Rainy Day Toddler Play

Toddler play in a rain puddle

On a grey, rainy day, it can be difficult for your toddler to transition from the warm summer of exploring outdoors every day to being indoors more. So, make the indoors an adventure.

Developmentally, toddlers are focused on themselves. They know their own needs—and their own stuff. They might not be ready to imagine something happening far away, but they will probably be ready to imagine what the rainy day could mean for them.

What If It Keeps Raining?

Build a Boat. Ask your child what might happen if it keeps raining. We’d better build a boat.

Building a boat was my husband’s first suggestion. Where I often stayed in my head and told the children stories, he would empty every cushion from every couch and start building with them.

If you have someone around who doesn’t mind pulling, build a boat with a pull rope. It’s easy to thread a rope through holes in the end of a cardboard box. Make sure your sailor has everything needed for a trip, then sail around the house.

If yours is more of a static boat bobbing up and down at sea, you can use blue and green play cloths to create waves. In this case, you’d better build a boat big enough for two—or just build two boats—so you can go on the trip as well.

If you are going sailing by either method, this is a perfect time to learn very loud sea shanties. Sing!

Build a Shelter. Ask your child what kind of a shelter they will need to keep out the rain. We’d better build a house.

Building houses from cushions was an almost daily activity when my children were small. Now that they are older, they still pull out the cushions to create their own spaces.

Arrange cushions for walls and drape them with play cloths for a roof. Be sure to stock this safe house with rainy day supplies.

Watch the Rain. Stare out the windows. Drift into daydreams, or encourage your budding scientist to observe what water does.

My daughter was particularly drawn to watching the gush of water through the drain as a very young child. We all gather at the windows during a storm to watch the water falling off the roof and pooling up in the garden.

Just the act of observing water is transporting. Give your toddler space to go with the flow.

Paint the Rain. Toddlers are just beginning to see themselves in a home context, and their drawings reflect that. Once you have a basic home and family drawing, add the rain. Experiment with flicking and dripping color to create the rain. Realize that this probably means the flicking techniques will become a permanent part of painting play, so use paint that is easy to clean up.

Let’s Go Outside

Puddles! Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you need to stay inside, as long as there isn’t lightning. Dress in clothes that you don’t mind being completely wet and muddy, add a rain coat, and go splashing. Just to be prepared, leave a stack of towels at the door.

My daughter still talks about how much fun it is to splash in puddles. She remembers rain storms fondly. Both of my children rush out into every storm.

Mud! Once you’re completely soaked, take off shoes and go looking for mud. Let your child experience that lovely feeling of mud squishing through toes. Make mud pies and watch the rain melt them away. Have fun in the mud and the rain.

Transition Time

Bath Time. After a tiring day of messy play, it’s a good time to have a bath or a shower.

My daughter, when I consulted her today about playing in the rain, wanted me to point out that she loved to shower with her toys on a rainy day. She created her own warm storm for all of her wet-friendly people.

A warm bath can be a good way to wind down as well as washing the mud away.

Story Time. When your toddler is relaxed after a bath, take advantage of the quiet time with stories. Keep up the rain theme or not. My husband and I both loved making up stories starring our children. Now they do the same for one another. Tell the story of the adventures of the day. Embellish the stories and add promises for future adventures.

For a toddler who naps, this can be a gentle transition after an exciting day.

More ideas for indoor play with toddlers.

Image © Gunold Brunbauer | Dreamstime.com

Playing Indoors with Your Busy Toddler

Toddler playing with cushions

If it’s just too cold to be outside much and your toddler is restless, grab whatever you have and create a game out of it. Present an old toy or a piece of furniture in a new way. Challenge yourself to find a new game in every room to keep yourself engaged as you find ways to help your toddler burn through energy and have a good time.

When my first child was learning to crawl, I hit on a theme we came back to over and over: drag out the cushions, blankets, pillows, and anything that can be piled up and crawled on. We started by creating soft steps that helped her learn how to negotiate stairs safely. She’s a teenager now, and she still takes all of the cushions off the couches and creates interesting spaces for hiding and playing.


Where to Start?

  • Pile cushions on the floor to create mountains. If the cushion mountain works for your children, keep bringing it back.
  • Go sock skating into the cushion mountains.
  • Dress up as animals who live amongst the cushion mountains.
  • Crawl through cushion tunnels.
  • Set up train tracks through pillow landscapes.
  • Create mazes or obstacle courses for rolling balls.
  • Give towel rides for smaller children if you have hardwood floors. Be careful! This can get wild.
  • Chase bubbles.
  • Cover a table with play cloths to create a house or castle or space ship under the table.

Image © Anatoliy Samara | Dreamstime.com