This past week saw two school days full of rain. In Southern California, that’s rare. Especially in the last…decade. But many meteorologists are predicting a wet winter and spring (knock on wood), so that may mean we’re in for many more rainy days ahead. Now, I don’t deny that the last thing my students wanted to do while the rain was falling was be inside, but that’s just not possible at school. (I have a list of reasons, but I trust you don’t need me to enumerate them.)
Rain creates a problem for these students of mine, most of whom are used to going outdoors all the time, anytime. They run around in short sleeves and flip flops in thirty degree weather! (Okay, it just feels like thirty degree weather.) Then, when we come in from lunch playtime, my students ask if we can turn the air conditioning on. No. Just…no. The point is that my students are used to being very active. Sure, they enjoy being indoors and doing indoor activities, but as soon as they have to, it becomes pure torture.
I try to be understanding. I have memories of being young and playing in the rain, of wading into puddles to see how deep they were, of swinging around my umbrella. I think it’s incredibly important for children to have a chance to create those kinds of memories. I just can’t let them create them at school, much as they might beg otherwise.
So. Just as I have outdoor rainy memories, I also have indoor ones. I fondly remember playing in the kitchen while my mother cooked and the rain pounded on the windows. It’s a safe, warm memory–and those are good, too. Here’s something I like about the rain–it gets me away from technology. For example, during a rainstorm, it’s more likely that the power will go out. Or the internet! Too often, computers, TV and video games are our indoor defaults (I’m just as guilty as anyone else), so I like that rain can force us to look for other ways to entertain ourselves.
The ideas in this post aren’t earth-shatteringly new, more like a list to get you started when the kids are driving you up the wall because they want to go outside (but you’ve already said no half a million times) or they can’t think of a single thing besides video games (or TV) that they can do, I thought I’d round up some ideas for rainy days. Parents, grandparents, educators and other caregivers should always have a trick or two up their sleeves when it comes to occupying their youthful charges. Here are a few of mine:
eeBoo is a fun company. I’m invariably attracted to their products. For the Montessori-minded, it’s worth noting that they don’t shy away from the element of fantasy. However, not all of their material comes equipped with unicorns and fairies. Their “I Never Forget a Face” memory game feature children from around the world struck me as a perfect extension for any continent unit, and I’ve found it a worthwhile investment. They also have delightful flash cards on Good Manners and Respecting the Earth, perfect for your unit on Grace and Courtesy or for putting out around Earth Day.
However. I decided to highlight these tiles rather than the eeBoo multiplayer games (they have plenty) because they can be used by a single child. Sharing isn’t discouraged, but I know that it can often be more difficult to engage one child than two (or twenty). Combining art and pattern play, all three can absorb attention for hours. I highly recommend them.
- Spot It!
- Apples to Apples Junior
It probably seems like a no-brainer, but honestly, games often seem like a forgotten past-time. Apples to Apples is a particular favorite in my classroom, and I do recommend the junior version if you’re playing with kids. Twister is a good option because it gives those squirrely children something to do with their bodies. Spot It is an excellent option for including those pre-readers and Scrabble, of course, is a more educational choice. To spice things up, ditch the board and play Speed Scrabble.
Puzzles continue to amaze me with their ability to absorb my students’ attention. It’s not foolproof, but there are definitely times when it’s the most centering activity you can find. And working together on a puzzle is definitely a lesson on cooperation. Whenever I have the extra space, I like to keep a puzzle out for students to work on when they feel the urge.
For lack of a better term, I’m going to call these “interactive books.” They’re stories that require a bit more from the reader than absorbing words on the page. I highly recommend Graeme Base’s The Eleventh Hour, not just as a mystery, but as a great story with wonderful illustrations. The mystery–and how you solve it–is what make the whole thing a masterpiece.
I’ll add a special shout-out here to Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. Yes, they still exist, and they’re perfect for those times when the usual books are holding your child’s interest. Keep some in reserve. In fact, I suggest you always keep a few books, games and toys in hiding until you really need them. Because–you will.
Mad Libs are fun and educational. And did you know they can be done by oneself. Of course, they’re better shared, but it can be done. The creators of Mad Libs provide a handy fill-in-the-blanks for each story on the facing page. If your child can write, this is one of those things he or she can do while you’re working on something else. Be prepared for them to ask you what an adverb is, though. Every time.
Encourage your children to write! Get them to tell a story! Making a book is easy–all you need is paper, staples and pens or pencils. It doesn’t matter if the story is silly or serious, though with Rory’s Story Cubes or the eeBoo Story Cards, silly is more likely.
Here are some more indoor activities to try:
- Have tea–make a proper cup and sit down with a mug (or a cup and saucer if you have it). Prepare a special snack to go with it.
- Make hot chocolate on the stove–not in the microwave.
- Let your child make a fort. Card tables and blankets are great for this purpose. I suggest discussing perimeters ahead of time–like the fort needs to be cleaned up before dinner or Bobby comes home from Tae Kwon Do.
- I know Legos are usually exciting enough on their own, but if things are really bad, you can get some inspiration Frugal Fun for Boys. (Ruby adds–or girls!)
- If you have the patience–and you think your child just might, too–try origami.
- Do you know all the ways to play Solitaire?
The most important thing is to enjoy the rain. We need it!
Edited to add:
I just found this genius activity. I know a kid (or 18) who would love to play Finger Twister on a rainy day.