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Have Fun and Stay Safe in the Summer Heat

By , Hillary Copsey, Parenting Writer
We live in South Florida. It's summer. And it's hot.

This time of year, it's 80 degrees at 7 a.m. with 80 percent humidity. It can get to be 90 degrees in the shade by noon.
I've stopped complaining about it, and my kids, born into this sweltering subtropical region, believe the freezing point to be 50 degrees. Yet, even they protest that it's too hot to play outside during the summer, which is fine by me since I'm constantly worrying that they'll collapse of heat stroke from running around the ''bases'' in our backyard.
Still, it's summer, and the kids can't be cooped up all the time. We've discovered a few ways to stay active–and safe–in the heat.
Be an early bird or a night owl: My marathoner husband gets up at four a.m. most days to get a run in before the worst of the heat. We apply that same principle to the kids. On the weekends, we get them outside early. While I'm weeding the flower beds, the kids are playing basketball in the driveway or hitting baseballs in the backyard. After dinner, we head out for more backyard baseball. However, bugs tend to come out in full force during mornings and evenings, so be sure to keep bug sprays and citronella candles on hand if you decide to venture out during these times. Also, if you decide to run, walk or bike in these low-light hours, be sure to wear reflective clothing and, ideally, flashing lights to let motorists know you're there.
Find the water: Even though we're lucky enough to live just miles from the ocean, we often find a kiddie pool or backyard sprinkler to be more convenient and just as fun. Whether it's a pool, a pond or even just a garden hose, find some water source to cool your kids down when they're running around in the heat. And remember to keep your skin well-slathered in sunscreen whenever you're out in the sun.
Drink water, and lots of it: If you're out in the heat, make sure to replenish the water your body loses through sweat and activity. Keep water bottles full and handy to avoid dehydration and heat stroke.
Seek the shade: If your kids run around outside during the hottest times of the day, make sure they do it in the shadiest spot available. A shaded area is likely to be at least a few degrees cooler than a sunny spot, and sometimes even one degree can feel like a big difference.
Take a break: Keep an eye out for signs of heat exhaustion and make sure you stop your kids before they get there. My rule of thumb: When my kids are playing outside, I have them take a water break at least every 30 minutes, sooner if I notice they're getting especially hot and sweaty. Check on how they're doing while they're taking a break. A child with heat exhaustion will be cool, clammy and pale. You don't want your child to get to that point, but if he does, get him immediately to a cool, shaded place, lay him down and slightly elevate his legs. Have him drink some water and monitor him closely.
Go inside: Don't be afraid to find an indoor place to stay busy. Take the kids to an indoor basketball court, swimming pool or museum. Or, just bring them in the house for a rousing game of ''Simon Says'' or tape-on-rug hopscotch. They can always go back outside later in the day or first thing tomorrow.

How do you beat the summer heat?

Hillary Copsey is a newspaper features editor in Florida with experience writing about everything from population trends to health-care issues. As the mother of two boys, she also is versed in searching for daycares, cooking healthy dinners on the fly and playing with trucks. She co-writes the blog
Not raising brats. She writes about parenting for dailySpark and