Summer is officially here, and with it comes record breaking temperatures for our friends in the South. As nice as that sounds for all of us Seattle-ites who spent the past week couped up watching the rain fall, our hospitable Southerner friends would gladly share a bit of their rays with us if it meant they could leave the house without melting into a puddle on the pavement. In appreciation of their willingness to share some rays, I wanted to share some tips to help them beat the heat this summer. Maybe when Summer finally makes its way North and a bit West and our brains turn into that crazy-from-the-heat mush, we can recall this post and follow a bit of our own advice.
I will start this off with the disclaimer that I have lived in a fairly mild climate my entire life. Merely visiting scorching temperatures in my many travels, but never bringing them home with us, I've never had to endure days upon days of meltiness. That being said, it will make sense that I am completely intolerant of extreme heats, which is why I have gathered a list of no-fail summertime tricks to enjoy the sun.
- Homemade Popsicles are usually better, and better for you, than store-bought brands, but they require advance preparation (i.e. make them now, not later). Sure, you can use special popsicle making kits and molds, but you can also easily use ice cube trays and baby food freezer kits like Fresh Baby by adding plastic cutlery, popsicle sticks (available at craft stores), wood skewers, take-out chopsticks or thick toothpicks. To keep popsicle sticks from slumping while freezing, use plastic wrap to cover the ice tray and then insert the popsicle stick through the celophane. For individual pops, you can use just about any small Tupperware squares and then you don't have to store 1/2 empty popsicle trays. Tip from the Test Kitchen: Use a food processor or blender to puree fruit and even a few veggies with minimal water to freeze and you will have a delicious fruit bar instead that is far better for you than frozen juice. Check out the Dex Baby Food Processor for inspiration.
- Washcloths = Fun. A trick my mom taught me from her many years of 80s era Jazzercise classes is that when frozen, wet washcloths are surprisingly dual purpose. In addition to their inherent cooling properties, as they go from frozen to wet they are great for de-syruping a child's face after all those homemade popsicles. Raves: They are great for on-the-go and are a wonderfully clean toy for babies and kids of all ages with absolutely zero mess even as they defrost. And, almost everyone already has them in their linen closet already. Baby loves to play peek-a-boo with a frozen washcloth and then when we're done, we use the wet cloth to rub the back of her neck, wrists, knees and elbows before I let her play with the wet rag.
- Order Some Rain. Everyone knows that a strategically placed fan is one of the best cooling methods available. The problem is that most fans are anything but portable. There are companies that make inexpensive portable fans, but I found that the best way to cool on the go is by using a misting handheld fan. Get a misting fan with foam fan blades so little fingers don't get hurt when your kiddos inevitably stick their fingers in between the blades to see how it works. Besides being a great and clean toy for kids, misting fans are refreshing for any age. Unfortunately, it will also make it look like you are excessively sweaty since mist tends to mimic sweat properties on faces and clothing, which leads me to my next tip:
- Dress Cool. Medium toned grey, blue, green and pink shirts that ride high in the underarm should be retired now for the summer. Keeping a spare shirt in the car or diaper bag is a good idea for all parents of young children, but if you find you made a wrong shirt choice midday, you will forever be grateful for your forethought.
- Speaking of the mid-day melt down.. always keep a cool down kit in your diaper bag, trunk of the car, or desk drawer if you're one of the unlucky ones with no company paid for A/C. That kit should include: Moist towelettes for when there's no option to bathe but that's really what you need to do. Larger washcloth sized towelettes are available on the market, but that means yet another thing to carry. If you already have wipes with you at all times, spare a couple for yourself – I promise baby won't mind. For excess sweating on your face and other sensitive areas, Boogie Wipes are a great option. Keep a stick of deodorant in your kit for reapplications after toweling, and then stuff your emergency shirt in there with it.
- Sprinklers are a great day way to pass the day for any age. Late afternoon after the hottest part of the day is a great time to turn on the sprinkler and let your hose wash off whatever sticky and muddy residue remains on your kiddos. But, sprinklers aren't just for kids, they are great way to water the veggies and lawn and a clean way to have fun with your family. You can play games like Red Rover and Duck Duck Goose if you have a large clan, or Ring Around the Rosy and Dance Party (totally made up game that is reminiscent of Red Light, Green Light and involves waiting for baby to nod to start the dancing), Simon Says and Mother May I if you only have a small brood.
Just look at me stealing hubby's hat-made shade. Lucky for me, he doesn't seem to mind a bit.
I loved this article from Popular Mechanics last year, and hope you enjoy these excerpts as well. It seems focused on beer-drinking, DIYers and other hard-working folks, but hopefully even those who can't swing a hammer or pound a beer can get something from it as well:
1. Grunt work first
Get outside an hour after sunrise, at the coolest time of the day. Minimize your own energy loss by doing the heavy lifting early, so you can spend the hot hours in the shade, slowly patting yourself on the back.
2. Drywall bucket = comfort station
Put an empty drywall mud bucket in the shade and fill it with icy water to keep your beer cans cool (see #4), your washcloths wet (see #6) and your cold packs charged (see #9)—or to give yourself a reason to kick off the work boots for an invigorating footbath. Just don't drink out of it.
3. Switch up your spray
Get a multifunction garden hose nozzle and customize your douse routine. A spritz to the back of the head on the "mist" setting gives a relieving rinse, while a little jet action to bare feet cools you off and cleans you up. The more settings you have, the more satisfying the shower…
4. Rub a beer can on your forehead (but don't drink it—yet)
An icy jolt to the cranium cools the blood in a particularly vascular area. The beer inside the can, although delicious, is a diuretic, which dehydrates you by causing the body to lose more water than it absorbs. Save it for later—and see #11 if you're thirsty.
5. Shield your skin
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, porous clothing. Choose heat-reflecting light-colored fabrics rather than absorbent dark ones, using long sleeves and pants to shade your skin, absorb sweat and reduce your surface temperature.
6. Mop your pits
Squeeze ice wrapped in wet washcloths behind your knees, on your wrists, in your armpits or on any major arterial lines. In the South, Little League team moms keep cloths in coolers for kids to wring around their necks between innings. In the yard, you can get creative. Chinese medicine cites the wrists as key to clearing the body's heat.
7. Make your own shade
"Approximately 20 percent of your blood supply flows to your face," says Walter Herman, M.D., a retired cardiologist from Philadelphia's Jefferson Hospital. So you can lower the heat to the rest of your body if you just keep a cool head. If you can't move your work to the shade, create your own with a broad-brimmed, light-colored hat: the Panama, Stetson or leafy Vietnamese non la would all work here, as would a kaffiyeh or a bandanna soaked in the bucket from tip #2. Don't overlook any novelty sombreros you may have left over from Cinco de Mayo festivities.
8. Inherit the wind
Use a work fan or a garage fan to keep the air moving over you… In this case, the sensation of coolness comes from sweat evaporating from your skin more quickly than in still air. You may also fan yourself with any of the hats from tip #7. A word of caution: The exertion of fanning oneself in this way, depending on arm strength and hat size, may cause a net gain in hotness.
9. Invest in a Cool Vest
If you're suffering severe heat and seduction by gadgetry, consider a cooling vest. The Cool Vest costs about $130 to $200 and uses chemical cold packs that are inserted into pockets in the vest. After a few hours of exposure raises their operating temperature above 60 F, drop them in the ice bucket for a recharge.
10. Take a mud bath
To stay cool in the equatorial heat, children of the Kakuma refugee camp in northwest Kenya cover themselves in mud, says Alastair Summerlee, who visited the camp as a chairman of the World University Service of Canada. The mud cools on contact, then shields the skin from the sun, and besides, "Making sure the kids are all covered seems to produce a great deal of laughter," says Summerlee. If you've ditched tip #5 to work shirtless, give your shoulders a smear for some low-tech SPF.
11. Drink heavily
Last on the list, but first in importance: Stay hydrated.
The US Army Field Manual warns that you can't use your own sense of thirst as a guide—thirst occurs late in the dehydration process, in many cases hours after you've become dehydrated. If you don't feel the need to urinate hourly, and if your urine has turned from a healthy lemonade color to a jaundiced maize, you're probably already dehydrated. Stop working to take a swig of water, sipping frequently in small amounts rather than the occasional guzzle.
Add a little lemon, mint or cucumber to a cool glass of water for hydration with a twist. Or munch on watermelon, which is 92 percent water, according to the National Watermelon Promotion Board.
You can also chase the water with a shot of hot tea, a standard heat-beating combo in the Middle East. It's not exactly hard science, but placebo theory states that liquids warmer than the ambient temperature either produce skin-chilling sweat, or warm your body to the degree that the external heat feels cool by comparison. As for all that beer you've been keeping cold? Pop one open after a cool shower and dinner.
I hope it goes without saying that all of the above tips should be accompanied by a huge slathering of sunscreen and protective headwear and eyewear (see image of hubby and I above) for you and your little ones. Don't forget to reapply often, especially after water play. Set a cell phone timer to remind you to reapply so can focus on fun.
Have more great tips to beat the heat? Post them here for everyone else to see and you will have fulfilled your good deed of the day. Good luck, and hopefully cooler heads will prevail!