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How to Stay Outside AND Stay Safe in the South Texas Heat

How to Stay Outside AND Stay Safe in the South Texas Heat

Plain and simple: It gets drastically hot in San Antonio for pretty close to half the year. We can bet that we will stay somewhere between toasting and frying from May to September – and pretty often, April and October give us heck as well. Keeping the kids in the house for months on end is not a healthy or desirable option, but how can we keep them safe when it is 95° and 90% humidity for what seems like 100 days on end?

Here’s how we do it at The Unschool:

  1. Always listen to children when they talk about their bodies. As a little redheaded girl, I had severe heat exhaustion (at least) once. I told my parents and my tee-ball coach that something was wrong with me, and all of them told me to go back to center-field (my obviously vital tee-ball position) until the game was over. I made it through the bottom of the ninth but collapsed in my mother’s arms shortly thereafter. When kids say they’re not feeling right, we believe them.
  2. Understand that kids don’t sweat as much as grown-ups and will not remember to take care of their bodies as vigorously as necessary in the heat. We schedule our Daily Rhythm with intentional cooling-breaks (snack, lunch, group activities, read-alouds, board games, etc.). This time is designed to get kids into the pavilion, into the shade, under the fans, hydrated, and thoroughly cool before heading back out to more active play. In addition, everyone keeps water bottles close, and we keep extras on hand. We have filtered water and an ice machine in the pavilion. We keep water bottles cold and full. We call “Water Checks” in which everyone is encouraged to drink ten gulps or do a thirty-second swig every half hour. We don’t like interrupting play, but safety first.
  3. Find shade and use it! About a half of the property at The Unschool is moderately to heavily shaded. When the hot months hit, the shade is where we stay. Our Woods area is as much as twenty degrees cooler than our Garden in the full sun! The alternative to shade is waterplay. The Sandpit is perfect for building rivers, filling tubs, making mud, and splashing around under the shade tarps.
  4. Sunscreen is amazing and so are hats and so are lightweight long sleeves. We believe all the time is sunscreen time. We provide sunscreens considered safe at https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/best-kids-sunscreens/ and follow best practices for reapplication. I have yet to meet a child who enjoys the sunscreen-ing process but with some simple procedures, respectful communication, and gentleness, we manage to minimize the suffering.
  5. There’s no shame in heading in when the heat gets crazy. When it’s too hot or just very hot for too long, we (mask-up and) head in to cool down with some games, books, art, and interaction with the bunnies, reptiles, and newly-hatched chicks who live in our Indoor Classroom.

The reality is this: South Texas is Our Place. Hot weather is a feature of Our Place. We’re part of nature here. Teaching kids to embrace and adapt to our own natural habitat allows them to access the health-benefits of an active lifestyle and a deep connection to nature both now and in the future.