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If you have or care for children in any capacity, you know at least one thing is true: They come with a lot of stuff. Between car seats, diaper bags, the toys they just can’t live without, and their favorite snacks, taking a quick trip to the beach, pool, a cabin, or even just the park can easily turn into a sweaty, jumbled mess. (Not to mention dealing with sandy, wet bathing suits, sticky fingers, melted popsicles, and the understandable moods that can come with being overheated!)
With road trips and weekend adventures, parties and playdates, summer is jam-packed for kids and parents alike, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be stressful. If your summer fun has the whole family feeling the heat, these genius products and hacks from parents will keep things cool, calm, and collected for everyone in your crew.
Enjoy a little shade on hot and sunny days.
People who love playing outside in the summer will need a cool and shady place to rest on those scorching days. However, the last thing you want to do is spend an hour setting up a clunky, complicated tent or umbrella. Enter the beach tent! Meredith Vilarello of Freeport, Maine, is a fan of this Easy Beach Tent from Amazon, which she praises for how easy it is to set up.
Cool down in the car or the stroller.
It’s pretty universally unpleasant to travel in a stifling hot car, and cool air from the AC doesn’t always flow through to the backseat. Edith Zeisloft of Texas has four words for summer survival: “Battery. Operated. Clip. Fans.” They can easily be clipped on to the stroller or the car seat on the steamiest days to provide a cool breeze on demand. “They were lifesavers for crabby backwards-facing babies who can’t feel the AC,” she says.
Other parents recommend the Noogle car vent, which is a long tube that attaches to your car vent and helps the air travel to the back more efficiently, making it ideal for cooling down kids and pets.
Bring the splash pad home.
When the sprinkler doesn’t cut it — or you don’t live in a space where you can set up a kiddie pool or similar — get creative with water play. Naomi Kaskela of Dallas, Texas, recommends interactive water tables to help kids cool down while unleashing their imaginations.
Lindsey McGuirk of Lakewood, Colorado makes plastic underbed storage containers do double-duty come summertime. She fills them with a bit of water to make a splash pool, a water race track, or an ocean for bath toys. “Plus, we live in a townhome, so it’s super easy to just empty the water and store splash toys in it when we’re done,” she says. Just be sure to always keep an eye on kids when they’re playing with or near water, even if it seems shallow.
Try a smart wagon for convenience on wheels.
Summer is a busy season of travel and adventures of all kinds. If your kids are always ready to roll, swap the stroller for a multitasking wagon, like an innovative update from the classic Radio Flyer.
“This wagon is SO GOOD,” enthuses Jana Lithgow of Columbus, Ohio. “It holds a ton of stuff. There are five point harnesses to keep kids in place, multiple cup holders that hold full size water bottles, and it can be pushed like a stroller or pulled like a wagon.” Jana and her family use the wagon more than they use their stroller, and she says it’s convenient to take to the park, the zoo, and everywhere else. “It can be folded pretty small to fit into a car and you can zip the sides down to use it as child seating, which is also awesome.”
Portable products make chilling out easier.
If your kids are more into chilling than running around, a portable picnic blanket may be just the thing for on-the-go relaxation. “I have an almost 5-month old who loves staring up at trees while we sit in a park and my best purchase is this waterproof picnic blanket so she can lie down and be free wherever we go,” says Erin Louis Robertson of Chicago, Illinois.
Rachel Sliman of Brooklyn, New York, maximizes fun and minimizes storage space with this PeaPod Travel Bed, which can be used for a variety of purposes. “I loved this pop-up travel tent, either for at the beach or park, or as the travel bed while away from home,” she says. “It packs up so small and is so easy to set up.” Family camping trip, here you come!