15 ways to keep kids cool (while having fun!) this summer

Before summer even began, where I live (in Montreal), we’d already broken a heat record with a sweltering 36C day in May. Oof.

Without air conditioning or a pool at home, and with all the local splash pads and pools still closed, my kids were a delightful mix of sweaty and very, very grumpy.

That heat wave was just the beginning. Now we’re all basking in hot summer days from coast to coast.

So, what can you do when the kids are melting faster than an abandoned popsicle on the front steps? Get creative with items from around the house to keep them cool while having fun!

How to keep infants and babies cool on hot days

Give them a sponge bath: Place your baby on a towel inside or in a shady protected spot outside—such as under a tree or an umbrella—and use a clean washcloth or sponge to gently drip water on them from head to toe as you say each body part. Your baby will discover new sensations while cooling off and learn new words.

Set up a splash play area: In a waterproof area (like outside!) put a small amount of water in a large but shallow container such as a baking sheet or pan. Give your baby toys or clean sponges to tap, splat, and stir the water. Besides being super fun, all that splashing is great sensory play, and grasping different toys and items helps develop their fine motor skills.

Activities for toddlers that help beat the heat

Set them to work! When my kids were younger, they always loved it when I set up “sink play” in our large kitchen sink. Fill a sink or basin with water, some dish soap, a few drops of food colouring, and plastic dishes and spoons. Your kids will have a blast mixing up potions, “washing” the dishes, and scooping up and pouring out water. Throw in a couple of ice cubes and it becomes a whole new adventure! Older children can stand on a chair at the sink, but you can also have the same experience using a bin placed outside with them seated beside it. Parent tip: put a couple of towels underneath/around them if you’re inside!

Try ice cube painting: Fill ice cube trays with water and different food colouring, and use the frozen cubes to “paint” on paper. The creativity will flow as they use their imagination and stay cool.

“Paint” with water: Another painting idea involves using clean brushes and rollers, a bucket of water, and your driveway, fence, or balcony. There will probably be just as much water on them as on their “canvas” and that’s okay!

Rest on a cooling blob: A blob? That’s right. I can’t wait to try out these mini water blobs for the kids to lounge on or balance across. I love the suggestion of adding some sparkles or small toys inside for curious sensory play. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, try making a giant version! (That one might be for me.)


Related read: Build your own water table this summer


Fun games for 3- to 6-year-olds on hot summer days

Make your own splash pad at home: Spread out a clean tarp, place a sprinkler nearby and ta-da, their own splash pad! The water will eventually pool a bit, creating puddles to stomp on, sit in, or slide through. For some great creative free play, try turning your splash pad into an adorable frog pond complete with stones and logs to explore and discover.

Pool noodles to the rescue: Don’t have an actual pool to use these in? No matter! Use inexpensive noodles to make a quick sprinkler, raise it up for a stay-cool limbo game that will test kids’ flexibility and balance, or make this ultimate water sprinkler that will have them running and leaping. If you don’t have any pool noodles hanging around, use an old soda bottle for another easy DIY sprinkler and try out one of these active sprinkler games.

Make a chilly dinosaur dig: Young archaeologists will enjoy an exploratory dig through icy terrain. Simply fill a bucket of water with some plastic dinosaurs or other toys, freeze it in layers, and let your child chip away at it with a spoon or toddler-sized hammer. Remember to outfit them with some goggles to protect their eyes during this activity.


Related read: Frozen treats for summer


Playful ways for older kids to stay cool

Aim and toss: Wet sponges to make reusable “water balloons” and let the kids run around and throw them at each other. Unlike water balloons, these are reusable: just dip in a bucket of water to recharge.

Give them a fun (wet!) chore: My car always needs washing, which is great when there are eager kids around. Give your child a bucket, soap, sponge, and the hose and they’ll have a ball getting the car sparkly—while soaking themselves in the process. Granted, it might only be the bottom half of the car that gets cleaned, unless you’ve got some tall teens willing to pitch in!

Fish for marbles: Fill a kiddie pool or basin with water and toss in a couple of dozen marbles. Kids stand in the water and fish out the marbles with their toes, then drop them into a container. With multiple kids, it can be a game to see who collects the most marbles in a minute or two. Throw in a handful of ice cubes for added fun while they develop their balance, coordination, and dexterity!

Bonus: more ways to find relief on scorching summer days:

  • Keep a spray bottle filled with water in the fridge for quick spritzes throughout the day.
  • Fill the bath with a couple of centimetres of tepid water for a fast and easy sponge bath.
  • Soak a pair of socks in cold water before wearing, or place a cool cloth on the back of the neck.

Related read: Our top sun safety tips for active families


However you decide to beat the heat this summer, remember a few important rules so that everyone stays safe and healthy:

  • Babies and young children are at a higher risk of dehydration, so remember to offer liquids often, and keep all children out of extreme heat and direct sunlight.
  • Always supervise your child around water, even a small amount. A child can drown in less than 2.5 cm of water, which is enough to cover their nose and mouth.

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