The air conditioning is running at full blast and the kids are begging for more screen time. I look into the eyes of my oldest child and declare, “We’re going outside today.”
“But Mom, it’s like a hundred degrees already,” she protests. I check the outdoor thermometer. “Not even close,” I reply. “It’s only eighty-five.” I slap a smile on my persuasive face, but inside, I know she’s right. It’s not even nine o’clock in the morning and it’s certain to be an unbearably hot summer day.
While the options of the community pool, the grandparents’ pool, or the baby pool in the backyard are all viable, we’ve been wearing out the paths to the pools. We need a different activity for the day. Below are four of our favorite outdoor activities for smoldering summer days (and most require very minimal planning):
A meandering stream rolls through the valley behind our house. While not every family is within walking distance of a creek or river, most of us can drive to a stream in less than thirty minutes. Hiking in a creek is a fantastic activity for a hot summer day. Water shoes, sandals, or old athletic shoes are all it takes to make this work. Simply find a stream and start wading. Search for deep holes for “swimming,” lift rocks in search of crawfish and other aquatic wildlife, and stop to sit in deep spots. I’ve led creek hikes for kids from age two to 18 and they all seem to thoroughly enjoy this activity. It sounds simple, but it works.
When most of us consider public land, we think of community parks; however, there are more public outdoor resources than most people realize. State parks, national forest land, nature conservancy, and state hunting lands all offer miles of public wilderness to explore. Many of these thick woodlands offer acres of coniferous trees and bodies of water that serve to naturally cool the environment. Setting out to explore a new piece of land is a great way to get the family out the door. Additionally, many state parks offer natural swimming areas and beaches that the whole family can enjoy.
Whether you’re headed to a new piece of public land or simply exploring the backyard, scavenger hunts offer incentives for kids to explore the natural world. Summer is a great time to locate creatures of all sorts. Use a checklist to keep track of the findings. Most North American locations are home to the following creatures: toads, frogs, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, rabbits, deer, squirrels, turkeys, chipmunks, snakes, salamanders, turtles, and a wide variety of songbirds. For a botanical scavenger hunt, find plants native to your region by exploring iNaturalist.org.