Beat the Heat: ‘Cool’ Activities for Youth and Families Back »

Written collaboratively by Amber Letcher and Andrea Bjornestad.


Camping, swimming, softball, picnics, and family vacations are just some of the activities that families look forward to during the summer. These events provide opportunities for exercise as well as family bonding. While summer is often the prime time for outdoor activities, in extreme heat, extra precautions need to be taken to ensure everyone’s health and safety.

General Safety Guidelines:

  • Drinking fluids consistently. Although most parents and youth understand the importance of drinking fluids in the heat, many individuals still do not consume enough. To help maintain hydration, schedule regular breaks to encourage voluntary drinking. If youth are exercising vigorously for more than an hour, consuming a sports drink is preferable to water because they can provide extra energy (carbohydrates) and help the body absorb water. However, it is important to monitor the amount of added sugar as sports drinks vary in sugar content. Drinks with excessive sugar and/or caffeine (e.g., soda, energy drinks) should be avoided.
  • Wearing thin, loose, light-colored clothing made from natural fibers such as cotton. For skin that is not covered by clothing, applying sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher is essential. Sunscreen should be re-applied every 2 hours to prevent a sunburn.
  • Schedule outdoor activities for early morning or evening hours. The afternoon hours tend to be the hottest part of the day. If the activity cannot be avoided, remember to take frequent breaks to seek shade and drink fluids.

Outdoor Activities

When temperatures rise, a logical option to beat the heat is water activities. While water parks and public swimming pools are a great option, there are other simple, low cost, options that can be done at home.

  • Fun with water balloons. Water balloon games are a great way to involve the whole family. Consider games such as a water balloon ‘Hot Potato’, water balloon toss, or beach towel volleyball.
  • No swimming pool? No problem. Try a twist on classic pool games such as Marco Polo: One person is blind-folded, armed with a water gun, and spins around 10 times. The rest of the players move to different places around the yard. The person with the water gun calls out ‘Marco’ while the others respond with ‘Polo.’ The first person to be hit by the water gun is ‘it.’ Another classic is ‘Sharks and Minnows.’ Instead of swimming past the ‘sharks,’ ‘minnows’ can run past the sharks while trying to avoid being hit with either water balloons or a water gun.
  • Kiddie pools. A small kiddie pool can provide hours of entertainment in the hot sun. Try bobbing for apples, or fill the pool with water and ice cubes and see who can pick up the most ices cubes using only their feet.

Indoor Activities

If heat advisories make spending time outside dangerous, it is still possible to enjoy traditional summer activities indoors.

  • Have an indoor picnic. Fill a basket with picnic staples such as sandwiches, watermelon, and lemonade, and eat lunch on a blanket on the floor.
  • Make smoothies. Take turns creating new flavor combinations or find some new favorite recipes.
  • Indoor camping. Avoid high temperatures while still enjoying a favorite family activity by setting up a tent indoors. Try turning off all electronics and opt for low-tech activities like card games, board games, or telling ghost stories.
  • Indoor sandbox. This favorite outdoor activity can be messy if moved indoors, however, substituting rice for sand can be a clean alternative. Using food coloring to dye the rice different colors adds another element of fun to the process. View these instructions and ideas for ricebox toys for more ideas.

Don’t let the heat ruin your plans for summer time fun. With some attention to local forecasts and a little creativity, you can keep your family safe and active in the heat.

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