Rain, rain, go away, come again another day…
We see a lot of rain here in the UK, particularly during the autumn and winter months, and it can often force us to change our plans. When dealing with young children, this kind of deviation from the plan can cause havoc, so it’s always good to have a couple of rainy activities in mind.
Brave the Weather
Firstly, rain may not necessarily mean you need to keep the children inside. Providing the conditions aren’t too bad – ie it’s not windy or storming, plenty of fun can be had splashing in puddles. You just need to make sure the children are decked out in waterproof coats, with hoods, and waterproof shoes, preferably wellies. Those who tend to splash a lot can wear a puddle suit to join in the fun while staying warm and dry.
While outside, the group can also observe the effect the rain has on your surroundings, from puddles to rain dripping off high surfaces, and turning everything darker, light rainfall is a great time for ‘say what you see’.
You can also set up experiments that rely on the rain such as tubes, water bucket cascades and collectors. Water harvested can then be reused to water plants etc and introduce the children to the idea of harvesting rainwater.
If You Can’t Get Outside, Head to the Kitchen
Like art, baking can be done at any time (providing you have the basic ingredients) but is particularly helpful to keep children engaged, and working as a team when they can’t go outside. You could theme your baking, such as cloud meringues, or cloud-shaped cookies, or make rainbows using different coloured food colouring.
If You Can’t Beat the Rain, Grab a Tambourine!
Not only is a rainy day a great time to get the instruments out, but rice on a tambourine makes excellent rain sounds without the inconvenience of getting wet. If you don’t have a tambourine, you can make rainmakers using rice and a Pringles tube. This way, the children can also decorate their own rainmakers, personalising them for future use.
This kind of sensory play is ideal if the rain isn’t noisy but is preventing other activities. However, you can also use instruments to drown out the sound of a storm if the children are afraid of thunder and lightning.
Stories and Snuggles
If you do have children who are afraid, there are also some lovely children’s books about storms, designed to be reassuring and offer comfort. ‘Stormy Weather’ by Debi Gliori depicts a rich cast of different animals, including rabbits, bears, owls, and seals, as they face stormy weather. In the story, ‘Safe in a Storm’ by Stephen R. Swinburne follows a similar theme, of parents of all species keeping their children safe in a storm, with the rhyming text making it perfect for reading aloud.
To make the experience more educational, ask the children to identify the animals and ask if the older ones know what the babies are called ‘duck and duckings’ etc. You can also ask them to add some more rhyming words as you turn the pages.
Last but not least, ‘The Rhythm of the Rain’ by Grahame Baker-Smith takes the reader on a journey of the water cycle and explains in a child-friendly way how all water and life are connected. Seen through the eyes of a little boy and his bucket of water, this book is loved by critics, children and their parents alike. Get comfy together – make a pillow fort and hunker in.
For adults and children alike, jigsaw puzzles help calm an anxious mind. They are therapeutic because they require your attention and are absorbing, but age-appropriate ones shouldn’t be too difficult for the children to complete. This keeps them busy and their minds off something unpleasant – such as thunder and lightning if they are afraid. Completing the picture also gives them a sense of accomplishment. You can use jigsaws to introduce different concepts, such as animals and their behaviour, morning routines, or different jobs.
Follow My Leader
Games such as ‘following the leader’ not only allow the children to be active when they can’t go outside but also don’t require a lot of equipment or even space. Children learn to take turns, actively listen, and follow directions.
Seat cushions make great stepping stones, as they are usually relatively flat but still require the children to pay attention to the slight height difference to navigate them. There are many ‘follow the leader’ songs, some of which include actions and props, such as ‘put the bean bag on your head and try not to let it fall’. They can explore moving in different ways, such as hopping, marching, or on tiptoes.
Another good game to play, depending on how comfortable the children are with the concept, is sleeping crocodile. Here, the children carry a small instrument, usually a bell, and take turns trying to tiptoe across the stepping stones without waking the crocodile by ringing the bell. If the bell rings, the crocodile will wake up and ‘snap them up’. You can be the crocodile, or the children can take turns playing each role. This game teaches them coordination, balance, and how to be quiet when they need to be, which can be helpful at nap time!
As ever, drawing and painting is a faithful fallback when things don’t go according to plan. Excellent raindrop pictures can be made by finger painting, as the children’s little fingers can dot the paper. You can try adding different colours – black, blue, white, to create a rainy day image, and even cut out an umbrella shape for the children to decorate with their raindrops. Shiny paper, such as old wrapping paper also makes great rain for collages.
As important as creating learning opportunities through educational play is, it is equally so to allow young children to dictate their own recreation. Looking at the twelve stages of play and the idea of ‘small-world play’, our short course ‘I made a unicorn’ helps you understand how you can facilitate free play and support children in their individual ‘open-ended’ play.