Staying cool with kids

by Colleen Summer time, and the living is . . . not always easy, especially when there's a heat wave! Once school or preschool ends and the days heat up, it can be a challenge to keep yourself and the kids cool all day, especially without using an air conditioner. Sure a little a/c can't hurt on those REALLY hot days, but by reducing your usage on moderate days, you can save a lot of money--and reduce the environmental impact of summer cooling.

So here are some kid-friendly ideas for staying cool--without switching on the a/c.

At Home - Instead of keeping the whole house cool, try to make one or two rooms “cool zones”. Get black-out curtains for mid-day, and good window fans to grab the cooler evening air. Use your imagination and make this space into the North Pole or Antarctica by draping cushions with towels and calling them icebergs. When you want to cool off, head to the North Pole and draw some penguins to keep you company! - Put all your fans to use. Even your bathroom or kitchen vents can be used in the daytime to churn out some of your hot air and suck some cooler air up from the basement if you have one. - Put some cold water in the bathtub, and head in for some wading when you need a break. This can cool down your whole body. (Be safe and make sure the kids don't slip and fall! Never leave a bathtub full of water if kids can access it--this is a potential drowning hazard.) - Wash laundry on cold. If you have to wash on hot, i.e. for diapers, do it at night when you won’t be adding to the heat of the day.

Out and About - Choose destinations with a/c: the library, city hall, museums, etc. Bring your snacks and go wild in air-conditioned comfort. The only down side is that the heat always feels worse when you go back outside! One caveat: stay out of the mall or your temptation to buy could outweigh all your smart frugal avoidance of the air conditioner at home! - Head to outdoor splash pads or pools. For a list of Ottawa's outdoor water attractions, check out Ottawa Parks and Recreation. - Stay home and put on the sprinkler, or fill up a kiddie pool. Wading in cold water can cool down your whole body. - Use a damp cloth or bandanna on your neck or forehead to cool your head. - Use a parasol to bring the shade with you.

Cool ways with food - As counterintuitive as it seems, drinking hot tea can cool you down. Look at all the hot places in the world and you will notice that they are tea-drinking cultures. I think it works by making you sweat and thus cooling your body. - Drinking lots of cool water will help you sweat and keep cool. - Cook outside. Use a barbecue, or build a solar oven. I’ve even heard of plugging in small appliances outside, though that is not recommended by the manufacturers. Just make sure kids stay away from hot surfaces! - Use a slow cooker. Its super-efficient design means very little heat escapes, so it won't heat up your house like a stove top or an oven. - Eat raw. Gaspatcho, hummus or steak tartare: none will add heat to your house through cooking. Kids love "snack"-type meals, so keep it simple--and cool--with cut up veggies and tofu, and some healthy dips. - Eat “cooling foods”. Do a search to find lists of these “yin” foods, including cucumber, pineapple and turmeric, which may lower your body temperature. - Want a super science project? Build a solar oven and take advantage of the sun’s energy and high outdoor temperatures--with the bonus of teaching your kids about the greenhouse effect!

What are your favourite ways of keeping cool with your kids?

Colleen is the mother of a 3-year-old monkey and a 9-month-old bear cub. She blogs about frugality, food and green living at frugal + urban.