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Top 10 Outdoor Rainy Day Activities for Kids

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by Katie E (subscribe)
A mum who uses adventures and outings around town as an excuse to avoid the housework.
Published February 19th 2013
Wonderful wet weather outdoor play ideas for kids
At the first sign of rain, many parents begin to search for suitable indoor activities for their children. Before the kids reach for the TV remote why not pull out the wet weather gear for a day of outdoor rainy day fun.

rain boots
By Erikamthompson (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons


The benefits of outdoor play for children are undeniable. Playing outdoors provides a stimulating environment that can be both physically and cognitively challenging. Just add water and the possibilities for play-based learning experiences multiply. Children are naturally drawn to water and are innately curious about the natural world so it makes sense to take advantage of rainy days for outdoor activities.

Despite all of the educational benefits, playing in the rain can be just plain fun. It's a bit of a novelty, particularly if you live in a dry region or have unseasonably dry weather at a certain time of year. Here are a few tips before you get started.
No matter how hard I try to keep the floors clean, when the kids engage in rainy day outdoor play, there is always some mess. Having a towel on hand to wipe down children and another just to wipe muddy feet or boots does help.
If you plan on taking photos or video ensure that you are undercover or that your recording device is weather-proof.
Always supervise children near water.
Use common sense and only allow children to play outdoors if the weather conditions are suitable (i.e. stay indoors during extreme weather such as storms or wind gusts).

Now what about those rainy day outdoor play ideas? Here's our top ten.

1. Stomping, sploshing and jumping in puddles.
This is the most obvious outdoor activity for a rainy day and by far our absolute favourite. Sometimes we undertake scientific investigation involving reflections, ripples or patterns that can be made in the muddy puddles. Other times we start up a game of puddle jump where you can only move from one area to another via the puddles. Most of the time though the kids are happy just to be jumping and splashing about.

2. Rain art.
There are lots of great ideas for rain art but I like to keep it simple. Take a piece of paper towel and use water-soluble felt pens to create an artistic design (it might take a bit of investigating to find out which pens will work best for this activity). Once your paper towel has been decorated take it outside to allow the rain drops to fall on it or find a place where there are large slow drips. The felts will start to separate into their component colours and will start to spread across the paper. Hang them up under cover to dry. Try the same method with cardboard, food dye and powder paints. You can manipulate the pattern a bit by deciding whether to mix the colours when wet, hang to dry or lay flat to dry. Check out this creative idea for how to make a rain art keepsake.

powder paint
Sprinkle the powder paints...


rain art
Let the rain work its magic...


rain art
Ready to hang up to dry.


3. Digging for buried treasure.
Spades, shovels, old kitchen utensils and cutlery can be used to dig in a muddy area of the backyard. Yes, it does mean that you won't be able to have display home lawn, but the look of astonishment on the kids' faces when they discover pirate treasure or dinosaur bones is definitely worth the inconvenience.

mud pies
Digging in the mud


4. Making paper boats to float down the stream.
This does involve some indoor work by making the boat first (see here for instructions) and definitely requires adult supervision during water races. It can get a little tiresome if your little one is yet to master the art of origami and you end up folding every paper boat, but you can keep them occupied by getting them to decorate the paper first. When your patience for paper boat folding has reached its limit, encourage the kids to float other objects down the 'stream' such as leaves, flowers or gumnuts. It's also a great opportunity to let the kids investigate the concept of density with floating and sinking.







5. Make a rain gauge.
This can be as simple as placing a measuring jug outside. Homemade rain gauges can be constructed using bottles, buckets or other containers painted or marked with increments.

6. Chase rainbows.
If you're lucky enough to have the weather conditions on your side, rainbows can inspire a whole range of activities and discussion, from dispersion of light to tales of a pot of gold.

rainbow
What luck - a double rainbow


7. Go on a rainy day nature hunt.
A rainy day can present a whole new environment for kids to explore. Grab your umbrellas, rain boots and magnifying glass to discover the changing environment. Perhaps ask the kids what certain animals would do on a rainy day and challenge them to think where they would be found. Don't forget to investigate the plant life too. How does the rain change the look, feel, smell, taste and sound of the environment? Bring along a camera to capture special findings.

snail
Look - I found a snail


8. Small world water play.
Create your own water world with small toys. Dinosaur swamp, construction site and Peppa Pig's playground are all popular in our backyard.

peppa pig
Peppa Pig loves to jump in muddy puddles with her friends


9. Driveway chalk painting.
Footpaths, driveways or other exposed cemented areas could become a canvas for any budding artist. Wet chalk has a thicker consistency than dry chalk and is almost paint-like. As the rain splashes onto the cement, the colours mix beautifully, plus clean-up is taken care of.



10. Make mud pies.
Kids love to play cooking and mud gives them a different sensory experience to other media. We have a collection of old buckets and recycled containers that suit the job well. They also really enjoy checking on their pies once they have finished 'baking' in the sun.

So if you're feeling up to the challenge, don't keep the kids couped up inside on the next rainy day, send them outside for some wet weather fun. Let them be inspired to explore, experiment, imagine and create wondrous adventures in the outdoor environment. Not only is it fun, they'll also be learning more about the natural world.

Feeling inspired? Tell us, what outdoor activities does your family do in the rain?
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Why? Because wet weather should be celebrated.
When: On rainy days.
Where: In the great outdoors.
Cost: Free or low-cost
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