If you’re looking for fun and cool things to do in a heatwave to keep the family distracted, these summer play ideas could be just the ticket.

Fun and cool things to do in a heatwave

Ice toy excavation

Fill a small plastic tub with water and put in a few plastic toys – animals work well for this – then pop in the freezer. You can also add food colouring. Once frozen, take the block of ice out and get your children to chisel away at it to get the toys out. Younger children can use toy hammers and screwdrivers, while older ones can use a real hammer with some supervision.

Great for: problem solving and dexterity.

Water play

Put a small amount of cool water in your paddling pool and add plastic toys, bath toys, and containers such as old yoghurt pots. Bonus tip: Float a black bin liner on the surface before your children get in to warm up the water, if left in direct sunlight it should take less than an hour; then move it into the shade to keep your children out of the sun while playing. If you don’t have a pool you can also fill a shallow tray or tub with water and put it on a table.

Great for: imagination and thinking skills.

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Water or ice painting

For a quick activity, give your children a shallow tub of water with some sponges and paintbrushes. Encourage them to paint brick walls, fences, or pavements. Once the water dries off they’ll have a whole new canvas to paint. If you’ve got a bit more time you can fill an ice cube tray with water, add a few drops of food colouring to each section, then freeze the water to create multi-coloured pieces of ice. Your children can then use the ice to draw on paper.

Great for: creativity and dexterity.

Pretend car wash

Give your child a tub of water, some sponges and cloths, and some gentle soap. Get them to give their ride-on car a clean – or they could clean bikes, scooters, slides, so on. If you’re short on space, have a mini car wash with their little toy cars. If your child is old enough, have them clean your real car – if you trust them with it!

Great for: strength and coordination.

Have a water fight

Get the whole family involved in a water fight. You can use wet sponges, water pistols, buckets, water bottles, or water balloons. To add to the challenge, set a timer of five minutes – the winner is whoever manages to stay the driest! This is even more fun if you split into teams (perhaps parents versus children?).

Great for: exercise and social skills.

Slip n’ slide

If you have plenty of space on your lawn, you can create a homemade slip n’ slide. Be sure to remove rocks and other hard or sharp objects from the grass first. Lay out a tarpaulin sheet and cover it with water and a little gentle liquid soap or baby shampoo. Pop your children in their swimming costumes and let them run, dive, and slide across the soapy water. If you have younger children or are limited on space, you can still put out a tarpaulin and add plastic toys for your little ones to splash about on instead.

Great for: exercise, confidence, and risk assessment.

Make an ice lolly

Making ice lollies has got to be top of the fun and cool things to do in a heatwave. Frozen treats are great for when you’re cooling off after a busy day playing in the sun. There are a few ways you can make your own healthy ice lollies from yoghurt, fruit squash, or mashed up fruit. You can use a blender for the fruit or keep your children busy for a while by giving them chopped-up bananas and strawberries to squish through a sieve. Very messy but very fun! Lolly moulds or a clean yoghurt pot with a lolly stick can be used for this, or make some mini frozen snacks with an ice cube tray. Pop them in the freezer for three hours or so.

Great for: discussing healthy eating.

Visit the woods

The woods are a great place to visit when you need a bit of shade to cool you down. You could have a picnic, climb trees, build dens or fairy houses, or go on a nature scavenger hunt. For example, you could challenge your children to find the biggest stick, the most interesting rock, or the most colourful leaf. The Seekers Scavenger Hunt Starter Kit (3 – 8 years, £14.99) makes it easy to think of things to find and check them off your list. Or how about trying some bird watching while you’re under the trees? The GeoSafari Jr. Kidnoculars Extreme (3 – 8 years, £22.50, available at GoodToyGuide.com) helps children see and hear nature from a distance, with 3 x magnification and built-in audio amplifier.

Great for: creativity, problem-solving, exercise, and learning about nature.

Soggy sponge darts

On the pavement draw a chalk target – 20 points if you hit the centre, 10 points if you hit the middle circle, and 5 points if you hit the outside circle. Put some sponges in a tub of water and take turns throwing them at the target. The highest score wins. You could also become the targets yourselves – but if you throw and miss, you have to swap! If you want to make it more educational, get your children to add up the scores. You could make this more challenging, for example, offering double or triple points if you throw your sponge backwards or while standing on one leg.

Great for: hand-eye coordination, maths, and winning/losing respectfully.

Water balloon pinata

Fill six or seven water balloons with water and tie them above your head, just low enough for your children to reach. Give them a soft or plastic bat and see how quickly they can burst all of the balloons. Make it more challenging for older children by blindfolding them or getting them to spin around first.

Great for: hand-eye coordination.

I hope you’ll enjoy these fun and cool things to do in a heatwave, and remember to stay safe! Keep children hydrated and sun-creamed, and remember to always supervise children when they are near water.

Article by Dr. Amanda Gummer, child psychologist, author, and founder of The Good Play Guide.

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