Nothing beats a visit to the zoo. How do you beat the heat when your field trip falls on one of the hottest days of the year? First of all, always check with heat index advisories and take strong consideration to the dangers of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Children cannot regulate their own body temperatures like adults and can become overwhelmed easily in extreme hot/cold environments.
Our recent field trip to one of Michigan's zoos happen to fall on one of the hottest days this summer--although, the days to follow forecast even higher heat index predictions. It helped that we picked a zoo that is designed with at least 75% of the park in mature shaded trees, so we didn't have a lot of direct sunlight throughout our visit, and they provide spray misters throughout the zoo for people to walk through and cool off.
Still, it helps to plan ways to keep the crew cool. Here are 10 ways we prepared to beat the heat for our trip to the zoo.
1. Frozen water bottles
The night before, I put half a dozen water bottles in the freezer, half a dozen in the fridge. They double as an ice pack for the first half of the day and ensure cold water to drink in the late afternoon.
2. Frozen snacks
I also put a box of portable organic yogurt squeezers in the freezer-- mess-free frozen yogurt! And I froze a few boxes of squeeze pouch applesauce. It's an easy simple way to give a quick cool down to the kids' insides and cool their organs down a couple degrees during the heat of the afternoon.
3. Hand-held portable fan
A small, battery-operated fan is only a few dollars in most department store camping sections. You can find a slim one to stick in your purse, and it makes for a great cool down solution in a windless hour. Especially if you wipe the kids' foreheads first and fan their faces. A quick wipe off of sweat combined with a little breeze of air to the face can work wonders for refreshment.
4. Pack an umbrella
Especially for stroller-riding kiddos, who aren't walking themselves over to shade on their own. Even a small, purse size umbrella can be handy to have on hand to guard against too much sun exposure.
5. Homemade Ice Cloths
Knowing I needed a way to drop the kids' temps down at pressure points like their head and neck, I decided to make my own ice cloths. Wet some washcloths in cold water to keep them flexible, wrap chunks of ice balls into the washcloths and pack them tightly into ziplock bags. About an hour after lunch in the "African Exhibit" I pulled these out of the cooler and applied them to the back of the kids' necks. They were ice cold and they loved them! The ice water remained in the bottom of the bag, so the kids could pass the cloths back to me to get them re-cold and apply again.
6. Ice Thermos
Fill at least one thermos to the brim with crushed ice. You'll be especially thankful for this at the end of the day, after repacking everyone into the hot car to head home.
7. Refrigerated Sunblock
Popping the sunblock and aloe into the fridge the night before made for another quick cool-down solution. Whenever we re-applied the sunblock it was just a touch of eliminating heat from their T-zones. We love Ava's all natural blend made with vegetable glycerine.
8. Large cooler / Small Cooler
I was especially glad I decided on two separate sized coolers for the day. Not only did it make for an easier load not carrying the large cooler through the park, but the zoo didn't allow for more than water to be carried through---picnics had to be in the parking/picnic areas. Packed our lunch and food in large cooler, packed some ice water, ice cloths, sunblock, etc. in the small one.
9. Dress in cool, breathable clothing
No polyester, wool, etc. Think LIGHT cotton shorts/shirts, basketball jersey shorts (not black), material that can breathe and retract heat.
10. HEAD off the heat
Headwear can really make a difference. Sun-visors are fantastic, because they shade your face but let the top of your head breathe. My son wears a white one in place of his usual baseball cap. My daughter's sun hat is a light-weight flexible cotton. Headbands are great as well, because it lets the top of your head breathe.
Enjoy summer and stay cool!