As I write this it is currently 26c in my part of Suffolk. I can feel the change in the air, the way everything already feels slower and more hard work. Which means the news that we will be in the 38c for us Monday is concerning. Heatwaves can be great for sun lovers but they are always a time to be cautious. As with any extreme weather planning is a necessity.
Within my household we have a host of issues to contend with. Chronic illness, disability, special needs to name a few. Add to this young children and I am also dealing with having Covid for a second time. Routines will need to change, food will need to be planned, safety of electronics and medication to be thought about. So I thought I’d share what I’m doing.
It’s hard to plan routines exactly right now as both the school and nursery are in wait and see mode. That means I’m making a few mental plans. If school and nursery is on, I need to plan how the kids will get there, what they’ll wear, suncream and how to keep drinks and lunch cool. If staying home my eldest sons school usually do google classroom. So I need to think of somewhere cool for the laptop. Usually we set up the kitchen table but our kitchen is a sun trap.
Look at the Met Office website to see what time of day is the hottest and the highest UV rating and plan around that. Consider cancelling outdoor plans, having half day if in non-compulsory education and if your child has medical issues speak to school about best cause of action (I know some are doing half days and going home before the highest temps).
Most electronics will have a safe temperature they can be used in. Nintendo have already expressed their concerns as the switch is not meant to be used at 35c+. The Xbox has a cut off when it reaches a certain temperate and the tablets can get incredibly overheated if used for prolonged time. With two children reliant on routine, which includes Xbox/switch time and using the tablets as a form of sensory downtime it’s concerning. My plan is to change the times of use to cooler times of the day. Yes, it’s a change of routine but it’s still going to include the actual activity.
I will ensure tablets are charged the night before so chargers won’t be used (they give off more heat) and when Xbox is played I will use the fan if necessary to keep the room cool in that time. I’m also planning lots of screen free activities and getting out the ‘fidget box’ as the tv itself will give off even more heat into our already hot house.
I’d like my boys your children need the screen time routine then consider which room is coolest. For example the the in my bedroom can be used to watch tv as that room doesn’t get as much sun and is easy to get air circulation.
🍴 Meal Times
Again this will depend on whether school/nursery is open. Lunch time is going to be cooler than dinner time for us. If home I plan to do a main meal for lunch and a cold dinner so the oven doesn’t need to used (I can’t think of anything worse than my already hot kitchen then having an oven on at 220c).
If school is open then I plan to pop an ice pack in the lunch box to keep things cool. I know of the food gets hot and starts to smell then J won’t eat. I’m going to choose fruit with a good water content, good level of carbs for energy and pack extra drinks in there. I will then do a minimal cooking dinner with sides that don’t require cooking (or that can be done in microwave to make it quicker). I’ve already jotted down meal plans based on what’s in the cupboard.
I’ve stocked up on drinks and I bought a pack of ice. My reusable ice tray just won’t cut it but if you can may spend the next couple of days filling, freezing and tip into reuseable bag, then refill tray again so you have a decent supply. Frankly I am hot enough with Covid symptoms so I’m planning on really cold drinks as I need to keep myself well enough to parent.
If your children aren’t big drinkers then use ice lollies, fruit, cucumber, yoghurts to keep hydrated. For my children, appetite is first to go when hot but it’s important that fluid intake is maintain however you can!
🪴 Outdoor Play activities
My kids love to go in the garden and we’re lucky to have a lovely play space, however it won’t be safe to use the whole garden. Today we set up the garden so there is shade on the patio and sealed up the entrance to grass area. We set up the tent, the playhouse and used the parasol for shade around the chairs. I have also created a cocoon around my egg chair so I sit and watch them safely.
You can create your own shade using blanket forts over the washing line or pop up play tents. Just be aware of when the UV is highest and try and avoid being outside at those times. Even with suncream it is still a risk.
I have planned activities that are low energy. I have a box of colouring bits, duplo, small world play, books, cars etc. This way children can still play and enjoy outdoors but they won’t be overdoing things.
We also have the paddling pool. This has been moved to the shaded area and my boys will wear their swim suits as these are UV safe. Something to be mindful of is ‘rapid cooling’. Going from very hot to very cold can actually be bad for the body especially for children so wearing clothes if going into a cold pool is a good idea until they acclimatize, or put some warm water in to avoid the ‘shock’.
🏡 Keeping the house/bedroom cool
Keeping the house cool is a challenge. Uk houses are built to keep the heat in. There’s so many different ideas on the internet ranging from what times window and curtains should be open/closed, using foil on the windows (which where I live will get you a visit from the police) and fans with frozen bottles of water.
What helps in my house is going by the rule of only opening windows in rooms that don’t have the sun facing them. I read that if it’s warmer outside then you are just dragging in more hot air so our windows will be open when it’s cooler. We open all windows and inside doors to create air flow. The back door is open when we are downstairs to ensure the boys are supervised.
Here’s where having children with additional needs comes into it. We cannot have doors and windows open in rooms where children aren’t directly supervised. So if I go to the toilet and my youngest is in the living room, then I shut the living room window until I’m back down. If my eldest is playing is his room then the window goes on lock. It doesn’t take much for my boys to hear a noise and go to find what it is and both spatial awareness and danger awareness are areas they are struggle with.
We do have a fan but we use it sparingly because of energy prices. We also have to be aware because the noise of the fan can cause difficult with sensory regulation for the boys. If their bedroom gets too hot at night I have to wait till they are asleep and then I can put fan on sneakily.
We also have cool mats (the ones you use for pets) which my eldest likes to sit and lay on. My youngest doesn’t like them too much but we have one incase. These are great for night time when trying to sleep but pull it out once they are asleep as it’s stops being cool and just turns into a sweat catcher.
My eldest needs pressure on him to sleep. He has a tent over is bed, loads of teddies and Squishmallows and a quilt. Obviously this isn’t a safe option in the heat so I have his weighted blanket which I’m hoping will give him the pressure feeling but will be lighter than the quilt. If he struggles then he can have the weighted blanket and the duvet cover which I’ll then remove once he’s asleep. If you have a child with additional needs maybe try transitioning before the hottest day approaches so it’s not such a big change on the day.
Check all medications for what temperature they need to be stored at, especially life saving meds such as allergy medications, inhalers/asthma meds and those used for mental health needs (and check instructions to see if they can affect you in sun exposure). Consider clearing a shelf in fridge door, or use a cool box that can be kept out of sun – doesn’t need to be iced, just somewhere where it won’t get so hot!
If you or your children are likely to be affected by the heat then ensure you have the meds ready. I ensure my eldest knows where my inhalers are kept and he knows how to call 999 (may seem dramatic but my husband is at work on the hottest days and I my asthma is not great right now thanks to Covid).
Similarly, even if your children are healthy still check that you have medications needed incase of sunburn, heat stroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration. It’s handy to read up on the signs and what to do if it happens. It is scary how quickly children can go downhill. Personally, I have cool packs, Calpol/paracetamol, thermometer, after sun lotion and piriton somewhere handy.
⚠️ Random Advice
☀️ I know this sounds a bit random but empty your bins the night before. Even if not full. Frankly the heat will make everything stink and the flies are going to love all this which means maggots too. So we will empty our bins more regularly to try and stop the smell (esp as we have a small house so smells carry).
☀️ If you freeze water to drink, only half fill before popping in freezer, then add rest of water when you get it out. That way it’s ready to drink without waiting hours for it start to thaw.
☀️ If going out in the car cover the childrens seats and metal seatbelts with a towel the evening before and when not in use. It’s amazing how hot they can get. If I’m a safe area, open your car windows for a bit before you leave.
☀️ Insects often love warmer weather and will produce even more. Just be aware of those that can pinch and sting. Adding cinnamon to sandpits is a good deterrent for many bugs.
I hope any of this is helpful. I’ve always been an overplanner and since I have Covid induced insomnia, what better way to spend my hours than sharing my thoughts. Please feel free to add more suggestions in the comments or on my social media (Instagram, TikTok and Twitter)