“Today we had a rainy day which means no outdoor exploration! What are your tried and true rainy day activities?”
“Weather says it’s supposed to rain the rest of the week! We can’t go outside. What are your suggestions?”
I am a member of a number of Facebook groups for preschool teachers and directors, and a common topic of discussion is advice for indoor gross motor activities when it rains. My usual advice is to skip the indoor gross motor activities and just head outside.
Children are not generally as bothered by the weather as adults are, but of course the proper gear is helpful. At our school, parents are asked to stock their children’s cubbies with rain pants or rain suits, boots and warm layers. Some outdoor preschools provide school-owned rain suits for the children. We do use common sense, staying indoors during thunderstorms and out of the forest during periods of high winds.
Children will probably come up with many of their own ways to play and explore outside in the rain, but teachers can plan simple activities that focus on art, science, motor development or just plain fun.
Most children do not need encouragement to splash in puddles. While children are splashing, I like to make suggestions for gross motor challenges. I usually ask a question encouraging children to jump in “fancy” ways and then issue more direct challenges if they need inspiration. Some possible challenges include: Can you jump with two feet and hop with just one? Can you jump over the puddles or from one puddle to the next? Someone always does spin jumps or finds a fancy way to land like a superhero, which I then encourage the other children to try as well.
Two years ago, I downloaded a song from iTunes called, “Mud Puddle Jump.” Ever since then, a favorite puddle activity is acting out the song. We find a puddle, splash in it, shake off the mud and then pantomime returning home to get warm and dry. And then someone finds a new puddle, and we start the song over again. The children can play this game on continuous repeat long after the teachers are secretly wishing to change activities!
Beautiful Rain Art
Let the rain be a part of what the children create. We have clear acrylic sheets tacked to our garden fence which the children use as paint canvasses. Instead of worrying about the rain washing away the artwork, embrace it as a variable in the artwork’s creation. As the children paint, encourage them to notice how the rain works to smear, move or blend the colors. If you don’t have an acrylic “paint wall,” any heavy plastic can be used for painting– an old tarp, transparent report covers, child-proof mirrors. Clear umbrellas might add an interesting dimension as children work to paint the curved sides.
Another way to create rain paintings is to sprinkle powdered tempera paints on a sheet of paper set in a tray. Put the tray out in the rain and watch as the rain turns the powder into paint. Other ways to make rain paintings include breaking dried watercolor cakes into bits and then sprinkling them on paper, coloring with washable markers on a sheet of paper and then leaving it in the rain and squirting small drops of food coloring or liquid watercolors on paper that has already been moistened by the rain.
Music and Mindfulness
I find the sound of spring rain incredibly relaxing. Children can tap into the sounds of nature to increase mindfulness and practice meditation. Encourage children to find a comfortable place to sit or lie down outside. Once they are settled guide them to focus on their breathing first and then to zero in on the sound of the rain drops. Can they hear drops hitting different objects like leaves or rocks? Can they identify single drops? Can they hear the sounds change as the rain speeds up or slows down?
A good follow up activity to listening to the rain’s music is to provide materials for children to manipulate its sounds. Line up different sized containers made of different materials. How does the rain sound when it hits the objects? What happens when children fill the containers with different amounts of rainwater and then strike them with sticks? Encourage children to experiment and to verbalize what they are observing.
These are just a few ideas tapping into the art and peacefulness of spring rain. As long as children are “dressed for success” in outdoor clothing that keeps them warm and dry, playing outside in the rain can be just as enjoyable as playing under sunshine.
Check back with the blog next month for some simple ways to use the rain for science exploration.
Nicole Fravel - Wildwood Nature School - 408-656-6916