It may be technically Autumn but, to me, it's Summer for as long as swallows swoop through the air and the kids are off school. We're loving the longer days, warmer weather and the carefree feeling that comes from the prospect of days out, picnics and a long awaited family break.
But, if I'm honest, the summer season can also bring it's own hassle factor to work through. Now, just over half way through the school holidays, I think it's a good time to unpack some of the Summer Hacks that keep the show on the road in my family and my blood pressure on a more even keel!
1. Creating Shade
We've enjoyed some seriously hot weather at times this summer, so having a shaded area in your outdoor space will be a priority for most people. A parasol is a great investment, but if you don't have one to hand, or the one you have isn't very portable, put up a temporary shade in minutes. Simply attach one end of a large bed sheet to your fence, washing line, or a tree, and the other end stretched out and weighed down to create some “lean to” shelter for the kids. They'll love it!
2. Inflating the paddling pool – The Hair Dryer Trick
Who has arrived home with a new paddling pool and realised you didn't have the proper hand pump to inflate the thing, or any kind of pump for that matter. I have. Lost hours have been spent wrestling with pools, purple faced and bleary eyed as I tried to self inflate the uninflatable - while debating with myself whether it would survive the car journey on the roof if I chanced inflating it at the nearby garage! Then I came across this genius idea and I haven't looked back since.
Get your hairdryer and place it over the opening of the pool, turn on the dryer while making sure to use the cooling button, and push cold air into the pool. Like some kind of miracle, it inflates in seconds - job done, kids happy. This is an adult job as we don't want kids messing with electric appliances near water. Some people cover the end of the hairdryer with a halved plastic bottle as shown in the picture below, but I just used the hair dryer on its own and it worked fine.
Eco Tip - Make sure to reuse the water in the pool to water your plants in the evenings.
Always take care with children and water.
3. Simple tent- Nature Days Activity Finder
My kids love making forts and dens - any kind of hideaway they can think of really. And this simple idea is perfect for those summer garden days.
Check out Naturedays | 30 Minutes of Magic | Play for how to make this simple yet cool garden tent.
4. Eco friendly Water Games-
Check out Naturedays | 15 Minutes | Nature Play for fun water game ideas to keep your kids occupied outdoors for hours.
Water Balloons are always a winner with kids but unfortunately they are a real threat to birds and wildlife who mistake them for food. They also take a very long time to break down as waste and so are a very unhealthy option for our planet. I have used them in the past and my own kids love them, but I am trying to find better alternatives now and I think I have found one.
Eco Tip - Just replace the water balloons with sponges! It is the exact same fun and they can be reused over and over again. Kids won't mind what they are drenching each other with and they can be used for many type of water games like relays, sponge toss and a plain old water war.
If the kids want to get super creative, they could try out this simple trick to make Sponge bombs. Just make sure to encourage the kids to keep them for use again next year, and the year after that too! Less Waste helps our planet every time. How to Make Super Soaker Sponge Balls Kids Will Love - Natural Beach Living
If you know someone who is handy with a needle and thread, another great option is the DIY Cloth Water Balloons here Sustainable DIY Water Balloon Alternative – Beginner Sewing Projects.
5. Al Fresco Playtime
Bring the kids toys outdoors for hours of fun outside. There is no better way to tempt kids outdoors than to relocate all the fun toys out there to attract them.
Check out Naturedays | 30 Minutes of Magic | Make and Create for fun activities like Shadow Art, Chalk It Up and simple Nature activities like Easy Bug Hotels & Easy Bird Feeders.
Naturedays | 30 Minutes of Magic | Play & Naturedays | 1 Hour For Nature | Play have even more ideas for outdoor play this summer. Why not let the kids scroll through and pick something to try themselves?
6. Paddling Pool Playpen
Use an empty paddling pool as a cosy & safe space for younger children to hang out in.
Even teens or adults can get in on the act here, when you get those precious moments to chill out in the garden! Throw in extra cushions, a book to read, a refreshing drink, and you're all set.
7. S’mores the Low-Key Way
If the kids want S'Mores but you are neither equipped nor bothered about making a camp fire in your outdoor space, the DIY Mini Fire Pit is the way to go. Requiring nothing more than a terracotta pot, tinfoil and some BBQ coals or Eco Fuel, you can create your mini camp fire with ease and safety.
Check it out here- DIY Mini Fire Pit for S'mores | artsy-fartsy mama (artsyfartsymama.com).
Be mindful of flying embers, nearby trees, shrubs and neighboring property when handing small fires on your property.
8. Wine Bottle Plant Nanny
This is a new one on me but definitely one I'll try the next time we go away. Use an empty wine bottle, or plastic bottle, to create a simple water source for your house plants and keep them healthy while you head off.
I knew all that lockdown wine drinking would come in handy one day and here's the proof! How to Make a Wine Bottle Plant Waterer (with Pictures) - wikiHow
9. Sunburn home remedies- my Mother's Remedy
As a stereotypical pale skinned, fair haired, freckled, Irish woman, Sunburn was the backing track to my childhood summers.
After my elder sister gave me a saucepan haircut, while promising me a shoulder length trim, this singed boy bears a striking resemblance to my eight year old self. Aftersun products being an unknown notion in those days, my mam would march me into the bathroom to plunge into a cold water bath, while chucking in heaped tablespoons of baking soda and fists full of oatmeal (porridge flakes).
Applying a cold water compress will also help sooth burnt skin, as will applying fat free yoghurt or skimmed milk according to Dermatologists.
My mother was a big believer in the power of milk to sooth burns in general. She would soak a facecloth in the milk and gently apply it to the skin to work its soothing magic- no mention of fat free or skimmed in her day though, once it came from a cow it was good to go!
10. Stay Cool
Keeping cool on those hot summer days and nights is a big challenge and it can be a real nuisance for trying to settle kids young and old for bed.
Two handy little tricks to cool the kids down are:
The Bedroom igloo- Set a fan up to blow into a single duvet cover and voilà, a bedroom Igloo.
Pillow Case in the Freezer - Shortly before putting the kids to bed, pop their pillow case into the freezer, and slip it back on for them at bedtime. The cool feel of the material will help reduce their temperature and settle them off to sleep for the night.
11. Dealing with Sunscreen
Sunscreen is a necessary hassle as far as I'm concerned. I definitely do not relish the thoughts of wrestling it onto my kids, seeing it streaked across windows in my house and handprints tattooed onto my car.
So, here are a few tips to dial down the Sunscreen havoc in future:
Applying Sunscreen - Apply sunscreen with a large make up brush, or makeup sponge, rather than doing it by hand. This works especially well on young kids.
Window Clean - Try a homemade mixture of 20 ml of white wine vinegar, together with 10 ml lemon juice, mixed with water in a bottle, to wash sunscreen off windows and glass in your home and car.
Car Clean - Finally, a simple school eraser can rub off old, stubborn, sunscreen stains on car paintwork. I haven't tried this one yet but I will definitely be out there with the kid's pencil case before the month is out (or more likely point my other half in the direction of both!)
12. A Bug's Life
Bugs and flies come hand in hand with Summer days. Try this simple remedy to get rid of flies accumulating in your home Life Hack: A simple but effective way to rid your home of flies (irishexaminer.com).
Pop a little toothpaste or honey on bug bites to reduce the stinging and act as a natural antiseptic.
13. Cool sandwiches
Use frozen bread to make sandwiches, or even make them the night before and freeze them. They will defrost gently while you enjoy your day and be fresh and cool by the time you are ready to eat. I do this sometimes with school lunches too. Leave salad off until you are about to use the sandwiches.
Eco Tip - Wrap your sandwiches in a clean tea towel rather than using tin foil, cling film or sandwich bags.
14. The Power of the Jam Jar
Fill empty, clean, jam jars, with a fresh salad after adding a small layer of dressing to the bottom. Glass jars are also a great choice for packing chopped fruit and veg.
15. Egg Carton Picnic
Use an empty egg carton to stash goodies for an after lunch treat.
You could go one step further and pack up an egg carton for each child as their very own picnic. In the open air, they may scoff up many types of food once it's presented in this fun and interesting way! Egg Carton Picnic | Busy Little Bee
16. Keep Things Cool
Freeze plastic bottles of water to put in the cooler bag to keep the contents cool. Then use to the water to either drink or to wash dirty hands and feet before you eat.
17. Cupcake Liners to the Rescue
Pack some paper cupcake liners (cases) to cover drink cups or glasses to keep gnats and sand away. You can slide a paper straw through the liner to give easy access to drink.
Pop a Cupcake Liner beneath an ice popsicle to save the drippy mess.
18. Hoard Disposable Cutlery
Eco Tip - Hold onto disposable cutlery, or spoons from ice creams tubs, and reuse them all summer for picnics and eating on the go.
19. Start a container collection
Eco Tip - Begin to collect nice containers, glass jars, glass bottles and takeaway trays for use again in your picnics and for other activities. Think “ How can I use this again?”
20. Mark your Territory
Pack a large fitted Sheet to use as a picnic area protected from sand.
21. Keep Valuables Safe
Stash valuables inside a rolled up nappy at the beach - people are less likely to root inside! You could use an empty, cleaned out, sunscreen container to store valuables or place items in a reusable ziplock bag, and bury it beneath your picnic area while you go for a dip.
Keep mobile phones safe and free from water and sand inside a reusable zip lock bag also.
22. Extra bags
Have plenty of spare bags in your car for wet cloths or shoes during the summer. I use a laundry basket to carry all my gear onto the beach and it is so easy to clean afterwards from sand and sunscreen lotion.
23. Banishing sand
Many people have heard of baby powder as a simple hack for getting sand off feet and hands before getting into the car. Baby powder containing talc is not very eco friendly.
Eco Tip - A nice alternative is to pack cornstarch to do the same job. Anything that will soak up the moisture will work actually. Otherwise, let nature run its course and wait a little longer for the sand to dry out naturally on the feet. It will then just brush easily away once the moisture is gone.
24. Max the cooking power
Steam veg in tinfoil on top while the other food cooks on the grill below
25. Fire starter
Empty kitchen towel holders, or toilet roll holders, filled with dryer lint are a handy starter for camp fires or BBQ's. Always take care when dealing with fire and take care about where they are started.
26. BBQ Condiments
Serve BBQ condiments in a bun or muffin tray to save washing up - it's super user friendly.
27. BBQ Clean
Use a half Onion on the end of a long grilling fork to clean down your BBQ grill after you're done. It works a treat!
So that's it - 27 Hacks to make your life easier. I hope you find one or two useful tips to squirrel away for the future.
Summer for me is many things, most of them very positive, but I'd be lying if I denied disliking the monumental mess in my car (which is eye watering at the moment) or the regular sunscreen battle with my kids. But I am also keenly aware there is so much to be grateful for. And we have a truly beautiful, interesting, country to enjoy together. So, sunscreen be damned, Summer will always be up there as one of my favourite times of year.
A little giggle...
If you need a giggle today, watch the short video below of a lady using a brush to put on sunscreen. There is something truly tickling about her hearty laugh that makes me smile every time. Enjoy.
Please feel free to share your comments, suggestions and hacks below for the Nature Days Community to enjoy too. I'd love to hear from you.
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