By Mary Beth Gibson
Ah, Spring. Winter has finally passed, and new life emerges all around us. The green tinge returns to the grass, buds burst forth on the trees, and shoots spring up from the ground. The weather warms, and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief now that we can turn our children loose in parks and yards without half an hour of fighting and wrangling them into coats, hats, gloves, and snow boots, but then comes the rain. For the large majority of us, though we understand and appreciate the importance of rain during the spring, we heave a dejected sigh at the thought of yet another day cooped up inside with a toddler who has radioactive amounts of energy to burn. When you’ve read through all your books, colored all the pictures, and you dread the thought of sitting through even more episodes of the latest kids show, here are some ways to perk up rainy days for the whole family.
- Turn Your Tub/Shower into a Canvas
This is such a win/win situation. Simply pop a naked/bathing-suited kiddo(s) into the tub and hand them as many washable art supplies as you’d like: bath chalks, finger paints, watercolors, markers—the list goes on and on. You can let them draw whatever their hearts desire, or you can even give them some direction/inspiration. Tell them they’re explorers in space and they need to draw all the interesting worlds and creatures they discover. They’re on safari in Africa and they need to draw everything they see. The best part about this idea? When they’re all done, just turn on the water and wash everything and everyone up all at once! Just make sure to take pictures of their art so they don’t cry about losing their precious work.
- Raid the Kitchen
And, no, I’m not talking about for food and snacks. I’m talking about activities and “busywork.” Your kitchen pantry is a veritable cornucopia of rainy day activities. Rice and beans make great pouring, sorting, digging, and sensory materials. Basic household staples can create play dough, slime, and sand—to name a few. Bonus: it’s all non-toxic and safe in case your curious little decides to take a bite. Here’s a fun one to keep on hand: Rainbow Rice. Add 1 cup of white rice and 5-10 drops of food coloring to a Ziploc bag. Shake it vigorously, and in minutes you’ll have a colorful and non-toxic (and non-messy) play material good for any number of games—just be sure to set it out to dry for 24 hours first!
- Create New Indoor Games
Make an obstacle course through the house with couch cushions, chairs, blankets, masking tape, string, and any other materials you can conjure up. Your toddler has to stay in the lines, avoid touching certain surfaces, navigate a laser maze made from string, and score a basket to finish. Then you can do it again and see if they can beat their time. And the reward? Snack time! Or try balloon tennis. Tape a plastic spoon to a paper plate and blow up a balloon. Then use your plate rackets to hit the balloon back and forth. Add a “net” and boundaries for older children if you want something more challenging.
- Keep a Dress Up Box
If you don’t already have dress up clothes for your kiddos, now would be a great time to start one! It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-intensive to make one, either. Scour your house for objects and clothes of yours that would make fun dress up items. Hats, scarves, towels, kitchen utensils, and craft supplies can all become a myriad of unique characters to a child. And if you happen to find something fun in a clearance aisle, garage sale, or a thrift store don’t hesitate to snatch it up, too. The best time to shop for a dress up box? The days after Halloween!
- Break Out the Craft Supplies
Unroll some butcher paper and ask your toddler to stretch out on it. Trace their outline for a gigantic and exciting coloring page. For older kids you can have them draw themselves in their outlines. Use masking tape to create race tracks for cars. Have a snowball fight with large pom poms. Place different colored pieces of construction paper on the floor and send your child around the house to find items of the same color to collect on the paper. Make themed crafts for the holiday of the month or a relative’s birthday. Or simply make a sweet card for someone.
- Go to Kid-Friendly Places
A rainy day doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay in your own home. Sometimes it helps everyone to have a change of scenery. Most towns and cities have a museum or two (or dozens, if you live in a large metropolitan area), and most museums have some child-friendly sections. If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area with a children’s museum, definitely head there on a rainy afternoon. Does your public library offer story times or activity days for toddlers? Take advantage of that. And even if it’s not something you would normally do, sometimes it can feel good to just go to a fast food place, treat everyone to some french fries, and let the kids race around on the indoor playground for an hour.
- Go Puddle Jumping
And when all else fails, put rain boots on everyone, line your front room with towels, and run outside for some fun in the rain. Kids love jumping in puddles, and it’s even better when their parents encourage it! Get some hot chocolate and a bubble bath ready when they’re done, and appreciate the fact that your children had fun on what would otherwise have been a boring, annoying day cooped up inside.
Of course, all of these activities work on non-rainy days, too. They’re fun and engaging for children, and a refreshing change of pace for parents. There’s nothing better than enjoying your child at play, rain or shine!
Mary Beth Gibson graduated from Wichita State University in 2007 with a BA in Creative Writing and blogs at Bright Sycamore. She enjoys most things natural, but with a healthy dose of practicality and affordability. You can most likely find her wearing her toddler around Target as she hunts for great deals in the dollar bins. She lives in Kansas with her husband and 1-year old son.
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