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

Summer Water Games for Children

Child playing in the sprinkler

Every day in summer for my kids has to include water outdoors. When they were little, I tried to keep it interesting by suggesting water adventures and games. These are a few of the summer water games my children love.

Tips Before You Start

Have your child wear a swimsuit or swim diaper. It’s going to be wet and probably dirty, so just keep it simple.

Remember the sunscreen and sun hat. If your child is particularly sun sensitive, you might even consider a sun protection suit.

Before you start, talk together about the rules of play and make sure your child understands. With any water games, always supervise. Don’t leave young children alone in the water even for a minute.

Water Games and Adventures

Bucket Splashing
My daughter’s absolute favorite summertime activity during her first year was sitting in front of a bucket of water and splashing. No extra structure required. The anticipation of a cold splash in the face was irresistible. As your child gets older, you can expand on this activity to experiment with cupping hands and creating rhythms. Since my children and I saw Vanuatu water music in a documentary on volcanoes, we always start pool activities with water drumming.

Giant Bubbles
A yard full of bubbles is fun, but why only tiny bubbles from tiny wands? We like huge bubbles. We create our own bubble wands with string and sticks then we fill up a wash basin with bubble solution. You can sometimes create a giant bubble snake a dozen feet long chasing screaming children around the yard. This is a noisy activity.

Sponge Catch
Grab your biggest, wettest sponge and head outside. Soak it really well in water and play catch. With little kids, be sure that they know to put their hands out so they don’t just feel like they are a target. We practiced with the sponge dry before wetting it. If you get the sponge wet enough, it will spin and spit water everywhere with every throw. While you have the sponge out, you can play different games with sponges. Toss the wet sponge into a bucket for target practice. Experiment with transferring water from the full bucket to an empty bucket with just the sponge. Paint on the sidewalk with sponges and try to finish the painting before it dries up and goes away.

Jump Rope Splash
Add a splash to three-person jump rope by giving the jumper a (non-breakable) cup of water. The more gently they jump, the less water they lose. When they bounce hard on the ground, they get wet. You could make the object of the game to keep as much water as possible, to lose as much water as possible, or just to see what happens.

Adventure Course
Child's dragon costume
Does your child love dress up? If you have a little dragon or knight, set up the backyard with a castle (picnic table), woods, mud holes, waterfalls (a running hose over a wall), and any other fun hazards. Either plan an adventure or just set the dragon free to roam.

Mud Dancing
If you have an area of your yard that won’t be completely destroyed by creating a mud pit, add water until it is thick and sticky then turn on the music. If the mud is thick enough to suck the feet as you move around, it is perfect. The mud will add sound and sensation to the dance. If you child loves dirt, check out the book I Love Dirt for more dirty play ideas. Follow dirty play with a quick trip through the sprinkler, and you’re all set.

Every kid I know loves the sprinkler, especially if the sprinkler moves. There is no structure necessary at all. Just turn on the water and see what happens. Leave a bunch of boats, balls, cups, buckets and sponges nearby, and your children might pull those into the fun.

For more summer fun ideas for children, see Let’s Go Outside.

Let's Go Outside book

Image © Sergey Mostovoy | Dreamstime.com

Summer Activities for Toddlers

Family Camping

Are your children looking for activities. I’m tempted to just say, leave space to find their own adventures. One of my favorite books for children is Weslandia. Wesley, the protagonist, needs a summer activity. What to do? He lets things happen. He lets a weed happen, and he creates a civilization around it. If you need a jump start for summer, give your child this book—listed for ages 9-12, but a preschooler could still have fun with the story.

Over the next few days, I’ll offer a few ideas for summer nature activities children for children of different ages.

Water Play for Toddlers

Babies and toddlers love water. Why wait until bathtime to have fun? If you need a way to cool off on a hot afternoon, set up the water play. One of my daughter’s favorite summer activities was slapping at water in a bucket for an hour or more at a time.

  • Start with a wading pool or a bucket, and fill it up.
  • Add kitchen tools: sponges, sieve, funnel, wooden spoon, whisk, cups, pots, ladle, and turkey baster.
  • Strip down to a diaper. It’s going to be wet, so just go with it.
  • ADD: Ice cubes! Especially if it’s a hot, hot day, it might be fun to cool off the water. And, you get to watch the ice cubes melt.
  • ADD: Color! If you need to add interest toward the end of play, add a little color. You could use food coloring or just something natural and simple like beet juice. Watch the color spread through the water and talk about how it moves.
  • ADD: Bubbles! Once you add bubbles, you have so many options. My children love to use loops of string to create giant bubbles.

Inspiration for Your Water Play

Watching Volcanoes of the World a while ago, during an episode filmed in Vanuatu in the South Pacific there was an amazing demonstration of water drumming. If you are looking for a little inspiration for water drumming, a boost before you and your toddler sit in the pool and start making music, watch this. I couldn’t find a video of the volcano show, but this Gaua video shows water music from the same tradition. This is the same island that has had some evacuations recently due to the active volcanoes on the island.

Image © Omenn | Dreamstime.com