Keeping It Cool When It’s Hot: Kids’ Playtime

Dana Baker

We’ve had some pretty hot weather recently. I don’t know about your kids, but mine are not big fans of the high heat or humidity. In fact, it kind of makes us all a little cranky (OK, not my husband, he loves it). To top it all off, we don’t have air conditioning so I needed to figure out some alternative ways of keeping the family cool and happy.

If there’s anything in the world that will brighten up a preschooler’s day … it’s water play. Water is seriously magical. All you need is a bucket of water, water gun, a hose or a sprinkler to make your child happy and engaged. But I’m throwing in some new ideas that will captivate your kids. And if the kids are happy, we’re happy!

  • Paint ice cubes – Sounds odd, I know but it’s a great way to entertain small kids. Empty your ice cube maker into a large storage container and you have a cold sensory/art bin for the kids to use. Grab some washable liquid tempera paint and paint brushes and let your kids paint the ice. They will be entertained for a long time just sitting and painting and decorating. If the paint is thin enough, it will freeze as it hits the ice. If the paint is thick, it will drip and move in the water. Bottom line: it’s so fun I bet you’ll have to get in on the action!
  • Spritz bottle and water guns – Yes, you can fill these with water and your kids can spray themselves, their siblings, maybe even you if you’re lucky. But don’t stop there. Another fun way to use those water spritzers or water guns is to fill them with half water and half tempera paint. Take some large white paper and put it on the ground or tape it to your garage or a wall and have at it. Spray the paper with the paint – make an underwater painting or a forest or a beach. Or just an abstract, messy creation and call it art.
  • Water table – A great way to experience sensory play and still stay cool. There are endless ways to play with this. My son loved to build boats out of legos and see which ones floated. You can make it partially water and another part sand. It’s your kids’ own beach to experience. Or grab some cooking utensils like a ladle and spoons, bowls, cups and for sure the egg beater. Throw some pennies, beads or pebbles in and let them scoop them up. There are so many variations on bead soup or a wishing well that can appear on a whim.
  • Alphabet soup -Take a giant bucket or water table or kiddy pool and toss those plastic letters into the water. Let the kids scoop them up with spoons or smaller bowls. See if they can name the letters as they pull them out. You could even have them grab a certain amount and see if they can spell a word or spell the sound of a word.
  • Water balloons – There are endless ways to use water balloons and nearly all of them are fun–other than perhaps a few tears when a sibling throws too hard. In addition to just tossing water balloons at each other, fill a kiddie pool with them and place it between some targets. For instance, if you have a short basketball hoop; that’s perfect. Let the kids stand wherever they want based on age and size, and let them rip. Ready, aim, fire right into the basketball hoop. No basketball hoop? No problem. Get a big bucket or plastic rings you can put on the ground. Let’s face it, toddlers are likely to just toss the balloons up and let them splash at their feet. Anything goes.
  • Car wash  If you are brave you can have your kids wash your car. If you’re smart you might just give them the buckets, water, sponges and a hose but put them to work on their own plastic car. I recommend bathing suits for this one – for all of you, not just the kids!
  • Rainbow ice cubes  This one is messy, but super fun and easy. Fill ice cube trays with liquid watercolors and freeze them overnight. In the morning grab lots of paper or a huge sheet of fabric and put it on a table (no table? Lay it on grass or driveway), fill a bowl with the ice cubes and let the kids go. As the cubes melt, the fabric gets covered in colors. This sensory play is great for kids and what’s more, they don’t just paint with the ice. They will stack it, make rainbows with it and hoard and stockpile the different colors.  In the end, you can hang up the sheet to dry and have a lovely place to hide behind.
  • Ice cold treats – After all their playing, the kids will surely need to cool off with a chilly treat. Make snack time hands-on with easy food-based activities and ideas. Create your own popsicles with fruit juice or even jello; use Kool-Aid to make a syrup to put over crushed ice for a do-it-yourself snow cone or stick with the art theme and decorate your own ice cream using natural food coloring, sprinkles, syrup and colored sugar. Yum.

Whether you’ve got a water bug in your family or a budding artist on your hands, there’s a lot of exciting ways to keep cool in this scorching summer heat! Try a few out with your kids.


Dana Baker is a writer, not-so-perfect mom of two, and a parenting coach. Dana offers advice from the trenches, a non-judgmental ear and tips/feedback based on the science of psychology and the reality of parenting. Read her blog and find her on Facebook and Instagram.