Parenting hack: Beating the summer heat with ages 3 and younger

Tempe Marketplace, summer, Summer Splash ThursdaysThere’s something especially crazed about having three small children in my home during the summer. I remember sipping my morning coffee last May literally wondering out loud how I was going to make it through the upcoming months of 100+ temperatures, required sunscreen and melted lipstick.

Despite the freedom from school-year schedules, we are all lying to ourselves if we think summer is all fun and games. For my get-out-the-door, do-all-the-things personality, summer in Arizona brings around a sort of dread.

Thankfully, I’ve made it through summer before. This will be my third summer working from home with toddler boys — and by golly I can do this — right???? So, what do I do with my little people when the slide feels like bad rug burn and getting in and out of the car makes you wish you’d remembered oven mitts for the steering wheel? Here’s my go-to list of to-dos and summer activities.

Early morning

Breakfast. Take breakfast to a nearby park and let your wild animals (I mean precious children) roam. Sand will get in their oatmeal — don’t sweat it. They don’t care, and nor should you. Or have a cheap breakfast at your local grocery store. Grab a coffee from the in-store Starbucks, get your little ones some fresh produce and pack the rest. People watch, talk about the different foods or items you see and enjoy an affordable, out-of-the-house break.

The Phoenix Zoo opens at 6 a.m. for members in the summer; summer hours for the public are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily through Aug. 31. Set your alarm early and hop to it. It’s extra quiet, a lot of the animals get up a little earlier in the summer, and the weather isn’t horrendous!

PetSmart opens at 7 a.m., and it’s a great place to let kids see different animals up close. Take a trip around the aisles and pick up a treat for your own pet or your neighbor’s pet, or make a donation to a local rescue at check out.

Luci’s at the Orchard is one of our favorite, kid-friendly coffee shops to frequent in the summer. It’s tucked away in an older, central Phoenix neighborhood, and they have a small splash pad that is contained by a small gate and bushes. Snag a coffee, set out the snacks, and sit back for at least an hour while your toddler drinks the water like its coming from a hose.  


Check out your local public library. Many of the children’s library staff host free planned programming each week for kids of all ages. We’re huge fans of storytime!

Target and Goodwill open at 8 a.m. Hello, air conditioning! Pick up essentials, point out different colors, shapes and objects and give each kiddo $1 to buy something special for themselves. Or, forget the $1 and just pack a sticker to give everyone when the trip is over.

Most splash pads across the Valley are up and running by 9 a.m. I’m a huge fan of the splash pads at Tempe Marketplace and Scottsdale Quarter. Tempe Marketplace has easier parking and a close, designated bathroom, but the Quarter’s is a bit bigger.

Midday to early afternoon

Making indoor obstacle courses was a game changer for my rambunctious boys last year. We use cardboard blocks, masking tape on the floor, piles of pillows, and stools for the ultimate experience. Store this idea away in your brain for the nap-strike days when everyone is slap happy and on the verge of insanity.  

Get creative with your recycling, and use the materials for crafts, sorting games or fort building. DIYing a Rube Goldberg machine is a winner in our house. Just search for ideas on Pinterest!  

Spread leftover newspaper, big boxes (thank you, Costco!), or carpenter paper cross the floor or coffee table and let the kids go wild with chalk or crayons.

Find two unusual, distinct toys, and play ‘hide the toys.’ Have your kids sit on the couch and count to ten. Take turns hiding the toys and, depending on the age of your kids, you can eventually pass the hat off to the eldest kid to manage.

Afternoon and evening

Brave the hot car and make your way to the nearest ice cream or cold treat place. Indulge in an icy at Rita’s, a blizzard at Dairy Queen, or a cone at any on of Phoenix’s best ice cream parlors.

Turn on Netflix, Disney Plus, or PBS Kids and give yourself a pat on the back for making it to 3 p.m. It’s not a crime to let your little people watch TV. Let them enjoy some screen time while you sneak a snack or finish folding the laundry that’s been on your dining room table for five months.

Set up two or three ‘activity stations’ of interactive, tinkering toys for your kiddos. Set a time for 20 or 30 minutes, depending on their age, and tell your kids it’s quiet time.

Whip up a laundry basket of you and your partner’s clothes and shoes. Turn on some music and have your kids dress up and play around in your duds. Then, take a million photos for their high school graduation slideshow.

When all else fails, I’m a huge fan of driving around town with the music on and nowhere to go. If a car isn’t an option, take the trolley or the city bus. There’s something sweet about being a kid and getting to just be there for the ride.

From one parent to another — I’m with you. You can do this. Arizona summers will not be the death of you!

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