Rainy Day Fun: Tips to Keep Kids Busy


Rainy Days

How miserable can it get? It’s raining. No shining sun to greet you. Perhaps you, like Sally and her brother in the popular Dr. Seuss book, Cat in the Hat, are assuming the day is ruined. Says Sally’s brother, “We sat there, we two. And I said, ‘How I wish we had something to do!'” Well, his wish was granted, and now so is yours (and we won’t even terrorize your pet fish or ruin your house in the process!)

Start by resisting the temptation to turn on the TV and vegetate on the couch. There is so much to do, to see, to learn, and to play; your problem isn’t going to be that you have nothing to do, but that you have too many things you want to do! Start off right with a good breakfast and plan your day. Here are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.


Go Outside Anyway

Assuming there’s no lightning and it’s not a driving, cold rain, put on those galoshes and raincoats, grab an umbrella, and head out for a walk or backyard exploration. Children riding in strollers are more susceptible to getting chilled, so bring a blanket if need be and shield them from the falling water. Don’t wander too far from your home or car in case the rain picks up or you get too wet, and seek shelter immediately if there is lightning.

Make a game out of seeing who can find the biggest mud puddle to splash in. Point out the rain clouds or go on a rainbow hunting party. Be a “worm rescuer” and gently collect those confused worms who wander out onto the pavement. As you put them back in the grass, offer a little lesson about habitats and the environment. Worms are great for plants: they turn the soil and provide oxygen and food for the plants. Why not collect them in a jar with some nice dirt and take them home to your garden?

In a spring rain, everything seems so much greener. Why is that? Discuss how rain is nature’s way of giving plants and animals a drink; then bring along some bottled water and take a drink yourselves. The best learning experiences for small children don’t come from a classroom setting, but from gentle exploration of the world around them.

If you have a deep mud puddle or pond, experiment with how things float. Does a leaf float? How about this stick? This rock? Perhaps before you leave on your trek, you can make a boat to take out on the water. Craft books geared towards children offer ideas on making simple boats out of everything from milk cartons to balsa wood. One of our favorites is a simple raft made from packaging peanuts and Popsicle sticks (see the section on “Saving for a Rainy Day”).

Another great idea is to make a rain gauge; a simple plastic container with wide opening and a plastic ruler will do the trick. Place it in an open area where rain can fall unobstructed, and check it throughout the day.

Safety Tip: Please keep in mind that even in a light rain, you should avoid streams, rivers, and any large drains or run-off areas. Flash flooding is an apt name; a flood can happen literally too fast for you to react, so play it safe.


Outside In

Really just too nasty to go outside? Pretend you’re outside anyway with a picnic lunch, which, let’s face it, is not much fun even in a light rain. Is that going to stop us? NEVER!

Prepare your picnic lunch as usual and pack it in a basket. Then find that perfect picnic place in the house. Is your living room suddenly a grassy meadow high atop a mountain? Or perhaps the family room has magically become a sandy beach with palm trees sheltering you from the sun? Spread your blanket and talk about all the wonderful sights and sounds around you. Do you hear the ocean? Is that an eagle flying over there? Indoor picnics are fun and ant-free (unless you invite them yourselves!)

A good camping trip is fun, too. Dining rooms chairs, sheets, blankets, and pillows artfully arranged make a dandy indoor tent. Get out a flashlight and huddle in your tent telling spooky stories or playing with hand shadows. Sing camp songs. If nap time is still part of your day, catch a snooze inside the tent!


Treasure Hunt

First, you need a treasure. Small toys, stickers, and little self-contained art projects work well. Hide the treasure somewhere in the house. Your next step depends on your child’s abilities. Crawlers and toddlers can follow a string to the treasure and “dig it up” from underneath a blanket. Older kids can be given a map (drawing of the house with a big red “X” marking the treasure spot.) You can get even more elaborate and have one map lead your child to a second map, or create a series of clues eventually leading to the treasure. Older children love helping create this game almost as much as the younger ones enjoy playing it.