Keeping an idea bank of fun activities for a rainy day can be a lifesaver for parents and educators.
You don’t want to resort to the “electronic baby sitter” and plunk kids down in front of the television or computer screen, but you can’t expect kids, especially preschoolers, to entertain themselves for hours on end without some adult interaction.
Here’s a quick guide to five activities that require little or minimum preparation and planning but yield big benefits for keeping kids engaged, entertained and maybe even educated.
1. Naptime for Stuffies
Getting kids to settle down for naptime can be challenging, especially on rainy days because they have been cooped up inside with little or no opportunity to use up their excess energy. Here’s a clever way to prepare them for naptime and keep them busy at the same time. All you need is a few props you probably have around the house and a few minutes to demonstrate the activity.
While you gather up some helpful items such as blankets or towels and boxes to make beds for animals, send your children to gather up their favorite stuffed toys. If you have a child-sized rocking chair so they can rock their animals to sleep, that’s great, but if not, let them use your rocking chair or just rock the toys in their arms.
Explain to them it’s naptime for their toys and ask them what they think they should do to help their friends get to sleep. Make suggestions if necessary:
- Should we wash their faces?
- How about we wrap Mr. Lion up in a blanket?
- Do you think your doll would like to sleep in this bed or take a nap on a blanket on the floor?
Then, just turn them loose to take care of their stuffed animals. They might want to sing them a song, rock them or even read or tell them a story. Chances are, they will imitate whatever their normal bed or naptime routine is as kids are great little imitators – it’s one of the ways children learn.
After the stuffed animals are all tucked in and sound asleep, you can work on getting the kids settled down for their naps.
2. Play in the Rain
Obviously, if you are in the middle of a severe thunderstorm or rain deluge, this idea won’t work. However, there’s no reason why kids can’t play outside in a gentle rain. After all, the only difference between playing in the rain and playing in a water sprinkler attached to a garden hose is you don’t have to pay for the rain water. The clean-up and resultant mess are about the same, and the novelty of doing something unconventional like playing in the rain may keep them amused for a longer period. What do you have to lose?
Tip: Watch the video below to find out how to make awesome rain catchers.
3. Play With Your Food
How many times have you told your children not to play with their food? Imagine how thrilled they will be when you decide to let them play with it!
Clear off the dining room or kitchen table and give everyone a paper plate and a plastic knife. (Plastic serrated knives are generally regarded as safe for preschoolers and elementary students.)
Provide a variety of food items and let them make animals, faces or abstract forms with the foods. Clean-up is a breeze – just let them eat their creations and store what’s left. Cutting up foods, picking up the pieces and placing them on other foods or breads develops kids fine motor skills.
Here’s some ideas on foods that spark creativity:
- Shredded cheese or carrots can be used for hair.
- Celery sticks and baby carrots make wonderful arms and legs. Tiny baby carrots remind us of snowmen noses.
- Bread plus an assortment of cookie cutters equals lots of fun shapes.
- Pepper slices and pimentos make colorful smiles.
- Raisins, olives and sliced bananas, hard-boiled eggs, or cucumbers make great eyes and so do circle-shaped cereals and pretzels.
Tip: Many cake decorating manufacturers sell food safe markers, which can be used for decorating your food art.
4. Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts are one of the best kept secret weapons of parents and teachers. You can pull one off in a matter of minutes, and they work for even the littlest kids. If your children are too young to read, just draw or cut out pictures of the objects they’ll be searching for.
On the other hand, there’s no need to write anything down – just call out the item for which they will be looking and give points to the first one who finds and brings the object back. In addition to making a rainy day less boring, they’ll be expending energy moving around the house looking for items, and the little ones will be learning to follow oral directions.
Finally, older kids can help the younger kids, or you can delegate authority to them and let them be in charge of calling out the items. (You can take a well-deserved coffee break if you choose this last option.)
Here’s some quick ideas for spontaneous rainy day scavenger hunts:
1. Smallest hunt: Send the kids searching for the smallest objects in the house. The smallest toy, book, movie, shoes or child and so forth are all good choices. When they tire of this one, switch to big items or themed items such as red items, blue items and so forth.
2. Animal safari: Talk about the kinds of animals that might be seen on safari and then send them looking objects representing those types of animals. For instance, if they are looking for a lion, they could bring back a movie about lions (think “Lion King,”) a book about big cats, or even a stuffed lion toy.
3. Themed scavenger hunts: Choose a theme and work the scavenger hunt around it. For instance, hunt for items of a chosen color or shape.
4. Alphabet scavenger hunt: Send them on a search for an object starting with a letter of the alphabet. To make it more fun, start from Z and work your way back to A.
5. Unusual Uses for Common Objects
You know what mixing bowl is used for, but your child might surprise you with his or her interpretation of what can be done with one.
Gather up a collection of items like wire whisks, empty plastic coffee cans, egg cartons and so forth. Number each one on the bottom (use a piece of paper and tape the numbers on). You’ll want to have at least as many items as you have children and more is better. Write the matching numbers on a piece of paper and drop the numbered pieces into a paper bag.
Starting with the youngest child, take turns letting the kids pick a number out of the bag, match it to an item, and describe or demonstrate how they would use it. When everyone has had a turn, put the numbers back in the bag and play again, starting with the oldest child.
Tip: If you have access to a tape or digital recorder, record their responses and play them back. They will have fun listening to their answers, and it’s a good way to preserve the memories for other family members who might not have been a part of the original fun.
Once you start experimenting with different ideas and themes for fun activities for a rainy day, you may be surprised by where your family’s imaginations will take you. However, a key part of having fun is staying safe so be sure to supervise your children when necessary, particularly if they are doing a cooking activity or one that requires them to use sharp objects such as knives. Remember toddlers and preschoolers are still in the experimental ages and may place inappropriate items in their mouths or be at risk for choking. Think safety first!
Image: Sleeping child by John-Morgan under CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr
All other images property of Donna J. Cosmato. All rights reserved – copyright 2013