Spending time outdoors is so important for a toddler's development, but it can be a tall order venturing outside during the hot summer months. There's nothing like a muggy, 95 degree day in Mosquito City to send you running for the air conditioning. With this in mind, here are some tried and true tricks and activity ideas to help make outdoor play a reality, even on a scorcher of a day.
photo by William Prost
1. Find a splash pad.
I don’t know if this is an Atlanta thing or an everywhere thing, but there are splash pads popping up all over town! These are usually located near parks or playgrounds, and they’re basically fountains designed for kids to play in. The best part? At least here in Atlanta, they are free! What a great way to soak up some vitamin D and stay cool.
photo by Kevin Krejci
2. Visit your area’s community pools.
You don’t need your own swimming pool to get your swim on with your kids this summer. Community pools might seem like a no-brainer for some folks, but if you’ve never tracked one down in your area, get ready to have your summer changed. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, you can often take advantage of a free window. Here in Atlanta, many of the community pools are free from around lunchtime to late afternoon.
photo by Sean Freese
3. Hit the farmers market.
Farmers markets tend to happen early in the morning, before the heat of the day. It’s the perfect chance to get your kids outside and get them acquainted with beautiful fruits and veggies that they may not get to experience otherwise. My kid loves people-watching at the market and tasting samples of fruits and veggies that he might not be into trying when we’re at home. Many community farmers markets even have activities for kids!
Plus, most farmers markets have at least one stand selling coffee, so you can grab yourself a walking-around drink. I’ve got you covered, moms and dads!
photo by Becky Striepe
4. Try some water play.
I know, I’m always talking about water play. It’s such a great developmental activity for toddlers, and in summer it doubles as a way to keep that kiddo cool. You don’t need a fancy water table to have water play with your babe. A big metal bowl or plastic tub full of water is just as good. Your toddler will love splashing, pouring, and scooping water no matter what container you choose.
photo by Becky Striepe
5. Play with ice.
On days that are super steamy, add some ice to your water or just give your kid a bowl full of ice cubes to explore. You can also get creative and use food coloring to make colored ice. Your kid will love seeing the colors swirl and combine as the ice melts.
Your toddler also may not quite get the ice play at first. The first time I did ice play with my 15-month-old he methodically threw each ice cube out of the bowl before starting to play and splash. It took him a few tries before he got into the ice part of ice play, but now he’s totally into it.
6. Invest in a kiddie pool.
This might seem like another no-brainer, but there’s more to choosing the right kiddie pool than the price tag. Check out this kiddie pool cheat sheet from Safe Mama. We got a hand-me-down kiddie pool, and my kid loves to splash and play on even the hottest afternoons.
One word of caution: kiddie pools can become mosquito magnets, so make sure that you drain yours when your kiddos are done. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.
photo by 55Laney69
7. Pick the right time of day.
If mosquitoes are sidelining your kid’s outdoor play, you’re best off avoiding the times of day when those little buggers are on the move. I know, it’s nice and cool at the crack of dawn and at dusk, but mosquitoes are fans of those times of day too. Try to plan outdoor play for mid-to late morning, when it’s still on the cooler side, but mosquitoes have calmed down a bit.
Since it’s going to be warmer than first thing in the morning, choose play spots that have some shade. A playground that gets late morning or afternoon shade is gold for toddler parents in the summer!
photo by Becky Striepe
8. Use a box fan.
If you’re playing on the porch or in the yard, setting up a box fan does double duty. The circulating air keeps you and your kid feeling cooler, and it makes it tougher for mosquitoes to land on you. Boom! Pow! With younger toddlers, you do need to keep an eye on them around a box fan. Some have openings that are baby-finger-sized, and I know my toddler is super into checking out the fan when I turn it on. Just redirect!
Lead photo by Becky Striepe