Summer fun in Austin with a toddler

At the Austin Science and Nature Museum digging up dinosaur bones.

Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun.  This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Last summer we had record breaking heat here in Austin, TX.  I think it was 70+ days of triple digit weather and lemme tell you, it was miserable.  MISERABLE.

In all honesty, it wasn't just the heat.  I mean, I've lived here for 15 years and I've come to like the warm, dewy blanket of humidity that settles on the city each summer.  Ninety-five degrees with 100% humidity?  No problem.  I used to wear jeans all summer long.  But add a newly walking toddler to the mix, who, like his momma doesn't sweat a whole lot, and it was a really, really bad combination.  In addition to all that, Anthony started traveling more, my mom got a job, and my head was spinning with loneliness and lack of ideas of what to do with myself (and Hollis).

It meant all the things I'd done with him when he was little and not all that interested in things other than my boob weren't really options.  Walks at midday were out because of over-heating issues.  Playing at the park after 10 am was also not an option because I only knew of parks that didn't have shade covers and the playscapes would scald little hands and legs.  Hollis was also afraid of water features, so the obvious answer to oppressive heat was also not an option for us.  And my newness to all of this compounded the problems.

So, last summer was a bitch, to say the least.  This summer, however, which also promises to be a scorcher, will be different and here's why: 

  • I know of half a dozen parks with either lots of trees or shade coverings (Tanglewood, Garrison, Dick Nichols, Mary Moore-Searight, Zilker, and Circle C)
  • Hollis' tolerance of heat has gone up
  • He has some color on his skin now so if I forget the sun screen we can still play outside
  • I bought a year long membership to the Austin Children's Museum
  • I've learned about The Nature and Science Center
  • We have a beautiful front yard with a 30 yo oak tree out front providing plenty of shade and a place to hang the swing
  • I have an amazing new stroller with better sun-blocking capacity and better ergonomics so my back won't suffer on long walks
  • Hollis loves the giant, air conditioned mall

That is my plan of attack this summer.  I love being outdoors with Hollis, even if it's just running errands, but I particularly love to see him use his body and navigate balance and strength with exploration.  If I let him, he'd play in the car for hours just climbing in and out and over the seats, messing with all the gadgets and switches.  It really doesn't take a whole lot to engage him and it's really important to remember that a toddler's needs aren't the same as an adult's.  He can be happy doing almost anything anywhere so long as his basic needs are met: not too hot, plenty of water, and lots of snacking.

And with a new and improved attitude about the summer months with a toddler I'm really looking forward to this year's fun and frolic.

 of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. I can go to the beach which he loves but its rocky and not a lot of place for him to play unless in the water itself...sandy beaches are far! but yeah I guess I can take him to the park which is full of trees in the morning a nd we do have splash pool at home...my plan of attack is all the time changing since I also just got to know am expecting no2!

  2. I am amazed at your relative tolerance of Texan summers, but good for you. I think all your ideas are good ones, and I envy you your oak-tree swing the most! Isn't it funny how kids can be entertained with just about anything?

  3. Kieran loves to play in the car too, climbing over and around seats. We're lucky to have a garage - so I open up the door to the garage & a couple doors on the car and let him have at it. I'm fine with being easily entertained ;) (I've gotta say though, girl you are *crazy* for liking the humidity. I was born & raised in KS, which is part of the dictionary definition of "summertime hot, wet blanket" and I *still* hate it.)

  4. We usually visit family in Texas once per year - in the summer (yow!) - and I'm envious of the covered parks y'all have.

    Now, it doesn't get quite as scorchingly hot here in New Jersey as it does in Texas, but in the middle of the day, in August, when the kids just want to get out of the hosue, I'd love to have a nearby playground with built-in shade!

    Enjoy your summer!

  5. i agree, you're crazy! we're right on the riverbank here and in the summer it's about 90+ and 80% humidity all the time, it' drives me bananas.

    interesting that he hated water features- do you think he will like them better this year? that would bum me out a little i was a big kiddie pool / sprinkler / splash park fan.

    the children's museum and the mall are GREAT air conditioned ideas. i may have to borrow those.

  6. I like your idea of the nature museum, I'll have to remember that for next summer. And I agree - finding shaded parks is key!

  7. Our summers in Oklahoma are hot, but probably not as bad as Texas. We bought our son a little cheap plastic pool this year, which he absolutely loves. Oh, and he also loves the hose. He can be entertained outside for hours with the hose. We will have to take a trip to Austin because the Science and Nature Museum looks fantastic!

  8. Wow - that does sound challenging. I've always like hot weather as well and only found that changing once I had kids to worry about. It seems like you have a good plan for this summer and maybe this year your son will be more into the water parks than he was last year too. I hope it is a fun summer for you two.

  9. We live in Las Vegas, where it has already hit triple digit heat. Going outside much after 10am is just not a good idea - with our dry heat, dehydration is a serious concern. Shade, air conditioned places like the mall and museum, and parks with water features are great ideas for getting out and staying cool!

  10. i'm in Houston, my son turns 1 in July and I'm already hating having to plan around the heat. there's only so much you can do in the morning! as you mentioned, i know it will be even harder once he's walking and even more on the go.

  11. Great ideas! We never lived in a place with terribly high humidity, but air conditioned places were always nice on occasion. Our favorite indoor places were children’s museums. We tried to go to the children’s museum in our city and whenever we visited a new city. Shady parks were always one of our favorite summer hang-outs. It’s great that you’ve already found your local shady parks. And your front yard sounds wonderful!

  12. Love summer and having my kids around to do things... wonderful ideas.

    Thank you!

  13. Things get pretty tough when heat becomes an obstacle, don't they? I live in Northern Oklahoma so I can relate some to that. The biggest problem here is that our town is home to a huge oil refinery so I feel like I have to REALLY be careful about what days to go outside. Sometimes the stink can take over the entire city in the heat.

    I am trying to find better places to go do things, but so far I'm only coming up with the library and the lake. We visit Tulsa a lot though, so I am hoping to take the girls to the zoo (once it cools down a little bit!) and the aquarium.

  14. WOW that is HOT!!!

    I'm glad you have a plan! Those sound like great ways to beat the heat!


  15. I've never quite understood why my hometown was dubbed "Hotlanta" when plenty of other states got lots hotter. Fortunately, that nick name seems to be wearing off.
    Seems like you've got a good plan for the summer! The fear of water features is a bit of a bummer though. Maybe next year.

  16. That sounds like a plan! I need to make myself a plan. A schedule of things to do this summer to make me feel like we have a plan.

  17. I live in Austin too. I love your list and would add the Texas Memorial Museum (it's free and air conditioned and has dinosars). You said last year he was afraid of water, but Little Stacey and Reed Pool are really kid friendly - the staples of my summer.

  18. summers or winters, they are never easy as being coooped up with kids needs lots of patience and lots of hard work to keep them engaged, salute to all the mothers who do this hard work!!

  19. i think combating both the weathers of summers and winters is not easy at all, kids need entertainment all the time and it becomes vrey hard to provide them the fun time they want