Do you know what my postman said to me today? “Isn’t it a lovely day?” He said this to me as I opened the door to him red-faced and huffing with hayfever, with fewer than three hours’ sleep under my belt and two hot sweaty children clambering about my person. It is not a lovely day. It is the hottest, most humid day of the year, with temperatures zooming above 35°C. Opening a window feels like opening an oven. And there is so little to do with the kids.
Our plastic garden toys are so melted Dali himself could have designed them. Standing barefoot on the patio is like being slow-roasted from the feet up. Playgrounds are furnaces, the beach is so hot and bright that going there is like being absorbed into the sun itself, and soft play areas so densely packed with red-faced families escaping the outdoors that the air heaves with the steam of hot breath and hot bodies, and isn’t worth a visit even for the air con.
What is a family to do in these soaring, anti-social temperatures? I – parent and famed hater of summer – have built up an armory of ways to keep cool during times like this.
Here are 11 of my best ones, just for you:
1. Car Wash, Yeah!
Engage your children in an exciting sensory activity I like to call “car wash”, which involves driving your car to a shady location – and then making your kids wash it.
TOP TIP: When your car is clean and your children come to you with their little faces aglow with pride and sweat, say “you missed a bit” as a fun way to extend the game. Keep saying it until you’ve squeezed every ounce of fun out of this activity. But don’t forget to stay hydrated (them) and bring a folding chair (you).
2. ‘Science’ Project.
Look up your most local manufacturers of fridges, freezers and air conditioning units, and take your family along for a series of “educational” visits in support of a vaguely-referred to “summer science project”. (Consider adopting a thick fake accent if you’re asked any problematic questions around the specifics.)
TOP TIP: For ultimate comfort wear a bikini. But carry a notebook for believability.
3. Child-Friendly Sauna.
Engineer your own, family-friendly version of a Finnish sauna. Instead of a sauna for your children to slow-roast in, fill a paddling pool with lukewarm water and bubble bath, and place it at one end of your garden. And, instead of making them leap directly into freezing sea-water, fill another paddling pool with ice and water, and place it at the other end of your garden. (And get into it quickly before it all warms up). Finally, instead of beating them with birch branches as they leap between the two extremes of temperature, tickle them with a feather.
TOP TIP: Position yourself in a deckchair between the two paddling pools, and install yourself with, say, a fruity cocktail.
4. Playdates With Purpose.
Scan the other mums at nursery or pick-ups for the one with the least sweaty fringe. She probably has air conditioning at home. Go on the charm offensive and multiple temperate play-dates could be yours!
TOP TIP: Blow-dry your own fringe into oblivion and pretend to be on the phone with your “air-con guy” before attempting this. Yes, it is very duplicitous, but all is fair in love and heatwaves.
5. Befriend, Befriend, Befriend.
Similarly, zero in on any mums who might own a pool (telltale signs include chlorinated green stripes in blonde hair; a swimsuit strap poking out; loud humble-brags about the tedium of cleaning pool filters) and befriend.
TOP TIP: Just befriend HARD, all summer.
6. Freeze Everything.
Make like Ovie from Love Island, and store your family’s clothes in the freezer, implementing multiple costume changes every day to keep cool.
TOP TIP: To deal with the laundry surplus this will inevitably create – and as a fun water play idea – set the kids up in the garden with soap, water, washing-up bowls, and a bag of colourful clothes pegs. Ta-dah! Your own homemade laundry production line. Calling this “fun laundry play” and not “child labour” will make you feel better about yourself.
7. Supermarket Sweep.
Improve your kids’ literacy skills by spending the day at the supermarket and getting them to spell out everything they see in the chilled aisle. Pack up some snacks, drinks, books, your laptop, a selection of toys and – very importantly – a tape measure, and move into your local ice rink from the moment it opens right up until closing time.
TOP TIP: At least one of your children might develop a passion for skating or ice hockey, through sheer exposure.
EVEN TOPPER TIP: The books, drinks and other paraphernalia, will help you do everything you and your family would normally do at home but in an environment only slightly hotter than the inside of your fridge. The tape measure is so that if anyone questions the length of your visit, you can again refer very vaguely to a “summer science project”.
8. Early Risers.
Keep your kids up through the night by any means possible, taking them on a long walk to watch the sunrise, then allowing them to sleep through the hottest part of the day.
TOP TIP: In all seriousness, super-early-morning walks when the world is quieter, the shadows are longer, and all sorts of wildlife is wheeling about in the sky, are incredibly life-affirming. And much easier than trying to get everyone back to sleep in an overheated house, if they’re already awake.
9. Bin Bag Delight.
Want a fun craft activity? Get your kids to measure your downstairs windows and doors, then (using child-safe scissors) cut some bin-bags to size. Next, on each bin bag, they must cut in a little design. And finally, with adult supervision, stick the bin bags to the windows with masking tape. Voila! A cheap and cheerful alternative to black-out blinds, with your kids’ designs casting shadows on the floor.
TOP TIP: Now your house is relatively cool and glare-free, you can finally play the game “Who can sit most quietly for the entire running time of Frozen?” as you doze on the sofa with a cool flannel on your head.
[Read More: How To Keep Your House Cool In A Heatwave]