Beat the heat this summer with the whole family. We found the best kids gear to keep them cool and happy all day long.
A comfortable kid in the outdoors is a happy kid, which translates to a happy mom and dad. When summer hits, it’s easy to get your kids out the door. They want nothing more than to play in the sun all day, every day. As a parent I love this as I too want to be outside all the time, but I do have to be a bit more cautious and protective around the sun and heat. With our summers heating up and the sun getting more and more intense, it is important to know how to dress your kids in order to keep them cool and protect them from painful sunburns and overheating. After many years of testing during countless river, bike and park trips on my own two sons, this is our favorite summer gear for kids. Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys!
One hoody to rule them all. This lightweight hoody from Patagonia is made out of 50-100% recycled content and has HeiQ pure odor control which helps our little ones wear it over and over again. The sweat shirt-like material keeps my boys both warm and cool depending on the temperature, making it a daily layer for us during the spring, summer and fall months!
For long days in the sun, we love this long sleeve from Jack Wolfskin. The material is lightweight, yet it feels more robust than other sun shirts making it a great choice for kids who are tough on clothes. This shirt has gone through three boys who love to roll around in the dirt and scrape their elbows on rocks. After all of this wear and tear, it still looks great and keeps them protected from the sun which is the most important!
You don’t have to be a fishing family to like this shirt. My kids love this shirt because it is very quick to dry and is easy to take on and off (thanks to the quarter length zipper). The omni shade and omni wick technology is great at keeping them protected from the sun and cool in temperature. As parents we love all of the PFG products for these reasons and the price tag does not break the wallet.
Kids and adults love snap up shirts as they are fun to snap up and snap off. This long sleeve from Stio gets extra credit for its wind, water and sun protection qualities. For long days on the river, in the mountains or for everyday play, our whole family can be found living in this shirt for multiple days!
$59.00 (for the top and bottom)
No matter what season it is, our kids are wearing at least one item that is wool. It is the overachiever of fabrics, and we love that it occurs naturally! It cools us in the summer and warms us in the winter. Chasing Windmills short johns are great for summer time sleep outs and everyday wear. Our sons wear this tank top and short combo almost everyday at our cabin. The tank top keeps their core temperature regulated, making this both their base layer for outdoor play and even night time pajamas.
Any clothes that come already mosquito proofed get a huge A+ from parents. For those of us who love to go camping or live near a river or a lake will greatly appreciate these pants. They are durable, lightweight, and very comfortable. After we got these, I went back and bought them in every size up as my son will not go on another camping trip without them! My only complaint is that they do not make them in my size.
When it comes to kids clothes, Columbia has got it down. From sizing to durability to price, we find ourselves checking Columbia first before going anywhere else. These pants are our son’s absolute favorite for camping and summer evening play sessions. They have a side pocket to hold all of their treasures and they are super fast drying and lightweight for lake/river side play.
For those cooler summer mornings and evenings, my kids always ask for their “adventure pants”. These trousers from Kamuk are tapered at the bottom, which makes them great for running in the woods because they do not catch on anything. The drawstring top is also a great touch, because while they are not sweat pants, they feel and look like the closest thing to what my boys spend the whole winter in. The stretchable blend of cotton and cordura with the incorporated Coolmax fibers makes these pants both durable and breathable. While they are on the more expensive side, we see these trousers getting a lot of use in our community!
When it comes to kids shorts, we can’t say enough good things about the Patagonia Baggies Shorts. With a soft elasticized waistband, a comfortable mesh liner, and durable water repellent coating, these shorts are great everyday adventure shorts. Our boys live in theirs. For our week long family bike packing trips, these are the only pairs of shorts we bring because we know they can hold up to anything we throw at them!
Much like the Silver Ridge Pants, the shorts are great for adventuring. They come with a cool side zip pocket and are quick drying. Unlike other shorts, they are on the longer side, which us parents like for more coverage and less skin to put sunscreen on. Whenever we are headed out for a long hike or camping trip, I put my boys in these and everyone is happy.
While technically these are bike shorts, we have yet to actually test them on a bike. Made out of 50% cotton and equipped with a cool side pocket, a hook for a carabiner and reflective details, these Scrab bike shorts made by Namuk (our favorite outdoor kids clothing company) come with all the fun bells and whistles. Eventually we will get our boys to ride bikes in them, but for now, they are acting as our hiking/exploring shorts and we all love them.
When it comes to sun hats, we don’t look any further than Sunday Afternoon Hats. Their hats are top notch for both kids and adults. Some of our kids favorites are the following:
This cap is our 5 year old sons most favorite because he loves the ball cap feel of it as well as the fact that it keeps the sun off of his neck. We as parents love all of these qualities too of course!
Another one of our favorites is the Ultra Escape Boonie, this wide brimmed hat keeps the sun off the neck and face, is UPF 50+ sun rated and is completely crushable. For long adventure days and for our daily excursions we always have two of these in our pack ready to take out when the sun is out and hot!
Our favorite shoes are ones that are easy to come on and off and can go in water. While we do love sandals, our go to shoes for daily adventures and camping trips are closed toed shoes. Below are some of our favorites that have been tested again and again over the years.
Teva is known for making durable, lightweight and fun shoes for people of all ages. The Hurricane Seekados have all of these qualities. They are great for going to the playground, the splash park, the lake, for riding bikes and for camping. The upper mesh material is both breathable and durable, the sole is grippy enough for worry free rock hopping and the velcro latch system is perfect for kids to put on and take off their own shoes!
For those non stop warm weather days where kids are in and out of the water all day long, we love these non clunky and non flipflop style shoes from Vivo Barefoot. They are super light, bendable, fast drying and are made from Bloom foam with takes the harmful algae blooms out of water ways! So while these are on the spendy side in terms of kids shoes, you can feel good about helping the planet out!
Whether your little one is riding bikes or not, we love these shoes for their high-traction Stealth Marathon rubber soles and super comfortable and flexible fit. Our son wears these almost everyday on all of our daily adventures around town. For park excursions, bike rides or playing around the house, our son reaches for these 9 out of ten times. He especially loves that his Mama has the same pair!
When we are in the water, we are most likely under the sun the whole time which means not as much sun coverage. So while it is fun to be in less clothing in the water, we always dress our kids in full coverage swimsuits. Our favorite so far is the Stonz sunsuit and the Coolibar Sunray 360 Coverage swimsuit because they give our kids full coverage while keeping them both cool and warm in the water. We wish they would make these suits in our size!
The Stonz sunsuit only goes up to a size 3T, however our 5 year old still fits in his suit. At 49.99 it is a little on the spendy side, but it has lasted us 2 summers so far and will get handed down to our youngest next!
The Coolibar Sunray 360 Coverage Swimsuit starts at size 4T and goes all the way to size 16! This suit is super comfortable and covers them from ankle to neck. For my sons who hate to put on sunscreen every 45 minutes, it is perfect.
Tips for keeping your kids cool in the summer months:
Go for breathable fabric.
For a casual outing on a pleasant summer day, cotton can be okay. But for active adventures or if the forecast looks variable, dressing your kids in clothing made from synthetics or wool is the way to go.
Wool, cotton, and nylon fabrics that have a UPF 50 rating are all great fabrics to dress yourself and your kids in. My favorite is quick drying nylon, however wool stays wet for a tad longer which can be nice for super hot days.
Do not overdress your kids, instead have layers on hand
It’s hard to believe that some would overdress their kids in the summer months, but it does happen. I have also been out where it turns cold quickly and I have not had any warm layers on hand. Either way, as a rule of thumb if I leave the house for more than two hours, I always have layers on hand (among many other things!).
Always wear a sunhat
A sunhat is one of the best ways to keep cool in the heat. Keeping their heads shaded and cool is key in not getting overheated. We never leave with out our sun hats, and our kids now always ask for one as soon as they are in the sun! Choose one that has a wide brim and or neck coverage. A basic ball cap is usually not enough in the heat of the day.
Choose comfy shoes
If you are like our family, wearing shoes can be a pain. My boys love to run around barefoot, however as soon as their little feet touch the asphalt they run home crying. In order to keep my cool, I always have easy pull on and off shoes on hand so that they can do it themselves!
If you live in a buggy area, consider spraying your clothes with permethrin.
Our cabin gets very buggy in the summer months and my son is very allergic to mosquitos. Since I have started spraying our clothes with permethrin, he has gotten far less bug bites. It is super easy, is non toxic
and beats spraying my little ones with bug spray everyday. I highly recommend it!