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:

FOR THE KIDDOS

Keep little ones busy on a steamy day with Step2’s water and sand table, or

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