Well, it’s a soggy day here in Philadelphia. It’s important for children to be outside in ALL weather, so consider bundling up well and going for a walk in the rain, letting your children jump in puddles, bringing out the water toys, and squeezing too many kids under one umbrella. As long as you’ve got some nice dry towels to use at the end, no one will be the worse for wear.
That said, reality is reality, and many children will be spending more time than usual inside when the weather is uncooperative. So what are some ways to spend your extra inside time?
On the one hand, some kids are likely to have pent up energy that they’d normally use up running around outside. They’re gonna need some active indoor stuff to do. There are plenty of big-body activities that can be adapted for indoor use if you’ve got a halfway decent space—take a look at this post I wrote at MamaOT for some big-body play ideas. Ring Around The Rosie, Steamroller, and Go-Away-Come-Back all lend themselves to comparatively small spaces. But games don’t have to involve huge movements to stimulate a child’s whole body. Try rolling a kid up tight in a blanket or large towel, “Like a burrito”—use your hands to spread imaginary guacamole on them, sprinkle cheese, chop tomatoes and lettuce, and then gobble them all up! The tactile stimulation of being wrapped up tight and touched all over meets a lot of the needs of movement.
There are other, calmer ways children can use their muscles. Honest manual labor is great. Have your child help you carry up some stuff from the basement, or rearrange the furniture in the living room, or hold up the rug so you can vacuum underneath. At preschool for snack time I would have a group of kids come with me to the kitchen and have them each carry a gallon of milk back to the classroom. At the end of snack, “Oops! We brought too much milk! Guess we’ve got to carry it back!” Children love work if it’s real, so try to find tasks that are honestly helpful (or at least can pass as honestly helpful).
Sensory activities and materials a great too. The granddaddy of them all is clay, which takes more work from hand muscles than playdough. If you don’t have clay, go get some—it’s a little pricey, but it’s worth it, and it’ll last forever if well taken care of (unlike playdough). Other sensory materials can be jazzed up to renew interest on rainy days. Put playdough in the microwave for a few minutes so it’s nice and warm; or mix in a few drops of vanilla or essential oils, or a few shakes of cinnamon; or mix in a handful of sand or cornmeal or uncooked rice. Or make some of the (slightly) more exotic sensory materials—mix cornstarch and water to make oobleck; or mix flour and baby oil to make cloud dough!
And of course, don’t forget water. The kids are already thinking about rain and puddles and splashing, so let them have at it! Fill the sensory table (or bathtub) with warm water. Jazz it up with a little dish soap or food coloring. Include plenty of cups and bowls for measuring and pouring. Include a sieve or colander, and they can make it rain!
All these activities so far have been somewhat high-energy, to combat that cooped-up feeling. But consider going the opposite way. You know how, on a dreary day, you just want to sit under a blanket in front of the fire? Kids sometimes feel like that too. Turn off the lights and light a few candles. Pull out the blankets and make a comfy nest. Get a big pile of books and read all of them. Drink hot cocoa, and eat a picnic snack on the living room floor. Pull out some flashlights and tell ghost stories. Make shadow puppets on the walls. Play peek-a-boo under a blanket. Have a pajama party. Sometimes, even with a big group of kids, it’ll work, and you’ll look up three hours later and be stunned. No one’s missed going outside at all.
* * *What do you do with children on a rainy day? Leave ideas in the comments.