Fall and winter will inevitably bring rainy days that keep the kids indoors and often cancel outdoor events that serve as energy-busters. Staying inside all day is not the treat that it can be for adults, because typical bad-weather activities for adults like napping and reading are horrifying to most children. Here are some strategies to help everyone keep their sanity when the weather doesn’t cooperate:
- Make sure they have rain gear. Kids can actually go outside in the rain, assuming they have adequate rain wear. Rain brings all sorts of interesting phenomena, like rivers rushing in the street gutters and raindrops popping onto the umbrella. Before the kids head outside, make sure they know to take off their wet outerwear and boots in a spot you designate so they don’t track mud throughout the house. Caution them from crossing the street, even if they are old enough, because driver visibility will be lower than usual.
- Use the rain as a teachable moment. Ask your kids open-ended questions about the rain to get them thinking and sharing: where is the rain coming from? How is rain good for us (even if it cancelled the baseball game)?
- Make a simple rain gauge. Locate a clear container, such as a glass or plastic jar. Place it outside in the rain, and have the kids write down the time the jar began to collect water. Set a timer for one hour. When the time is up, go back outside with the kids and retrieve the jar. Bring the jar inside and measure the water level with a ruler. That measurement is amount of rain that fell in an hour. Congratulations – you just sneaked some math learning into your day!
- Look at the weather radar map for your area. Show your kids how you enter your zip code, and a map of your immediate area pops up with areas of rainfall highlighted. Find an animated weather radar map so they can see the rain moving through the area. Ask them what this map indicates: will we get more rain later, or less?
- With rain comes a drop in temperature, so try a fun and easy cooking project like the gourmet hot chocolate recipe at AllRecipes (remember that children must be supervised in the kitchen whenever the stove is used)
- Catch up with far-away family members with web-based communication apps like Skype or Facetime – this gives your kids a chance to show off their rain gauge and hot chocolate to Nana.
- Push the movie envelope beyond the latest DVD release by introducing your kids to classic children’s movies like E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial and movies you loved when you were a kid, like Mrs. Doubtfire. Let older kids have a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings film Festival.
- You and your kids can still get some exercise indoors with video games like WII Sports and Just Dance, or a round or two of Twister. Consider having lunch at a restaurant with an indoor play-scape in your area, like Chik-Fil-A.
- Local museums make great rainy-day field trips, because they are educational and unhurried. Check out museumsusa.org for all of the museums in your area.
- If you want your kids to get some reading in, try a visit to the local library so they can pick out something new to read. If you have more errands to do, check out an audiobook that you can all listen to in the car (rainy days mean traffic delays, so allow yourself extra time to get to your destination).
- Make your kids’ favorite board game more epic with a high stakes tournament, and the overall winner gets to delegate their least favorite chore to Dad or Mom. Many board games have educational value, like Cranium for Kids and Apples to Apples Junior
- Raid the recycle bin and let the kids build things from the cans, bottles and boxes (make sure cans have no sharp edges, and don’t let them play with glass items). If you live close by to an appliance store, call and ask if they have any refrigerator boxes you can take off their hands. Your kids will be thrilled with the box fort/castle/space station.
If you have a covered patio or porch, let your kids do a messy art project on it like fingerpainting or playdough, or whip up a batch of homemade moon sand, which will do well in the damp air.