Heatwave after heatwave seems to be forecast this summer, and who’s complaining? Work days may be a little sweaty, commuting is kind of unpleasant, but long warm evenings and guaranteed weekend sunshine means endless family fun and kids who never get bored.
But as they run circles in the garden and scream with delight whenever you give in to the request for an ice cream, looking after children in hot weather comes with a whole new set of challenges.
Here are a few hacks to make sure kids are hydrated, sun safe and comfortable in the heat.
1. Fashion a cover for them to play under
Let’s face it, staying in the shade doesn’t sound much fun if you’re a young child with loads of energy to burn – so make it interesting. Get them to help you decorate an old sheet or piece of tarpaulin to stretch across two fences or trees for shade, choose a teepee tent they’ll actually want to spend time in, or simply buy a shade sail so big they can’t really avoid it (Wayfair have an affordable selection).
2. Invest in heat-friendly bed sheets
With soaring daytime temperatures come sticky nights – and not sleeping properly makes for overtired children and tantrums. If your kids’ beds have the same sheets and duvet all year round, you’re missing a trick. In hot weather, try bamboo sheets which are breathable and lightweight, or any kind of moisture-wicking or micro-fibre sheets that actually absorb sweat. Swap heavy winter duvets for summer tog ones, or if they’re really warm, take the duvet out altogether and have them sleep under just the cover.
Young children often won’t pick up on signs they’re dehydrated or thirsty, and their higher metabolic rates and higher body water content means, proportionally, they require more water than adults to maintain their fluid equilibrium, according to Medscape.
So it’s important to get them into the habit of drinking, even if they don’t feel like it. Buy them their own reusable plastic bottle themed with whatever cartoon character or programme they’re into at the moment, fill with juice, squash or water and freeze overnight. The next day it’ll stay cold in the heat and you can sneakily top it up when they aren’t looking. Alternatively, to make water far more fun, pack it full of colourful fruit to flavour it.
4. Chill washcloths in the fridge
When they need to cool down quickly, having chilled flannels to hand is a lifesaver. Fill a large bowl or clean sink with ice water, add a couple of drops of essential oil (or get the kids to pick a scent they like), submerge the flannels, squeeze out excess water, fold in half, roll tightly and stick it in the fridge in a sealed container. It’s a bit of a novelty for kids and a mini spa treatment for you.
5. Make healthy ice lollies together
Grab a couple of silicone ice lolly moulds and whip up fruit juice lollies (two moulds on rotation would be ideal so there’s always a new batch freezing away). No moulds? Cut a watermelon into wedges and freeze those instead. In fact any frozen fruit makes for great, sweet – yet hydrating – snacks, think grapes, banana, slices of kiwi and berries.
6. Double check their clothing
Even if they’re just in shorts and t-shirts, the material makes all the difference. Polyester or nylon aren’t breathable enough and will make them feel even more hot or uncomfortable in the sun. Cotton, with a loose weave, is a much better choice and allows air to circulate more easily as they play.
7. Encourage them to slow down
Yes everything is SO much more fun and exciting in the sunshine, but if they show signs of irritability, headaches, nausea or confusion, they might be overheated or even on the road to heatstroke (children and elderly people are at an even greater risk). Check on them regularly, always make them wear a hat and be strict about the amount of sun they’re taking.
8. Teach them about the sun
It’s been said before, but we’ll say it again, kids need a high SPF (go for 50) which has protection from both UVA and UVB rays – their skin is more delicate and sensitive to the sun. It’s so important that children grow up with a knowledge of how dangerous the sun is, and know how to apply sun cream themselves (so you can pop a bottle in their bag to take to school too). Buy one that rubs in easily, isn’t sticky, is water resistant – and apply it even when it’s cloudy.