11 Screen-Free Rainy Day Activities for Kids
It just keeps raining. Apparently, summertime in the Midwest filed an extension on that whole “April showers” business. Sure, the fields and farmers are happy, but my cooped up preschooler
and toddler have had a thing or two to say about the matter. Sure, summer is the perfect time to shut off the screens and get outside, but what about on rainy days?
Several times this spring and summer, when the weather kept everyone inside, it became very clear to me that I had two choices:
Let my kids watch a mind-numbing amount of television until bedtime.
Now, I’m not hating on screen time. I’ve plunked my kids in front of an episode of Team UmiZoomi more than once to get dinner cooked. Just being honest. Besides, they really do learn stuff like sign language, Spanish, music, nursery rhymes, patterns, shapes, and even how to turn the dumpiest house in the neighborhood into the home of your dreams!
Wait…that last one is Fixer Upper. That’s my jam.
Moral of the story: Screen time in moderation is fine in my opinion. What I’m talking about is not medicating the looong hours of nail-on-chalkboard boredom that your kids face when the weather doesn’t cooperate by hooking them up to a screen like tiny cyborgs.
So, here is my list of tested and approved activities to get your kids up and moving, and to engage their imagination and creativity (and YOURS). Most of these activities involve everyday objects lying around the house (like couch cushions…or a card table…or you).
11 Screen-Free Rainy Day Activities for Kids
1. Make and mail some homemade cards
Clear off a table and set up some watercolors and crayons. Grab some scissors, glue, and construction paper (supervise the cutting!) and make a card for the grandparents, friends, or someone else special. Let it dry and send it to them in the mail. Wouldn’t that brighten anyone’s day?
Bonus Tip: If the children are too young to draw a picture, try tracing their handprints with their names and ages below each one, then let them scribble on the cover and add a message inside.
2. Build a car ramp
Box or Couch Cushion
Sometimes happiness is my 2-year-old boy racing every car, truck, and train in his possession down a race track for an hour. Place one end of a card table (or some other flat, hard surface like a large lid) on a couch cushion or box. Grab every toy with wheels and send them flying down the ramp (sound effects encouraged).
Bonus Tip: Add a second ramp on the other side of the cushion and hold a drag race.
3. Build a maze
Clear a space in the playroom or living room and assemble a maze with your children using furniture and boxes. Create tunnels using bed sheets and blankets. Hide objects and send them on a rescue mission to retrieve them. This activity is a bit more involved, but it also gives your children a chance to use their imagination and construct something fun with their hands.
Bonus Tip: For a circle track, place an ottoman in the middle of the room, leave a large space around it (for running), and then surround it with a wide circle with chairs, boxes and pillows.
Leave some exits otherwise you’re probably going to clean up after some very dizzy kids.
4. Create a “dry” muddle puddle – (My Kids’ Favorite)
Desperation was the mother of this invention. I was babysitting my friends’ boys who were around the same age as my two. My four tiny charges were moping around the house devastated that it was raining and they couldn’t go outside to play. Attitudes were disintegrating.
So we threw every soft item we could find into the middle of the floor and (SAFELY) took turns jumping into our very own indoor “mud puddle.” By the end, all four kids were red-faced and panting with giant grins on their faces.
Bonus Tip: You can change the title of this game as the seasons change – once again engaging
your child’s imagination. In the summer, we call it a splash pad. In the fall, it’s a leaf pile. And in the winter, it’s a snow mound.
5. Dinner prep together
Tiny Taste Testers
Remember how I said I let my kids watch a show while I got dinner ready? That was becoming a normal pattern for us, so I decided to invite the children to help me get dinner ready. It could be as simple as letting them stir or add seasonings or bang a wooden spoon on a bowl while you do the cooking.
My daughter got a little apron for Christmas last year and now little brother wants one, too. It’sone more way to see my kids enjoy time at home doing something together without that habitual pre-dinner Netflix show.
6. Indoor Hopscotch
Large cardboard box
Slice open the biggest box you can find, lay it out, and draw a hopscotch board on the inside. Clear a space in the house and let the bouncing begin. This game helps your children learn their numbers.
Bonus Tip: Get out some crayons and let your children practice tracing the big numbers (or adding their own drawings for fun).
7. Card Games
Deck of Cards
Bowl of Snacks
I mean, do you remember how fun “Spoons” was when you were a kid?
8. Hire some help
Are your children old enough to sort socks, fold towels, make their beds, load the dishwasher, clean up their room or set the table? Hire them to help you. Not only does this help them develop a work ethic, but you can begin the conversation about what to do with money, how to save, how to spend, and how to give.
You shouldn’t pay them for every task they ever do, but you’re not spoiling them by instructing them how to earn and use money responsibly at a young age.
Bonus Tip: If your child is young (3-5 years old), pay them for tasks the moment they’re complete to make sure the lesson makes the most impact.
9. Easy Playtime Tent
Clear off your table and use the chairs to create a walking path leading up to the table. Spread a fleece blanket on the floor under the table. Throw a large bed sheet over the table and chairs to make a roof. Tada. Tent.
10. Recreate the outdoors in your living room
Blankets Pillows Laundry Baskets Household items the color of nature
My 3-year-old invented this game on a lazy, rainy day. She found a small, round, green laundry basket and held it up, asking, “Can we make this into a tree?”
Before long, the entire living floor was transformed. A floral blanket became a meadow. A blue pillow case was a lake. The green basket sat atop a stack of boxes with a brown towel draped over one side as a tree trunk. Pillows became boulders. I’m pretty sure at one point I was playing by myself, so lost was I in the transformation.
11. Change up story time
Creating new fun can be as easy as changing an old routine. Instead of reading a storybook in bed or on the couch, try a few of these fun alternatives:
Listen to an audio book. The library has a lot of these, from picture books to chapter books. Not only does this give your children a new way to enjoy story time, but it teaches them how to sit still and listen which will help them in countless ways down the road.
Read where you land. Was today “mud puddle” day and you’re all lying in a heap of pillows and blankets right before bedtime? Great! Grab a book and read there. If it’s
under a table, then read under the table.
Read by flashlight. Pitch a tent with a few chairs and blankets. Kill the lights and read in the tent.
Hopefully, these 11 ideas gave you some inspiration on your next rainy day with the kids. What will you do with your kids after the TV and iPads are turned off on the next rainy day?
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