We spend a lot of time outside. For at least a few hours every afternoon, we go outside and play, either on the playground in the backyard, or ride trikes, or play with the neighborhood kids. This is addition to going on walks or feeding the ducks at the pond down the street.
The burden of spending lots of time outside is felt when the weather isn't cooperative. We don't live where it snows, and though we get a lot of rain here, it comes on a comparatively small number of days a year. If they're used to being able to run around and cut loose everyday, a couple days without it can lead to pent-up energies that can result in high octane arguments and first rate fighting. It's no fun, for anyone.
So we've spent a lot of time trying to navigate these inside times. We have a mix between old standbys and new favorites. Play around with some of these and see what works for you.
1. Playing Rice
This is one of my wife's inventions. On the kids craft table, she sets out buckets, funnels, measuring cups, spoons, and bowls. Then she fills the buckets with rice (dry, obviously, as cooked rice would have some pretty frustrating results when poured through a funnel). The kids are happy to "play rice" for up to two hours at a time. Two hours! This is a great time to clean the kitchen or read a book. You could probably also play beans, or play macaronis, or something.
2. Play dough
This is an obvious one. Play dough, or any comparable knock-off, is cheap and versatile. They really bank on you buying a lot of accessories for playing with the stuff, which you really don't have to. Household utensils work wonders with the stuff. And, if you really want to get affordable, with a little bit older kids, it's easy to find a recipe and make the stuff. They get a kick out of it. Plus, you can find recipes that harden in the oven for painting. Great for the holidays. That brings us to...
Watercolors are fine, and washable paint is okay. But, really, any acrylic craft paint can be washed off if caught in a relatively short period of time, and the colors are so much more bright and vivid.
4. Shaving Cream Paintings
If your kids get sick of the regular old painting, or if they like finger painting, then this is a great activity. Mix shaving cream in a bowl with the desired food coloring. Then, they can spread the colored fluff all over a page to make intricate designs that bleed into each other. Fun.
5. Shaving Cream Cleaning
Shaving cream does a great job of cleaning surfaces like tables and counter tops. Let the kids spread it all over the place, and when it is wiped off, the table is shiny clean. Pretty awesome to have fun and clean.
6. Build a Fort
The only drawback of turning the couch or the beds into a fortress is how often they'll want to do it in the coming days. Having small, cozy places to hide and stay is wonderfully comforting to a toddler. It may serve as inspiration to make a cozy reading nook in their room.
7. Throw a Party
This can be especially fun if you know that the next day is going to be unpleasant and you want to turn the tides by setting up a morning surprise. Put up streamers, hang balloons, bake a cake, play dance music, set up simple games like pin the tail on the donkey.
8. Music Time
Getting the family together to sing is engaging and very good for child development. If you're not musically inclined, look at it as an opportunity to learn along with your child. Get a used guitar, buy a book, and learn some children's songs.
We have a dress-up trunk in our kids' closet. It's full of old clothes, aprons, sunglasses, Halloween costumes, and the like. It's great to pull out on rainy days.
10. Bake something
Making bread, muffins, biscuits, or cakes can be a lot of fun for kids, especially if they know they're going to get to eat them later. This may be better for older kids, and it is best if you can find different responsibilities for the kids to be in charge of in the process.
When seen as an opportunity to break from routine, enhance artistic skills, and spend some family together time, bad weather can be a good thing. If you have some other activities that get you through a rainy-day schedule, please post them below.