Coping with babies in a heatwave is no fun. This week has consisted of relentlessly trying to keep one room as a “cool zone” by blocking out all the glorious sunshine and basically sitting in the dark half of the day. Then there’s worrying about whether they’ve got too many layers on while you’re out and about, and then come bedtime glaring at the sad face on the Gro Egg like it’s your worst enemy. I’ve spent most of this week wishing the hot weather would just do one and praying for that familiar overcast sky with its intermittent drizzle to make its comeback.
We stayed in on Wednesday so I started thinking about some activities that could keep the girls cool. Going outside isn’t really an option for us – our garden is an overgrown, gravelly, concrete mess, plus there’s coating the babies in suncream to worry about – so we took to our conservatory with the fan on full and the back door open. The girls have never been swimming, generally because I can’t do a swimming class on my own with two and the weekend sessions are so busy we’ve not made it down for a family trip yet, but they love their nightly bath so I figured a little water play would be fun.
I love doing sensory play at home because it mostly consists of stuff we already have, plus it gives me the opportunity to flex my creative muscles – trust me, it’s about 75% for my benefit and 25% for the little ones. We all find it really fun, it doesn’t cost much and it whiles away a good few hours, also allowing the girls to discover something they never have before. It seems to be the everyday stuff that babies find the most interesting anyway, things like pebbles and feathers, so there’s no need to spend loads of cash.
I’m not kidding either, I seriously love this stuff. Before I start, I tend to browse Pinterest for some inspo (mostly for guidance on what’s safe at what age etc, although instinct and knowing your own kids comes in handy there too) and then I run with a theme depending on what I have available to me. This week I did a whole session with tubs and toys and all sorts, but I love sensory bottles and bags too – they’re really fun, can travel with you and the girls love ‘em.
For this week’s play the first thing I did was lay down our big Lamaze Take N Tidy Play Mat. It’s a good base for messy play as it’s easy to clean and dries out really quickly, plus it has it’s own features to keep the babies happy like ribbon tabs and textured parts. It also folds up and turns into some sort of magic bag which you can store stuff in so it’s a pretty good space saver. I’d recommend it, especially if you travel a lot or you’re always round at Grandma’s.
To that I added a big tupperware of cool water, and sat it on top of a square piece of foil. The foil adds a bit of crinkly fun for fingers and toes while they explore the water tub. Our bath thermometer happens to be a blue whale so I chucked that in too. For the ice pool, I just used the top of a large cake tin. We have an ice machine as part of our fridge so that part was easy for me and I kept topping it up as time went on, although Nina especially was puzzled by how the ice kept disappearing.
For another sensory element I added a bubble machine that I picked up at Tesco last week – it cost around £6 and I’m sure we’ll use it on plenty of occasions yet so that was an investment well made. I used foam bath letters to spell out the word “Ocean”, the girls love these in lots of different situations (they have their initials as part of their treasure boxes and a 1, 2, 3 in the bath!) they stick to stuff when they’re wet and they’re also safe to chew, which has really helped with teething over the past few weeks. I bought a bag of these a while back and have used them for all sorts of play since – mostly in sensory bags to practice tummy time, mixed with glitter, beads and googly eyes.
I dotted the rest of the mat with anything remotely water-related we had – including some accessories from our Mama’s & Papa’s Tummy Time Octopus, a few hand bells and shakers, plus the sensory bottles my sister made my nephew and then passed on to us. I let the girls explore on their tummies first, and then when they got tired we flipped over on to our backs and I held up things to look at. I’m really looking forward to the girls sitting up so they can get even more stimulation out of all this stuff. Lastly, I used a spray bottle filled with water and misted the whole room every few minutes, just to make sure everyone was staying cool. This worked really well with the fan and definitely aleiviated the girls’ crabbiness for a few hours.
I’d totally recommend this for a fun, sensory activity on a quiet afternoon. It keeps the babies cool and would be as great outside on a patio (under a gazebo or umbrella) as it is indoors. Looking forward to trying different themes in the coming weeks! I heart maternity leave <3