As the temperature rises, it becomes increasingly difficult to follow usual learning patterns and days can become a battle against the heat. Children can become distracted, uncomfortable, and restless. They may find it hard to concentrate or sit still. At the same time, heat can zap energy, leaving children (and adults) feeling lethargic.
Whether you are in early years setting, or at home with young children during the summer holidays, a heatwave can create lots of problems and have you struggling to keep your cool. Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a couple of suggestions to help you and the children in your care to enjoy the sunshine, without sweating the small stuff.
Water, Water, Everywhere
When it is hot, water is your best friend. We all need to drink more water in the summer, so lead by example. Keep a refillable water bottle to hand and make sure each child has their own in easy reach at all times. Children will enjoy the responsibility of having their own water bottle and colourful designs will ensure they will keep them close. You should also institute hydration breaks to make sure everyone is drinking enough.
Water is not just for drinking, though. Depending on health and safety rules, space issues, and hosepipe bans, a paddling/wading pool is a must-have for the hottest days. Obviously, this is not an option for some early years settings, but young children love water and they can engage in lots of interactive play in the water.
Learning about which objects float and sink and why pouring and measuring, and learning about animals that live in water are just some of the educational activities that paddling pools lend themselves to. You can record developments in understanding in each child’s personal digital learning journal and share breakthroughs with their parents in real-time. Children must also be aware of their surroundings and sharing the space with their friends.
Advise parents to pack swimsuits, sun hats, suncream, and waterproof shoes such as jellies or crocs, so that the children do not have to keep taking their shoes on and off to go in the water and can play more freely.
You may find it is advisable for you to wear waterproof shoes too, in case of splashes or if you need to get into the pool for any reason.
To preserve water, you should try to water plants or fill a smaller water tank when you empty the pool.
Always Wear Sunscreen
Speaking of sunscreen, it is important for hygiene and safety reasons that each child has their own suncream, and that you apply it regularly when children are outside.
We’ve previously written about the benefits of being outside and this still holds during the Summer. However, young children should not be in direct sun for longer than 20 minutes at a time and should stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, usually around 12-2 pm. A shaded outdoor reading or play area can help the children get some fresh air without being in the sun. You could also set up a small tent and encourage the children to go inside when they want to get out of the sun, but don’t want to be indoors. When they are in the sun, they must be protected with a high-factor cream.
Some children, particularly those who do not like to be touched or who have sensory overload disorders may find this process unpleasant. Also, depending on how many children are present, it can be a time-consuming undertaking.
Try to make it into a game, such as dotting suncream on each child and teaching them to rub it in themselves. This not only speeds up the process and encourages bodily autonomy, but negates the need for prolonged physical contact with children who find it uncomfortable.
You must, however, ensure that the children don’t miss any hard-to-reach areas, such as the backs of their necks and under their chins. As you repeat this process through the summer, you should find the children quickly learn how to do it themselves and become more careful.
We’re Forever Blowing Bubbles
Children adore bubbles. They are fascinated by these shimmering balls of soap and water that reflect the light and give glimpses of rainbows. Hours of entertainment can be derived from an inexpressive bottle of bubble mix and wand. You can even make your own with a pipe cleaner and some washing-up liquid and water. But did you know that blowing bubbles has practical learning applications for children?
The delicate blowing action to production the bubbles and not pop the mixture in the wand can help with breath control and building abdominal muscles for speech and language.
Since they float, expand and pop, bubbles can be seen as a form of sensory play and these actions encourage communication. Comment on what the bubbles are doing such as “oh well done, that’s a big bubble” “look it’s still floating” and you may find that the children start to add their own exclamations such as “that one popped on me!”
Depending on the children’s ages, you may have to blow the bubbles for them, or they may have to take turns. Alternatively, if you have a couple of bubble mixes and wands, you could tether the tubes to something at their level, such as table legs, using cable ties, so that they can choose when to blow bubbles and when to do something else.
It is also a wonderful activity for non-verbal children or children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, encouraging interaction and eye contact. If you are taking care of a child with Autism, you may find our Supporting Children with Autism course can help you to gain a greater understanding of how the condition affects children. In this way, you should be able to adapt learning strategies and provide greater support to all the children in your care.
Lollies & Smoothies
Last, but by no means least, using fresh or frozen fruit and fruit juice to make chilled smoothies and ice lollies will not only help to keep the children cool, but it is also a great way to ensure they are getting their five a day. You can make the lollies in the morning together, and serve any remaining mixture as smoothies for a healthy mid-morning snack. The children will be excited to eat their lollies once they are frozen and will look forward to them, rather than craving sugary ice cream.
We are all affected by the heat, so just remember to be patient and flexible, in case the weather changes suddenly. Try to have a backup ‘rainy day’ activity in mind, in case of unexpected showers and, in the meantime just enjoy the sun.