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These last few weeks here in the south of England (or most of the UK, really) we have seen one insane heat wave. The last few days as I write this have reached mid-thirties (Celsius)! Mid-Thirties! That just doesn’t happen in the country.
One of our most famous stereotypes, after all, is constant rain and gray clouds!
So it can be difficult for most Brits to really get into the flow in these sorts of conditions. It can be inconvenient, uncomfortable and even, dare I say it, unpleasant for an adult when caught out in extreme temperature conditions, despite our love of the sun and rare time with it! However, if you’re a parent getting caught out can be so much worse.
No parent wants to intentionally hurt their child, but being unprepared in this intense heat can be very dangerous for little ones.
Over the past few days, I’ve been trying my best to keep everyone happy and safe. There are a handful of very useful tips I thought I would share, alongside some basic safety advice I believe is valuable to know.
You’ll notice I specify ‘preschoolers’ in the title. This is because my kids fall into that age group. I know that there are different approaches you could take with a baby or have to take with kids who are school age and I wanted to be clear, my advice is based on my own experiences and may or may not be a one size fits all kinda deal, I wouldn’t know! So as with all my advice posts, take what you need, adapt what you can and do what suits you best!
If you go out, try to keep it before 11am or after 3pm
I must admit, I did hesitate to put this one in. It can be difficult, even downright impossible, to stick to this advice. For us, Gray starts nursery at one in the afternoon, so this goes right out the window!
However. What I have been doing is setting up the paddling pool when we get up (between 6-7, usually, as my boys are early morning sleep stealing demons.) I cover the boys in sun cream, feed them breakfast then let them play outside until about 10-11am when it starts getting too hot.
If I have errands to run, I’ll also try to get them done during this time of day. We then come back in for an early lunch and, apart from the nursery run, we won’t venture out again until pick up time (6pm). It’s then dinner time, followed by playing out in the now cooling garden again. (With a fresh coat of sun cream, just in case.)
I am usually a stickler for bedtime. I like my routine and I like my evenings of freedom but in this heat, we have found that the boys seriously struggle to get to sleep, so letting them stay up a little later and burn off some energy is actually a better idea.
Understand that if you find it difficult to sleep, so do they.
Following on from my last point, this is something we have learned the hard way. The other day we had a terrible day. It started off great but as it went on and became hotter and hotter, everyone became grumpier and grumpier. Everyone was tired, moody, snappish and frustrated. We were all too hot and as a result, we were making each other miserable.
By the time bedtime came around everyone was ready to throw in the towel. But things only continued in this vein as the grumpy baby was put in his cot only to continue climbing out, harassing his big brother and slamming bedroom doors. There may have been yelling. There were definitely tears. Also, I’m pretty sure I lost an inch off my thighs going up and down the stairs so many times.
It was only later as Husband and I were having a talk that we realised just how much the heat had affected all of us that day. It wasn’t Rhyds fault he was a bedtime demon (this time). He was just so uncomfortable he couldn’t settle and unfortunately, there was nothing we could do to help.
One thing we did do was make sure our biggest fan was keeping a breeze flowing in the boy’s room, to at least make it slightly more comfortable.
Even if there’s nothing you can do just try to remember, if you’re uncomfortable, so are they. They are not being naughty or trying to test your patience, they are just as miserable with the heat as you are.
Mid-day baths or water play.
This one is probably my favourite that we’ve tried so far.
One day Rhyd and I dropped Gray at nursery and returned home, sweaty, short tempered and fed up. It was mid-thirties and I knew we’d be stuck inside but didn’t have any energy left to keep a grumpy, nap fighting 17-month-old entertained.
Cue the Light-bulb moment! I needed a shower, so instead of waiting until later, why don’t we both hop in? I got us both into the bathtub, put the plug in and started the shower going. As the tub filled, Rhyd visibly relaxed, playing with his little boats and babbling to himself. By the time we were out and dried, we both felt so much cooler and happier. We had an underwear only afternoon and Rhyd spent most of his time running around playing with happy babbling, rather than grumpy whining like the day before!
I found it so soothing having my long wet hair just hanging loosely down my back, keeping me lovely and cool as it dried in record time! It was probably the first time in days we’d both felt comfortable and cool mid-day.
Usually, I know people like to keep baths as part of the bedtime routine, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue to do so! But during the hottest part of the day, plonking the little ones in a bath of lukewarm water to play can make all the difference. It definitely made us happier.
Ditch the usual menu
One of the most difficult things to keep in balance during a heat wave is appetite.
I know I lose my appetite when I’m overheated but, I still suffer the unfortunate side effect of becoming ‘hangry’.
A 1 ½-year-old, a 4-year-old and a Mummy and Daddy all becoming more and more ‘hangry’ but not in the mood for a real dinner? Recipe for disaster! There is always the option of going for salad, sandwiches or general picnic snack foods. However, this can become boring or possibly expensive as the sunny days drag on. The other day I cooked up some pasta, added some chicken,
There is always the option of going for salad, sandwiches or general picnic snack foods, even takeaways. However, this can become boring or possibly expensive as the sunny days drag on. The other day I cooked up some pasta, added some chicken, tomato, and sweetcorn and then covered it and put it in the fridge.
So, the other day I cooked up some pasta, added some chicken, tomato, and sweetcorn and then covered it and put it in the fridge.
Later, at dinner time I pulled it out and simply served it up cold. Voila! A filling, familiar dinner for the kids which also happened to avoid adding to the heat problem because it was nice and cold. I also made myself a lovely egg noodle salad mixed with chopped hardboiled egg, sugar snap peas, shaved carrot and a sweet chili dressing. Served cold, of course!
Rice dishes, couscous, potatoes etc, all these bases for full, filling dinners are perfectly fine and delicious cold. You can add raw veggies instead of cooked for added goodness and variety!
The point is, you don’t really need to worry about buying a whole new range of foods, just be prepared to experiment with quick, easy to serve cold versions of your usual family favourites and you’ll be laughing!
Sun safety – and a few more tips.
Lastly, some basic sun safety tips. ‘basic’ may not be the right word, as that can imply these aren’t the most important but don’t be fooled!
Sun cream. One of the biggest mistakes anyone (not just parents) can make is to forget one simple thing about sun cream. It is supposed to be reapplied. Every 2 hours is best or if your kids are playing in water, I’d check them after an hour, just to be safe. Even the ones that claim to be waterproof do wash off. And the easiest way to burn is to forget that sun cream doesn’t last!
Kids can burn in less than half an hour outside in the intense sunshine, so even if you’re popping out for a quick walk or only going to play for a little while, they still need it. Also, cloud cover means nothing. You can still burn on a cloudy day! Believe me, one of the worst sunburns I’ve ever had happened on a day when I never saw direct sunlight or blue sky, even once.
A friend of mine hates the feel of sun cream on her hands, she swears by this nifty little gadget. It can be used by the kids to easily apply suncream using a roller ball with a sponge around it, so never applies too much and rubs it in for them!
Shoes. Do not let the kids play on a paved surface, or really any surface other than grass on an extremely hot day without shoes. It might be fine in the morning, but by midday, a paving stone can be hot enough to burn soft, sensitive skin very, very quickly. Take off your own shoes and stand for a moment. If it feels uncomfortably warm to you, your children’s sensitive skin will find it even worse. Running around on these surfaces, even if they ‘don’t feel that bad’, can build up the damage. Always put sandals or swim shoes on the little ones if you can’t guarantee they’ll be staying on the grass, even if the ground is wet from water play.
And finally, Cars.
We all know this. We should all know this. And yet, just this morning I was reading the latest reports stating that 2-3 children (80%+ of which are under 3 years old) still die from being left in a hot car every week in the USA. 2-3 babies per week who lose their precious, beautiful little lives in one of the worst ways you can imagine. Why? Because it was more convenient for their parents? Even if I only need one thing, even if my baby falls asleep, even if I’m tired beyond all reason, I will still take my kids out of the car and into the store with me.
Not that I could bring myself to leave them anyway, I’m terrified of the idea of leaving them all alone like that! But really, how are people still not getting this!?
There is no excuse. No. Just no.
One last point with cars. I have found the straps on Rhyds car seat get ridiculously hot. As in, if they were to touch bare skin they could very well injure him, hot. My little trick for this was to throw one of my light cardigans over the seat and leave it. That way when it comes time to put him in I can remove the cardigan to find the straps a safe temperature, or even leave it there and sit him on top of it, tucking it between him and the straps in certain places if necessary.
It is such a little thing which takes no extra effort but makes a world of difference to his comfort and safety.
Have fun this Summer, but be safe! Our little ones have no concept of the dangers of innocent things like sunshine, it’s up to us to take care of those dangers so that they can enjoy their childhoods, without sunburn!