If it’s getting hot where you are, you might be wondering how on earth you can keep the kids cool and busy during the summer when it’s too hot to send them outside to play.

Here are some of my tried and tested activities to keep the kids occupied and some tips on how to sneak in some work even if you have them underfoot 24/7.

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My secret weapon…

Where to play to keep cool? Obviously, this will depend very much on where you live, where we are the summers are pretty brutal (for a pasty Brit like me) so when it was too hot to play out, we’d bring the cool play inside… to the bathroom.

Yes, when my son was little, I did a lot of my work sat on a little stool or a cushion near the bath whilst he played in the bath. My secret weapon when he was little was a bath chair! This by far was one piece of baby equipment I’m happy we spent money on.

Not only could I pop him in the chair in the bath and some water to play with, throw in some toys and he was happy as Larry. But being a mom back then was really hard as we lived in a new-to-us area, I didn’t know anyone in our town. The in-laws lived at the other end of the country and obviously, my family was on the other side of the world.

To add to that my husband’s job at the time entailed a lot of travel, so he’d often be away for 3 weeks at a time. I don’t think I’ve ever been as exhausted as I was when I was a toddler mom!

This magic little chair allowed me to actually have a shower and wash my hair without worry what the little monkey was up to, I could even have a nice soak in the bath and pop him in the chair in the wet room area of the bathroom.

I can’t find a link for the model we have but I do recommend that you check the bottom is nonslip and that it’s really sturdy, there is no way my son could have tipped himself up in his.

And if you are in Japan, you already know about the mold in the summer, make an effort to dry off the chair when you have finished using it, and use a hot gun to seal up the bottom of any squeezy toys used in the bath, it is grim when they get moldy! (Yes, I learned the hard way!)

The final thing before we get to the activities, we are talking about water play here, never leave your little one unattended near water, it really does take very little water for them to drown in. If in doubt, pick them up and take them with you or ignore the doorbell/phone/distraction.

The photos in this post are of outside play because I don’t share naked or even semi-naked pictures of my son online, way too many weirdos out there! But we did do all the activities inside at one stage or another.

Ice Cooking

This is a great activity for your pre-schoolers and takes little to no preparation! You can set them up outside in the yard, garden, or on the balcony if you live in an apartment or have them standing at the kitchen sink.

At the bare minimum, all you need is a couple of bowls, a couple of spoons/ladles, and a pile of ice cubes. My son would be quite happy transferring the ice from one bowl to another, playing with it, observing it melting, drawing on the steps with ice cubes… And if a friend came around, I’d just dish out some extra bowls, trays, and spoons.

And if it’s your child’s first time to play with ice, introduce it gently, occasionally a child might have a sensory reaction where they don’t understand they need to let go because it’s cold (most kids will). Pouring water on their hand or dunking their hand into the water will usually do the trick.

BENEFIT: Ice play gives children an opportunity to explore a substance and learn about it. Observing how the ice acts, whether it floats or sinks, how it moves etc. And helps them experiment to solve problems such as moving the ice from one container to another.

a toddler transferring ice into different bowls as a way to stay cool in the hot summer

Ice Crayons For a Creative way to keep kids cool and busy…

This one can get messy, it depends on the food colouring you use. make your ice crayons by mixing water and food colouring then freezing them like you do ice cubes. I have a stick mold similar to this (I bought it to add ice to a Themos). Then when you are ready to play, give the child the ice crayons in a bowl with some paper and let them at it.

It’s fun watching them make art by using the crayon in a non-conventional crayon way.

The one thing you might have to experiment with is the paper you use. We tried it with some cheap paper from the ¥100 shop, it pretty much dissolved! Printer paper or thicker art paper worked best for us. But experimenting is part of the fun.

BENEFIT: Most kids will have coloured with wax crayons but ice crayons are a whole different experience. From how it feels to the touch to how it reacts to the paper.

a small boy painting with coloured ice

Ice Digging to keep the kids cool and learning

This wins the most requested activity award. Again, pretty easy to set up but you need to think ahead because it takes longer to make.

Grab a plastic container that will fit in your freezer. Then scout around the house looking for objects you can add to the excavation block. Anything plastic, wood, metal… Coins are fun to throw in too.

TOP TIP – make this into a treasure hunt or game for the kids, you don’t need to tell them what it’s for but have them hunt around for things you can add to your ice excavation.

Fill the box 1/4 full (approximately) of water and add in a few of your items. Freeze.

Once that has frozen, add a few more items, top up the water to 1/2 full. Freeze.

Repeat two more times until all your items are frozen into the block.

When you are ready to play, take the block out of the box and put it in a tray (if you want to keep everything contained) then give them some ‘tools’ and set them to it. My son tried lots of different things, sometimes he would come up with suggestions on what to use, just make sure that it’s age-appropriate.

BENEFIT: Ice digging is great for problems solving. How to tackle the problem, which tools work best to excavate the treasure, how to melt the ice around objects. This is also great for Fine Motor Skills, if you need more ideas for fine motor skills, then find 50 of them here.

different household items frozen in a block of ice as an activity to keep the kids cool when its hot outside

I also made one of these with dinosaur bones that he had from a kit, you had to piece the dino bones together to build the skeleton. It was part of a themed project we were doing at the time and was very popular!

Kids staying cool and busy when it's hot by digging plastic dinosaur bones from a block of ice

Bubble Play to keep the kids busy and helpful

I have vivid memories of doing this as a child myself, stood on the dining chair at the kitchen sink. These days you can get the Montessori standing towers which make kitchen work safer – no accidentally falling off the chair!

Or you can set the kids up outside with a tub or in the bath!

Water, washing-up liquid, a whisk and spoons, ladles, etc. One great added idea is to add any waterproof toys that need a clean and have them scrub them

If you do it in the bath, turn off the lights and add some glow-sticks for extra fun.

BENEFIT: Water play activities help strengthen kids’ fine and gross motor skills. They work on their coordination as they pour, lift, carry and scoop. (More sensory activities here if you need some more ideas) It also helps build their concentration skills as children often spend long periods of time playing and experimenting with water activities. This helps increase their attention span and ability to concentrate as they get older.

ADDED BENEFIT FOR MOM: because the kids will often play for an extended amount of time, it gives you the opportunity to get some work done, as long as you can do it in the vicinity of their play area you are good to go!

kids staying cool and busy whilst playing in a big tub of bubbly water

Snake Bubbles

This is incredibly easy to make. You can make it together with the kids or pre-pare ahead of time, ready to whip out when they are starting to drive you bonkers.

Cut the bottom off a PET bottle then either pull a sock or cut a piece of sock to cover the bottom, hold it in place with duct tape.

To make the snakes use washing up liquid and a bit of water in a bowl, dip in the blower and blow through the mouth of the bottle. You can make rainbow bubble snakes by adding a bit of food colouring to the bubble mixture.

BENEFIT: Water play is also a sensory activity, along with the sensory experience of temperature icy cold, cool and warm water there are different textures too, Slippy, squishy, bubbly…

Kids staying cool when it's hot by blowing bubble snakes through a plastic bottle

Water play doesn’t have to be down to water fights, there are so many great ways to include cooling water play into your day.

If you are looking for more things to do with your kids, check out my book Montessori Inspired Activities for Pre-schoolers.