For generations, moms have told kids not to play in the rain. They’ve told them they’ll catch a cold or that they’ll track mud in the house. As a result, kids stare out the windows and sing “rain, rain go away” waiting for the moment they can go out and play. Those moms and their kids have been missing out. On a rainy day, there’s no reason to sit inside and wait for the rain to stop. It’s the perfect time to get out and explore nature in a new way.
You spend hours trying to pull your children away from the TV, computer and video games, so why let a little rain stop you? “When unstructured play takes place in nature children build, imagine, investigate, collaborate, climb, take risks, invent, run and explore,” says Monica Wiedel-Lubinski, director of The Nature Preschool. “Perhaps most importantly, children notice the great big, natural world around them.” In the rain this includes creepy crawlies, such as worms, that only come out when the ground is wet and rainbows that appear when the raindrops catch the rays of the sun.
Put on some galoshes and a raincoat and pull out your umbrella (as long as it is not lightning) and go have some fun in the rain! Be prepared to get a little wet and muddy as you try out some fun activities. Don’t worry though, the rain will wash away the dirt and your clothes will always dry.
Collect the rain. Pull out different-sized buckets or pots and pans and collect the rain. With older kids, use a litmus strip to test the acidity of the rain. With younger kids, pull out a ruler and measure how much rain they collected.
Listen to the rain. Turn over the containers used for collecting rain and listen to the drops as they land on top. Does the rain make different sounds as it hits the containers? Try containers of different sizes or materials. For example, a metal mixing bowl may make a high-pitched sound when the rain hits it, while a large plastic garbage can may make a lower-pitched sound.
Does it sink or float? Find a puddle or a container full of rain and test items to determine whether they sink or float. Throw in rocks, leaves, sticks and anything else you find lying around outside.
Look for new creatures. Some creatures, such as worms, wait to come until it rains. See what new creatures you can find by looking in the cracks on the sidewalk or peering into puddles. You may find mosquito larvae, springtails and other little bugs enjoying the water. Be sure to check the puddles after the rain too, as many attract other insects as they sit.
Follow the water. Where does the rainwater go when it falls? During a heavier rain, follow the flow of the water down the street to the storm drain or the drainage pond. If you notice a large stream of water flowing along the curb, place a small stick or leaf in it and watch it float away.
Go on a scavenger hunt. What kinds of things can you find when it rains? Create a list that includes items such as a puddle, a storm drain, a leaf with raindrops, a car using its windshield wipers, a worm or an animal taking shelter from the rain. Mark off the items on a sheet of paper or take pictures of them as you find them.
Make chalk drawings. Sidewalk chalk looks a lot different in the rain. Not only will the colors be more vibrant in the rain, but if it is raining hard enough, the rain will cause them to bleed, making drawing with chalk more like creating a watercolor painting in the rain.
Play in the mud. Sure, it will be messy, but kids love to make mud pies, mud castles and squish the mud through their fingers. It’s good for them too. Some of the bacteria found in soil cause the release of serotonin, so playing in the mud can actually make kids feel good too!
Go on a walk. Even going on a simple walk is a great way to have fun in the rain. Talk with your kids about how different your neighborhood or the local park looks, feels, sounds and smells while you’re walking in the rain.
Sing in the rain. Instead of singing “rain, rain, go away,” embrace the rain, a la Gene Kelly. If “Singin’ in the Rain” isn’t your style, have your kids come up with their own rain songs.
Whether you live in the Pacific Northwest, where rain is a way or life or a sunnier part of the country that only sees a rainy day once in a while, take the opportunity to get out and play in the rain. Explore your neighborhood or head to the local park, which you may be lucky enough to have all to yourself. It doesn’t matter where you go, as long as you get your kids out of the house and into nature.