Herald Journal Columns
July 4, 2005, Herald Journal

Sun, safety, and water fun


I don’t know about all of you, but when someone tells me not to do laundry (use the washing machine), do dishes (run the dishwasher), or not to cook (use the stove/oven) – even if it’s a recorded message – and suggests to dine out, I listen and don’t have to feel guilty about it.

We got the message from our electric company on that hot, sultry day, June 23, when I’m sure everyone’s air conditioners were running full blast. It was one of those days that it was definitely more fun to go grocery shopping with your children than play outside for long periods of time.

It is summer – what we’ve all been waiting for (most of us, anyway) and with summertime, comes the heat and sometimes, humidity.

Everyone needs to be careful in the heat, especially when engaged in activities. It’s easy for our bodies to become “overheated,” and children, especially, don’t always respond to their body’s cues to take a rest, get hydrated, or get out of the heat.

Being thirsty is a sign of dehydration. Dehydration means that your body is losing more fluids than it is taking in, and we don’t want that to happen.

The website, www.bam.gov/survival/keepyourcool recommends not depending on our thirst to tell us that we need more water and liquids, to make sure to drink water a few hours before physical activities, and to keep drinking after the activity is done to stay hydrated.

Remember, staying hydrated helps increase our memory, while dehydration decreases memory.

The website further explains that when our body temperature gets hotter than normal (98.6 degrees), our brain sends out a distress signal that causes us to sweat, which cools us down.

We need to remember to refill our tanks by drinking lots of water. We can also keep our bodies cool by using a fan or taking a swim in the pool.

Here are some other tips the website offers for keeping cool and staying hydrated:

• Drink about two cups of cold water before playing in the backyard, hitting the baseball fields, or playing at the park.

• Children, and adults, for that matter, should keep a water bottle handy to drink during water breaks, time outs, half-time, or between innings. Have drinks of water about every 15 to 20 minutes.

• Even after the game is over, drink bottled water, water flavored with lemon or lime juice, or just plain old tap water. The more you sweat, the more water you need.

• Eating fruit and other cold snacks is another way to keep your body cool. Peaches, oranges, watermelon, grapes, etc. help our bodies to re-hydrate as well.

• Play outside during the cooler parts of the day, in the early morning or early evening. It is usually hottest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Find a shady area to play in, play some indoor activities, take a swim in the pool, or play some fun water activities.

• Dress cool. Wear clothing that is loose-fitting and lightly colored, preferably made from cotton or a sweat-wicking material (made to pull sweat away from your skin).

• It’s also important to keep our feet cool, and wear shoes that allow our feet to breathe and not trap the heat and sweat. Almost one-fourth of our body’s sweat glands are in our feet, the website noted.

• Stay away from drinks that have lots of sugar, carbonation, or caffeine.

• The website recommends getting an extra boost from sports drinks if playing in the heat for longer than one hour. Most sports drinks have electrolytes, which help to replace the water lost in our bodies during strenuous activity.

The website further notes that sports drinks are great to gulp when active, but not if you’re just “chilling.” They have high levels of sugar, salt, and potassium that you don’t really need unless you are working your body hard.

• Listen, and help our children learn to “listen” to their body signals. If you feel weak, dizzy, or thirsty, take a break in the shade and grab your water bottle.

It’s important to relay to children to tell a grown-up if they “feel” these signals, and to be observing our children and asking them how they are doing in the heat. Sometimes, we have to remind children to take a break, get a drink, and go in the shade or come inside.

Water fun to beat the heat

Have some water fun in the sun with your children. Here are some simple, fun ways to “beat the heat,” stay cool, and have some fun! Remember, children should always be supervised when playing in and with water.

• Aqua piñata is a fun version of the game. Children will love the contents of the “piñata” on a hot summer day.

Fill a large plastic bucket halfway with water and hang it from a tree branch. Allow extra slack in the rope to raise or lower the pail also.

Blindfold the children one at a time, spin each one around, let him or her try to tip the pail with a broomstick or a plastic bat, and wait for the water to come “tumbling down!”

This idea is from Parenting, July, 2005.

• Set up a water obstacle course with a sprinkler, a wading pool, and even a slip ‘n’ slide, if you have one. Kids love to play in the water, at any age.

• Give your children a pail of water, or a small wading pool filled with water, some squirt guns, and some simple household items, like funnels, a turkey baster, a colander, some spoons, a kettle, or some cups, and maybe a small water can, and let them at it. They will create their own water fun!

• Fill up some squirt guns with water, set plastic bottles on fence posts, a fence railing, on a picnic table, or anywhere outside on flat surfaces, and have the children try and knock the bottles over while squirting water from the squirt guns.

• Give your children some bigger or different size paint brushes and a bucket of water, and let their “Picasso” minds go, while painting masterpieces on the sidewalk.

• Allow your children to shower outside with a hose and some soap. It’s a fun way to get clean on a hot day.

• Give your children a bucket with soapy water, a brush (that you use to wash your car with), a sponge, some towels, and the hose with running water and allow them to run their bikes through their “car wash.”

• If you’d like, allow them to wash the family vehicle, as well. It’s a great idea for the children to put on their swimsuits while partaking in these water fun duties, as getting wet is part of the fun!

My children just washed their bikes and our vehicles, and themselves in the process, and had a whole lot of fun doing it.

• Play the sunbeam game. This is a dodge ball-style game and the object is to avoid being “beamed” by the sun’s ray, which is a large yellow sponge (the soft type that you use to wash vehicles with). Wet the sponge for a fun water game.

Establish boundary areas in which everyone is free to roam around during the game. The person who starts out as the sun tries to tag the others by throwing the sponge.

If he succeeds, the person he tags is out, and the sun gets the sponge back so he can try to eliminate more players. If he misses, anyone can grab the sponge wherever it lands, and whoever gets the sponge becomes the sun.

The game continues until only two players are left and one is able to “beam” the other to win, but everyone wins when they get cooled off by the sponge.

This idea is from FamilyFun, July/August, 2005.

Hand-painted garden stones

Have your child make some hand-painted garden stones.

Collect some big and small rocks, clean them off, and have your children paint designs, pictures, and words on them using outdoor acrylic paint. Then, place them in your garden for those personal touches.

Stay cool and hydrated and enjoy the summertime fun!