the freeze box - it's not as weird as it sounds, and the bowl you place them in can also help spread the chill onto your skin.
It's particularly important to stay hydrated in the heat. Make sure that your kids drink lots of water throughout the day. They'll need it to replace the body sweat that a hot day produces in such abundance. You could also make pitchers of refreshing summer drinks, using plenty of fruit and ice.
Cooling Activities To Do With Kids
The most obvious way to beat the summer heat is to splash about in cool water. So much outdoor water play equipment is available these days that those with gardens can have their own miniature splash parks.
That old favourite - the paddling pool - now comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can buy pools with built-in sun shade, pools specifically designed for infants or, conversely, ones that can fit in the entire family. It's even possible to find novelty inflatable pools with slides, or shaped like a pirate ship.
A more recent addition to the garden water park is the slip 'n' slide. This is a long sheet of plastic covered in a water layer from the garden hose - perfect for kids to slide along. These also come in a range of styles and sizes. They work best on a gentle slope, but can still be plenty of fun on the flat.
Another garden toy that'll help them stay cool is some form of play house. This could be anything from a full-blown treehouse to a cheap and simple play tent. Whatever you choose, this will give the kids a fun hideaway with guaranteed shade.
Then there's that other tradition for a hot day: the water fight. Pump your water pistols, prime those biodegradable water balloons and, please, try to avoid splashing mum and dad. You could even try building one of these DIY water balloon launchers for an educational soaking.
You could also try playing games with ice cubes. If you don't have an ice maker, then most supermarkets sell packets of the cold stuff. Our guide to ice games includes painting on ice, a speed melting game, and the challenging 'free the toy' mission. You might also have fun filling a rubber glove with water, freezing it over night, then peeling it off to reveal an icy hand.
Not all splash games need to be played outside. You can also cool off around the house with one of these watery
How To Stay Cool In The Car
Most cars these days have full air conditioning or air circulation systems, so staying cool isn't so challenging. For cars without air con, keep the temperature lower by keeping windows open where possible, and placing glare screens over the rear side windows (use transparent covers so as not to impede your view).
You could also give the kids hand-held electric fans to make sure they're keeping cool. And remember to carry plenty of drinking water. Park in the shade if you can, to keep the interior cool. If you're parking up for a few hours, consider the direction the sun will be taking when trying to find a shady spot.
How To Keep Your Kids Cool At Night
Keeping the temperature down in the day can be a challenge, but how to stay cool at night can be even more so. We're all familiar with those restless warm nights amid sweat-soaked sheets. Getting to sleep can feel impossible.
If you don't have air con, then you still have options. A portable cooler in the bed room can work wonders, but the noise might be off-putting to kids. A slightly quieter (if still expensive) option is to have ceiling fans fitted and leave the windows open all night. Table-top fans are another option, though these can also be noisy.
A far cheaper (though less effective) idea is to use hot water bottles as cold water bottles. Fill them with chilled or even icy water and put them into the bed half an hour before bedtime. Your child can then place the bottle underneath their back or neck to feel the full benefit. The cooling effect will only last an hour or so, but it might be enough to ward off sweating and get the kids sleeping.
Likewise, you could also try the 'damp flannel on the head or chest' method mentioned previously to take the heat off. This will help them stay cool, but could also prevent them getting to sleep if it feels a bit weird.
What to wear and cover the kids with in bed is also important. Stick to the duvet and they'll be sweating the night away. Instead use a thin cotton sheet, or no sheet at all if they're comfortable with that. Pyjamas should be traded for simple shorts and vest.
Finally, instead of fighting the temperatures you could use them to your advantage. If you have a garden or balcony, you could use the opportunity to make your bed outdoors. Either pitch a tent or, if there's zero chance of rain, sleep directly under the stars. It'll be a big adventure for the kids, and sleeping outside is much cooler than sweating under the sheets.
The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.