If you’re anything like me, the idea of dealing with an impending heatwave fills you with the “what on earth will I do with the kids” heebie-jeebies. Even short trips out are fraught with peril – suncreaming a two-year old is trickier than grabbing a bar of soap from the bottom of the bath, and even with a good coating of factor 50 you spend most of your time crossing roads to keep them as shaded as possible on the way to wherever you need to go. The playground is out of bounds between 11-3 due to the absolute lack of any cover anywhere, and staying home just makes everyone irritable and bored.
So here are some ideas to change things up and entertain your smalls on those “too darn hot” days, whether you’re at home or away.
1) Water fun
You don’t need a paddling pool to enjoy some water fun on a sunny day. For a toddler, there’s almost nothing better than a grown up acting like a child – so surprise them with a squirt from a water pistol. Put ice cubes down each others’ backs. Fill a bucket and grab a sponge to soak and toss by their toes, splashing their legs. Tie water balloons to a washing line and hit them till they burst, like piñatas. Dance under the sprinkler for 5 minutes (though please run the hose first – water sitting in the hose can get dangerously hot in the sun). Be silly and cool down at the same time.
2) Make ice lollies
Sunny weather and ice lollies go together like, well, strawberries and cream – another summer staple! And kids love the opportunity to make things in the kitchen – even if they’re not usually all that helpful. You can pick up lolly moulds cheaply in most supermarkets and experiment all summer long with different flavours. As a huge bonus, they’ll almost certainly have less refined sugar and additives than the shop-bought alternatives! BBC Good Food has a great selection to get you started – including some more, ahem, grown up flavours – gin and tonic lolly, anyone?
3) Arts and crafts
We have a big box full of offcuts of wrapping paper, old bottles and boxes, ribbons and goodness knows what else. Older kids love being creative and seeing what they can make from junk. Get the paints out – bonus marks if you can find a shady spot in the garden so you’re not worried every minute about the cleanup operation. On our last holiday I had a couple of lovely sessions with my 4yo sitting in a shady area outside a cafe while we drew and coloured pictures in together. Or keep a small stash of fun kits to make things (I buy a lot from Baker Ross) – an ideal portable option for popping in your suitcase for trips away.
4) Have a picnic
Pack your blanket and some lunch (or hang out for a bit in that lovely chilled deli aisle as you gather your nibbles!), find a shady spot in a park, and enjoy the great outdoors. I was amazed at how long my 15 month old sat still for a picnic last summer – but the novelty was definitely a big selling point!
5) Visit a museum / art gallery
This one will depend very much on your child – but these sorts of places tend to be lovely and cool to keep everything in good condition, so can be a great place to spend a few hours staying safe from the sun. Many will either have specific activity sheets for children, or at least signpost the best child-friendly areas online so if you do your research you can make it fun for them. Even if there aren’t specific activities you can make your own – playing “I spy”, having a competition to see who can spot the next dog / something blue / something for cooking with etc.
6) Teddy spa
This one isn’t so much a fun thing to do as a necessary intervention… A hot, sunny day is a fantastic opportunity to pop any beloved but, let’s say “less than spotless”, teddies in the washing machine for a quick spa treatment. I put ours into a pillowcase, fastened with a bobble, and do a 20 min 30 degree cycle. Peg them on the line to dry and with a bit of luck you can be done and dusted during naptime with little one none the wiser!