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

Exercise with a Toddler

Toddler playing at a playground

Running around after your energetic toddler might seem like enough exercise, but you still need focused activity for full fitness. Exercising with your toddler can benefit you both.

There are several good reasons to exercise with your young child. First, you need the exercise for stamina, fitness, and stress relief. Second, your child needs it as a way to deal with all of the energy that comes with the new-found freedom of walking and running. Finally, you are creating habits for life. Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines suggest that children need at least 90 minutes per day of activity, and adults need at least 30 minutes of activity a day, including muscle strengthening. We all need to get active to stay healthy.

Make deliberate exercise a part of your child’s routine every day, and activity will become part of the fabric of your child’s life. You are creating patterns of health and fitness both through your child’s experience and through the behavior you model.

Exercising with a toddler differs from exercising with a baby. Your toddler can stand, so your activities can be separate. Your toddler can drift away, so you need to make the activities interesting enough to keep a busy little person’s attention. Your toddler has begun to develop personal preferences, so you need to tailor activities to each child.

Tips for Toddler Exercises

  • Make it developmentally appropriate. Don’t rely on memorizing anything, and be prepared to be silly.
  • Keep it short. A very young child probably won’t stay interested longer than 10-15 minutes, so you might want to do your own warm up and cool down alone and the vigorous exercise together.
  • Alternate bursts of activity with quieter periods. Yoga can be a great tool to help a busy toddler slow down, but some will get bored and resistant if you spend too much time on one slow activity. Try a slow-paced stretching activity or visualization exercise after a tiring activity.
  • Keep it interesting. Don’t do the same routine every day. Show up with surprises to keep attention and vary the activity.
  • Keep it playful. Don’t make this like work for your child. Everything is play for a very young child. Turn on the music and dance. Make it fun.

Image © Yanlev | Dreamstime.com

In Praise of Play Cloths

Playing with silk clothsSince writing about crafts and DIY projects last week, and reading the posts from two Blog to Inspire entrants—Jill Amery’s ideas for at home activities and Gwen Floyd’s dress-up box—I decided to write about the longest and most used toys in my family.

I write in praise of play cloths.

You know, play silks, squares of cloth, multi-colored canvases that become anything from a cape to a blanket to a wig to wings to the broadest reaches of a child’s imagination.

By far, the most used toys in my family have been the play cloths I made 10 years ago and the play cloths we have acquired since. If I had to recommend one and only one toy to parents of toddlers, it would be play cloths.

Make Your Own Play Cloths

Looking at the price tag of $10-15 each for play silks, I decided to make my own. I bought one yard each of 36″ wide cotton fabric in a dozen colors. I paid about $3/yard for the fabric. I also bought 48 2″ rings.

Because I bought fabric already 36″ wide, I didn’t have cut the fabric or hem the sides. I just hemmed each end, then sewed a ring at each corner.

The idea behind the rings came from watching my children play butterfly. They would wrap the corners around their fingers to be able to flap their hands open and shut. With the rings, they slip them over fingers and don’t have to hang on. The rings also made clean up a lot easier. Just hang them on hooks. We had 12 hooks hidden on the underside of our fireplace mantle, and the play cloths were often put away in rainbow order there, hanging by their rings.

NOTE: To be safe, use rings at least 2″ wide. Don’t use rings at all with children under 3 years old.

A Play Cloth Is Anything You Want It to Be

Costume. For young children, a play cloth is often a costume—a cape, wings, a hat, a skirt.

Blanket. When my daughter is not feeling well, she often covers herself with a play cloth. I think it’s a kind of comfort blanket for her.

Landscaping. In doll world, playcloths are grass, rivers, sky, and anything else.

Holiday Wrapping. We use play cloths to wrap gifts. We’ve become very creative in using multiple colors and knots as bows.

Dog Exercise. My daughter does a lot of research on dogs. Our dog, she tells me, can see red. So, my daughter covers herself with a sparkly, bright red play cloth and run through the house to get the dog to chase her. The dog loves this. When my daughter wears an 8-foot long midnight blue, star-covered play cloth as a cape for more dog exercise, they both romp through the house happily.

As my children enter teen years, I suspect the play cloths will still come in handy. I can’t imagine what they will become, but my children can.

Image © Tatyana Chernyak | Dreamstime.com

You Say Mixing Cup, I Say Toy

Baby playing with pansIf your little ones have gone off to school while you are left to care for your toddler during the day, you may be wondering, what now? Buy a new toy that will entertain for minutes while you get some work done? No! Don’t do it.

Toddlers love to explore. You don’t need passive, commercial toys to entertain your child. You don’t even need gorgeous natural toys all of the time. Your child can easily add her own imagination to make a toy out of general household products.

Working in the kitchen? Open a drawer and explore. Nature Mom keeps a draw filled with baking items like measuring cups, sppons, and stainless steel mixing bowls. Her 14-month old goes through the drawer and dumps everything out. She is even starting to make a game of putting things back. Show her how to do it, and she’ll copy. It’s a great game, and there are no fancy toys required.

Sewing? Have your child arrange your thread. This was my mother’s trick with me. She had been studying Montessori education, and she decided that thread arranging would be a fine activity to keep me occupied while she sewed. I arranged thread in order of color or size or texture or color or color. I wonder sometimes if this was the origin of my lifetime focus on color. I got so good at it, that I was frequently sent to our next door neighbor to arrange her thread. My fun became a local service.

If you are allowing your child to play with household products as toys, keep a few points in mind.

  • Check beforehand to be sure that everything in the drawer or box is safe.
  • Keep an eye on your child to make sure that the wrong things don’t go into her mouth—and to make sure you don’t lose any of your own tools as she trots away with her new toys.
  • Anticipate which room you will be in, and make sure you have an exploring space set up.
  • Change what you keep in the drawer or box to make it interesting.
  • Talk to your toddler about what you are doing, and she may follow your lead with her own collection of tools.
  • Get down and play. You might have fun starting a family pots and pans band.

Be careful what you wish for. My mother’s game became my obsession. Yes, I still like to arrange thread, but I no longer lend myself out to neighbors. I lend my own children for thread arranging now.

Image © Michelle Milliman | Dreamstime.com