The air conditioning is running at full blast and the kids are begging for more screen time. I look into the eyes of my oldest child and declare, “We’re going outside today.”

“But Mom, it’s like a hundred degrees already,” she protests.

I check the outdoor thermometer. “Not even close,” I reply. “It’s only eighty-five.” I slap a smile on my persuasive face, but inside, I know she’s right. It’s not even nine o’clock in the morning and it’s certain to be an unbearably hot summer day.

While the options of the community pool, the grandparents’ pool, or the baby pool in the backyard are all viable, we’ve been wearing out the paths to the pools. We need a different activity for the day. Below are four of our favorite outdoor activities for smoldering summer days:

1 | Creek hikes

A meandering stream rolls through the valley behind our house. While not every family is within walking distance of a creek or river, most of us can drive to a stream in less than thirty minutes. Hiking in a creek is a fantastic activity for a hot summer day. Water shoes, sandals, or old athletic shoes are all it takes to make this work.

Simply find a stream and start wading. Search for deep holes for “swimming,” lift rocks in search of crawfish and other aquatic wildlife, and stop to sit in deep spots. I’ve led creek hikes for kids from age two to 18 and they all seem to thoroughly enjoy this activity. It sounds simple, but it works.

 

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2 | Public land explorations

When most of us consider public land, we think of community parks; however, there are more public outdoor resources than most people realize. State parks, national forest land, nature conservancy, and state hunting lands all offer miles of public wilderness to explore. Many of these thick woodlands offer acres of coniferous trees and bodies of water that serve to naturally cool the environment. Setting out to explore a new piece of land is a great way to get the family out the door. Additionally, many state parks offer natural swimming areas and beaches that the whole family can enjoy.

3 | Summer scavenger hunts

Whether you’re headed to a new piece of public land or simply exploring the backyard, scavenger hunts offer incentives for kids to explore the natural world. Summer is a great time to locate creatures of all sorts. Use a checklist to keep track of the findings. Most North American locations are home to the following creatures: toads, frogs, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, rabbits, deer, squirrels, turkeys, chipmunks, snakes, salamanders, turtles, and a wide variety of songbirds. For a botanical scavenger hunt, find plants native to your region by exploring iNaturalist.org.

4 | Early morning and late evening adventures

While it’s tempting to linger inside throughout the first hours of the day or fall in front of the TV at the end of the day, these cooler times are perfect for outdoor fun. Early morning breakfast on the patio is a convenient way for parents to monitor the kids’ backyard fun. Late evening is a great time for a slow stroll or a firefly-catching adventure. Bike rides, rollerblading, jogging, and other outdoor exercise will be more comfortable in these cooler temperatures.

While the heat of summer can be stifling, those of us who live in the Snowbelt often remind ourselves that it beats the blizzards of January. Regardless of where this summer finds you, make the most of the hot summer days by finding creative ways to get your family into the great outdoors.