Enjoy the Outdoors: A Survival Kit for Summer


Summer is sunshine that lasts nearly until bedtime. Vivid pinks and reds and yellows at the farmers’ market. Skirts and shorts and sandals. Water slides, beach days. Popsicles and skinned knees. And above all, not coming inside unless you absolutely, really truly, another-five-minutes-pleeease? have to. So to help you and your family soak up every last drop of summer’s outdoor gloriousness—and avoid its unwelcome pitfalls—my 2-year-old daughter Sadie and I put together this Summer Survival Kit. It’s full of the practical and just-for-fun things, all easy to pack and carry, that we don’t leave the house without once warm weather arrives.

First things, first. You’ll need something to carry your Kit in. Ours lives in this. It attaches to our Ergo or behaves like a regular backpack. We like its flexibility. Also, everything fits.

Now on to the Kit itself. You’ll need:

1. A hat. Because they’re cooling. And cool (Sadie and I like the ones at H&M, Rikshaw Design, and we’ve scored some excellent finds at second-hand stores). And SO much better than a sunburn.

2. Sunscreen. Because once again, there’s no faster way to spoil a great day than an awful sunburn. Our favorite sunscreen is Episencial’s Sunny Sunscreen, it’s broad spectrum and doesn’t have any synthetics or parabens. What kid-friendly sunscreens do you like?

3. A lightweight blanket/cloth. Because you never know when you’ll need to stop, drop, and picnic. Or nap. Or cloud-gaze. (And it doubles as a tablecloth.)

4. A cup and spoon. Because then it’s no sweat when the sandbox’s shovels and pails are otherwise occupied. Plus, they work equally well with gravel, wood chips, shells, even as water catchers….

5. Bug spray. Because there was a community garden near where we used to live in Brooklyn. It was a lovely place, friendly, shady, had a sandbox (see number 4). It also, in summer, had mosquitoes—a lot of mosquitoes. One evening, one of them nabbed Sadie on her eyelid. The next day, she looked like the littlest member of Fight Club and this permanently joined our Kit.

6. Bubbles. Because they’re so simple and magical, whether you’re 2 or 82. Every time I see a batch of bubbles drifting up into the sky, I get a little rush of, Yes! But I would love to know if there are brands/suppliers you’re partial to? The ones we picked up at the dollar store smell suspiciously like rotten eggs. It’s distracting somewhat from our bubble-blowing joy.

7. A sense of adventure—and an Ergo. Because not so very long ago, Sadie and I had one of Those Days. You know Those Days. The ones in which naps are not to be had. In which patience is in short supply for people both big and small. In which the end—of your rope, of your wits—is near. So Sadie and I went out. I wasn’t quite sure where we were going, only that it needed to be Somewhere Else. We ended up at the Griffith Observatory, a beautiful spot high in the hills of Griffith Park near our new home in Los Angeles. I strapped Sadie into the Ergo and we headed out for a mini-hike up one of the park’s many paths. I walked, Sadie rode, we were both quiet, feeling exhausted and frazzled. And as we looked at the views and listened to my footsteps, a meditative kind of calm crept in. It was pretty amazing how centering it was, for both of us, I think. When we came down, we found some benches to play on. We ran in the grass. We made room for whatever needed to be. The trip hadn’t been in the plans when we woke up that morning and hadn’t even been entirely welcome at the outset, but it became the day’s perfect ending. And so, in the bottom of your Survival Kit—or maybe at the very top—keep the reminder that unexpected moments can turn out to be merciful opportunities.

Now, run outside and play! And if you have any additions of your own for the Kit, let us know!



Holly Hays

Holly was a magazine editor for over ten years at Marie Claire and Redbook, and is now a freelance writer and mama who’s written for O, the Oprah Magazine, Self, Whole Living, HGTV and parents.com, among others.