Fun, low-cost ways to keep cool on hot days. Plus, tips on how to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

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Hot days are here for a short window. Get out and enjoy the summer heat before the dreary winter returns. Turn on a sprinkler and cool off, hit the pool, enjoy a Popsicle … or try beating the heat with an activity that’s a little more out of the box. Here are some fun ways you and your family can beat the heat. Plus, tips on avoiding heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Try water games

Ever played Splash Dodgeball? How about Drop, Drop, Drench? These are great backyard water games that are perfect for a hot summer day. Splash Dodgeball is great for kids 6 and up. All you need are four corners marked by buckets of water to create a boundary and a few sponge water balls for the kids to throw as dodge balls. Just make sure there is an adult on hand to supervise and impose rules — just like with a snowball fight, faces are off-limits.

Drop, Drop Drench is just like Duck, Duck, Goose with a fun water twist. Get a small pitcher of water (be sure it’s not too heavy for the little ones to carry) and the child who is “it” goes around the circle spilling just a drop on each kid until he finds the kid of his choice and “drenches” the goose. This game is certain to keep everyone cool and laughing with water fun.

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Create a cheap air cooler

Just because everybody wants to keep the energy bills down in this rough economic climate doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Create a do-it-yourself air conditioner: Buy a Styrofoam cooler. Fill it about one-third with ice, then poke four holes on each of the long sides. Make the holes big enough for air to flow through and be sure the holes are close to the ice but just high enough that when the ice melts, the water won’t spill out the sides. Next, turn on a fan on the far side of the Styrofoam cooler and feel the ice-cold air on your face or body. This at-home cooler is great for cooling off while on the couch, before bed or to keep pets comfy on hot days (they are certain to plop down in front of the cold stream of air). If you don’t want to do all of that, wet washcloths and place them in the freezer. Then wipe your arms and legs down before turning on a fan or place the frozen cloths on the back of your neck. This simple trick will at least bring you down a couple of heat notches.

Watch your timing

Blow-drying your hair in the morning? Running your laundry dryer at noon? Baking for the cookout at 3 p.m.? All these activities add up to warming your home and adding to the heat from the sun. Close all blinds, shades and windows early each morning to keep the sunlight out. Blow out your hair before bedtime when it’s cooler, or let your hair air dry with fun hairstyling products for a more natural, sun-kissed look. Try using a clothing line instead of a clothes dryer — your clothes will have a wonderful fresh-air scent, too! And pick out recipes that require little or no baking, like fruit pizza or Rice Krispies Treats.

Stay heat smart

Your body needs lots of electrolytes and water on hot summer days to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Even if you aren’t thirsty or those you’re with claim they aren’t thirsty, keep the fluids coming. Try low-calorie sports drinks like Gatorade G2, or water, or even Popsicles or similar treats if little ones are refusing to drink more liquids.

If you have, or see someone else with, symptoms like nausea, vomiting, clammy pale skin, dry mouth, weakness, etc., it is likely heat exhaustion. Get out of the sun and the heat immediately. Drink fluids slowly to avoid nausea. Eat a salty snack, like pretzels, and loosen clothing. If symptoms get worse and you or the other person has convulsions, hallucinations or loss of consciousness, this may be the result of heat stroke. Medical attention should be sought immediately in these circumstances — or, in fact, any other time when heat-related symptoms may cause concern. For more information, check out for more advice on “Heat Waves.”

The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up. Send ideas and questions to

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