But, with a few proactive, easy-to-implement safety tips for keeping kids sun safe, park play doesn’t have to go on a hiatus until the fall.
Read on for practical safety tips for outdoor summer play from our contributor moms and Phoenix Children’s physicians to help keep you working towards those 1,000 hours outside all summer long.
- Pre-hydrate the night before
When I worked for the City of Mesa, the safety coordinators were always teaching field workers who worked outside all day to pre-hydrate the night before to ensure they were properly hydrated. I’ve taken this into my own routine, pumping extra water into us the evening before if we have something outdoors planned for the next day.
- Sunscreen is key
Anyone over 6 months old should wear sunscreen with at least SPF30. Choose an option that contains zinc for an added layer of protection. If babies get sunburn, it can prevent them from being able to cool their body naturally. with at least SPF30. The kind you can rub in is a little more effective. Containing zinc is a good barrier.
- Serve fruits and vegetables with high water content
Sneak in extra hydration in breakfasts and snacks with produce containing higher water content, like cucumbers, melons and pineapple.
- Take breaks
We have a 30/15 rule: play outside for 30 minutes, cool down for at least 15 minutes. We rotate through the morning like this, and it helps keep the day moving, and ensures we never get too overheated. This is easiest at home for backyard play, but can be used at the park for shade breaks, too.
- When in doubt, add water to play
Obviously we love a splash pad outing, but if that isn’t on your agenda for the day, there’s easy ways to add water to other play! Bring a gallon of water to add to sand “construction site” play, bring water spray bottles to “wash” or “paint” with, plus find a bunch of other no pool water play ideas for the backyard here.
- Pay attention to the heat index
The heat index calculates the heat intensity by factoring in humidity. On days when the humidity is higher, it’s more dangerous to be in heat for longer periods of time. Just be aware as you plan your days activities, to base it on the weather. Here in the East Valley, the humidity starts to jump up when monsoons are expected.
- Don’t skimp on shade
Some parks are just not on our rotation for the summer, because they have zero shade. Make a list of parks that have shade structures for the summer months, and leave the rest for cooler months. If you take your baby on a walk in their stroller, having a fan is important – the interior of strollers can be heat absorbent. Also remember wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses for little ones.
- Mornings are still the coolest time of day
Even at sunset, the heat that has collected in the sidewalks and asphalt is still radiating. So while the actual temperature may go down slightly, the mornings will still be your best bet for cooler play since the infrastructure has cooled down all night.
- Choose clothing wisely
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing when it’s hot. This allows you to sweat naturally.
Dr. Meghan Hunter, a pediatrician at Phoenix Children’s Pediatrics, offers reminders on the warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke – and what parents can do to prevent this in kids.
Signs of overheating include:
- heavy sweating
- cool or moist skin
- high heart rate
- muscle cramps
If you see your child experiencing these symptoms, stop the activity, rest, remove excess layers of clothing, and move to a cool shady place. If you can, take a cool shower or bath. Drink cold water or a sports drink with electrolytes to replace the ones kids are losing through excess sweating.
Signs of heat stroke include:
- Body temperature reaching 104 degrees
- Unlike heat exhaustion, kids with heat stroke will be really dry
- Not sweating
- Not being able to drink or urinate
- A severe symptom is loss of consciousness
If your child experiences signs of heat stroke, seek emergency medical care immediately.
We hope these safety tips for outdoor summer play will help you and your kids to have a fun, safe summer in the AZ heat!