At Home: Gear, toys, tips to help beat the heat outdoors

The thermostat has officially hit swelter. Whether you’re trying to play in the backyard or just chill outdoors, there’s a bunch of new ideas and gear designed to help everyone — pets included — stay cool.

First, architects recommend some simple ways to make an outdoor space more heat-wave friendly.

Start with surfacing: Not too dark and not too light. Ron Radziner, one of the principals of the Los Angeles design firm Marmol Radziner, says most stone, tile and concrete will be fine no matter where you live, “but you don’t want to use a dark material in a hot climate. It shouldn’t be too light either – it’ll be blinding in the sun.”

Overhead protection from sun and rain, and some wet element are also important in outdoor spaces, says Jeffrey Dungan, an architect in Mountain Brook, Alabama.

“I advise our clients that if it isn’t covered, you’re much less likely to use it,” he says. “We all love open terraces and lawns, but for long-term functionality we really need some respite from the sun — an awning or a porch.”

While a swimming pool is lovely, he says, “I’ve found that the sound of water all by itself is refreshing.

“So we’ll frequently add a font, spillway, fountain or a rill — just something as simple as an old urn with a small pump to move the water up and around can add life and a sense of calm coolness to the warmest summer day.”

If you’ve got a pool, lucky you. But even just a hose or tap can turn on some watery relief.

Of course, designers and retailers are happy to take that up a notch. Some suggestions:


Keep little ones busy on a steamy day with Step2’s water and sand table, or waterfall discovery wall. Pour a bucketful of water on the table’s treetop canopy and watch the rainforest in action. There are spinners, mazes and funnels on the double-sided water wall. Both toys are toddler-oriented.

Target’s got WOW’s 10- or 12-foot-diameter heavy-duty splash pad, for any age group. A bumper runs around the perimeter, and there’s an adjustable sprinkler built in.

Another any-age goodie: Target’s Sun Squad hopscotch sprinkler, which lets out a cool jet of water with every step.

Got a big backyard? Sunny & Fun’s inflatable water slide has dual climbing walls, a bouncy pool floor, and whooshing air nozzles for a fresh blast of fun.


Help keep the pets cool when out walking with RuffWear’s Swamp Cooler gaiter or vest. A water-absorbing felt liner is covered with a nylon exterior which, chilled or dampened, will help your dog stay more comfortable.

If you’re relaxing on a patio or beach, consider Midlee’s cheery, green, raised pet bed with a canopy, available through Wayfair. It keeps your furry companions off the hot ground and protects them from the sun. Minnidip’s pup-size cabana tent comes in a swanky, tropical palm print.

Instagram’s full of hose-loving dogs and people; crank up the fun for everybody with a toy that attaches and waves around. There are crazy daisy versions on Amazon, and Big Mouth has big and small inflatables like a fire hydrant, giraffe, dino, unicorn or rainbow.


From the Hotel Minnidip collection, designed by Minnidip’s Emily Vaca, there’s the jaunty, green-and-white Checker Cabana Stripe umbrella, in UV-blocking polyester. It can be toted beachside or poolside, and popped into the ground or a base stand.

Also new in this year’s collection, Minnidip’s 3-by-5-foot Arched Checker chaise lounger; blow it up and bob away the day on your favorite waterway. Target has a curvy, palm-printed version, with a drink holder.

In a collaboration between fashion brand alice + olivia and Minnidip, there’s a round floatie lounger with an attached drinks holder. Stuff it with ice cubes and a beverage container, or a fresh snack.

It may be too hot for actual hockey or basketball, but bring them to the pool with Target’s inflatable Hydro Hockey and Hydro Hoops games. And you can take the classic lawn corn hole game into the water, with an inflatable version.


Wade into the waterway with Oru’s newest portable kayak, the Lake. Weighing only 17 pounds and foldable into the size of a small suitcase, it can be stored in a closet. Then take it in the car or onto a train and go to the nearest paddling place when the mercury starts climbing.

If your fishing or sporting boat has no canopy, consider Tuuci’s Shade Blade, which can be mounted in a chair stanchion or aft gunwale, and stores away in a carry bag.

L.L. Bean’s Sunbuster heavy-duty nylon folding shelter is handy for a day on the trail or beach. There’s a floor to keep you off the hot sand or to use as a privacy screen, and interior pockets for stowing small items out of the sun. Stuff it into a shoulder-strapped sack for transport.

Coolibar’s swimwear, hats and face coverings for men, women and kids are made of a breathable recycled nylon and Lycra blend, that blocks 98% of UVA rays.

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