By Hilary Stempel, MD, MPH
With seasons changing and kiddos working towards new milestones, I’m always excited seeing what new activities can be added to our family fun-list. Summer reminds me of spending time outside, planting in our little garden, and getting to know all the neighborhood kids.
For babies and young children, doing a little prep work can make the heat and long days of summer most enjoyable.
- Consider timing. If you live in a hot climate, aim to go outside in the early morning and late afternoon to take advantage of the cooler weather.
- Break out the sunscreen. For kids 6 months and older, always use sunscreen to protect against sunburn. Sunscreen sticks can be helpful for putting sunscreen on the face for squirmy young kids. Sunscreen sprays are helpful for older kids - but avoid the face with these sprays. For the littles babies, keep them in the shade and use sunscreen sparingly.
- Look for shady play spots. This will help you stay cool while you explore. Digging in the dirt, bubbles, or sidewalk chalk are always crowd pleasers.
- Dress kids in light colored clothes. If possible, put them in long sleeves for sun protection. Long sleeve rash guards are great for water play.
- Stay hydrated. Always have water close by! Teach toddlers to drink water from straw cups or open cup. Being outside is a great time to practice drinking water from an open cup - that way you don’t need to worry about wiping up all the spills!
- Block the sun for naptime. If naptime seems shorter and your baby or toddler’s room is bright, invest in some temporary black out shades to darken their sleep environment. Or, use painters tape to put black trash bags on windows to darken the room.
- Picnic in the park. Nearby playgrounds and parks are always a wonderful place to meet new friends. Doing a picnic meal can be a fun adventure with a baby or toddler!
- Explore the great indoors. Find air conditioned places near where you live. This can be a great time to check out the library or local museums. You may find your kids are fascinated strolling along on errands with you. A trip to the grocery store can be a perfect time to talk about colors and pick out a new fruit or veggie to try at home.
- Play with water .Most kids love splashing in the water. Using plastic tupperware you can create mini-splash zones, have kids scrub their plastic toys, play with soap suds, or experiment with food coloring. Dying and freezing ice cubes with non-staining food coloring can be a fun experiment for play.
Remember, boredom is not your enemy! When kids feel bored, that’s when their imagination kicks in. Even if it seems too hot to go outside, avoid the temptation to have your kiddo watching a screen all day. Even though some shows may seem educational, you will always be your child’s first teacher. As you gear up for summer, remember, never leave a child in a parked car, always wear your sunscreen, be within touch distance when your kids are near water, and don’t forget to have fun!