That would sum up our vacation last week. Or for whatever other reason, you find yourself confined indoors with children who are going stir-crazy for lack of adventures.
Either way, you’re hunting for some summertime fun in the great indoors.
Your Summertime Rainy Day Cheat Sheet
As a mama stuck at home with a broken foot this summer, I’ve spent way too much time thinking up inside summer-fun alternatives. Here are some of the things we’ve come up with to stave off the rainy-day blues:
So old-fashioned, I know – but it still works! I keep a stash of new-to-my-offspring kids’ books on hand, to pull out at times like this. If your kids aren’t big on reading yet, you can always curl up on the couch and read a new story together.
2. Hit the stacks
Out of new stories to read? Then it’s time for a trip to the local library. (Be sure your kids sign up for their own library cards as soon as they’re old enough – such a big-kid rite of passage!)
And don’t forget to look into summer programming and special checkout options:
- Many libraries have gone way beyond story hour. Ours offers an array of story/activity classes for different ages, Duplo free-play times, family movie nights, teen movie nights, and teen and tween game nights and code-programming clubs.
- Besides the usual books and DVDs, ours also has such items for checkout as kids’ hiking backpacks, complete with goodies like binoculars.
3. Check out a museum (pass)
Museums are another go-to rainy day staple. If you’re on vacation, this is a no-brainer. Closer to home, there are lots of ways to make the most of this opportunity:
- If you’re not already a member, some museums have summer-membership specials that are worth looking into.
- If your kids are involved in Scouting/Guiding, local museums may offer them opportunities to earn a special patch or badge along with free admission.
- Or check with your local library; many have free passes to local museums that you can check out and return, just like a book.
4. Bake something scrumptious
What better activity for a stormy summer day than baking up a storm in your kitchen? Besides ending up with some yummy treats to enjoy together, you’ll get to teach your kids about cooking and (shh!) practice some math at the same time. And the memories you build will be priceless.
Alternatively, you can scale things up a bit. Old-fashioned blanket-and-chair forts are still fun creative outlets that my kids love. And since last Christmas, they’ve been able to take their fort-building adventures up a notch with the amazing Crazy Forts kit that Daddy (er, Santa) found for them.
6. Camp out inside
One of my kiddos’ favorite things to do with their Crazy Forts creations is cover them with a sheet, then “camp out” inside.
If you’ve got a small camping or play tent lying around, setting it up indoors is another fun rainy day activity. Who knows, “playing” at camping out might actually lead to them taking a nap inside the tent!
My kids’ art corner is a nook in our kitchen between the hutch and a doorway, a corner just big enough to hold a vintage play table from my own childhood. On previous rainy days, I’ve
- cleared off the lowest shelf of the nearby hutch and arranged thrift-store file trays on it, to hold the girls’ coloring books, notepads, and creations-in-progress; and
- used 3M Command hooks to hang an unbreakable file caddy on the side of the hutch, with file folders to hold loose coloring sheets, half-completed math worksheets, random word finds, etc.
Essie loves coloring at this table, where everything is within arm’s reach. Kimmie (who is obsessed with practicing math and doing word finds) loves that her spare worksheets are easy to grab, yet out of the way when she’s not using them.
8. Have a coloring marathon
What better time to haul out the coloring sheets for everyone than a rainy day? This is one reason I always hide a small bag in our vacation packing with a coloring book and some crayons or colored pencils.
If you’ve already caught the grownup-coloring-book bug, you’re set. If not, give it a try; it IS remarkably soothing and relaxing.
9. Dig out that building/crafting kit
While we’re on crafty things, how many of you have a kit or two from your child’s last birthday or holiday that you haven’t quite gotten around to making? (That would be the birdhouse kit Essie got for her birthday that we haven’t quite assembled and decorated yet.) Think of your next rainy day as a gift of found time to spend on such activities.
Or maybe your kiddos can pick up a new craft instead. That’s what my girls recently did, on a day they decided to take a break from the Legos and Goldie Blox.
After spending 2016 obsessed with potholder looms, both girls got larger-scale weaving-related gifts for Christmas. One recent rainy day, the girls decided to dig out these gifts and learn how to use them finally. So Kimmie now has several spool-knitted rope bracelets, and Essie is halfway to weaving herself a tote bag on her Melissa & Doug loom.
11. Excavate a fossil
If your kids prefer deconstruction over building things, maybe digging a fossil is right up their alley. Kimmie got several excavate-a-dinosaur-fossil kits for her dinosaur-themed birthday party a few years ago. She LOVED digging them out of the red “rock” in which they came.
Bonus: when you’ve dug out all the bones, you can assemble the skeleton! Just be sure you set up a good place to do this activity (a dropcloth on the floor?), as the “rock” (red-tinted plaster) that our kits’ skeletons came in can be messy.
12. Make some fossils
Alternately, your kids might have fun making “fossil” prints in a lump of clay or play dough, as my girls did recently with assorted small toy pieces.
13. Sculpt something
Many kids love smooshing clay or play-dough around into amazing shapes. Kinetic sand is another fun choice for school-age kids and older preschoolers.
For those who prefer more structure, use your rainy day to make ornaments, pendants, or pins. My mother still has the homemade play-dough Christmas ornaments we made one rainy day when I was little, safely stored in glass jars.
While starting with colored dough and adding glitter, beads, and whatnot is one option, another is hand-painting with tempera or acrylic paints, then spraying a clear coat on top or brushing on Mod-Podge to seal them.
14. Write a book
Give your budding literary genius a notebook and pencil, if they’re good to go with that. Or give them a writing prompt to spark their imagination. Or have them tell you a story while you write it down.
You could even play the old road-trip game of creating a group story by taking turns, with each person adding a sentence that builds upon the previous one.
To take things up a notch, you can add an Illustory Kit to the mix. Send off (or upload and design online) your child’s original text and illustrations, and get back a professionally typeset, hardcover keepsake volume.
15. Put on a theatrical production
This can be as elaborate (or not) as your kids’ imaginations:
- Have them act out their favorite bedtime story on the spot, or create a story as they go.
- Older kids can write out a script first, with parts.
- Or they can draw inspiration from their dress-up box.
- Kids of all ages can put on a show with their finger puppets. (Or make hand puppets from old socks first.)
- For a multi-day diversion, create sets, costumes, and lighting plans – the sky’s the limit.
16. Have a dance party
Just because you’re stuck inside doesn’t mean your kids can’t burn off some energy! Pick your favorite dance tunes (or let your offspring pick theirs), turn up the volume, and have an indoor dance party to tire them out.
17. Jump around
A dance party isn’t the only way to get your kiddos moving on a rainy day. My girls love playing with their LeapBands, which are a kid-friendly answer to adult activity trackers. The LeapBands give them challenges to complete, and doing so unlocks “secrets” or helps them “earn” new “teammates.”
Or have them do an indoor mini-Olympics. (When my girls are bouncing off the walls with excess energy, I challenge them to see who can complete 50 jumping jacks first.) Or set up an indoor obstacle course.
On the other hand, winding down with some kids’ yoga is something Essie has loved since she was two. We have several kids’ yoga DVDs that she loves to practice along with.
18. Play a game
Doesn’t matter what type. SmartGame, to get your kiddo thinking. Old-fashioned board game. Classic card game. Or something that crosses several categories, like cribbage.
Cribbage is a card game that uses a physical board to track scores. My father learned it in the navy, and taught it to my siblings and me as soon as we turned five – partly so he’d have someone to play with, partly to help us learn basic math. Essie still has to work at the math, but Kimmie is now skilled enough that she beats me as often as not.
19. Run some in-house experiments
Even before Kimmie learned the scientific method in school last year, she and Essie were big fans of conducting impromptu “science experiments” around the house. (“Hmm, what will happen if we fill the shampoo bottle with water and shake it?” “What if we soak our magic markers in a cup of water and then try to use them?”)
If your kids are similarly curious, why not channel that inquisitive nature into some experiments where they can actually learn something? Besides lots of super books to give you ideas, there are plenty of great ideas online (e.g., here, here, here, or here.)
20. Experiment with your lunch lineup
About once a week, my girls decide to make their own lunches. I love their independence and creativity when they do this, and it’s a great chance to practice everything from planning and sequencing to cutting and cleaning up.
Sure, their creations may seem a little weird to you at first, but that’s OK:
- They’re the ones who will have to eat it!
- You may all come up with some new ideas for school lunches come fall.
Stuck on where to start? Ideas are as close as your nearest kid-friendly cookbook or the Internet. (A lot of the recipes I’ve blogged about are things my kids like to help me make, or can make for themselves.)
Alternately, maybe your kids’ bookshelf has ideas. Apparently, there are a bunch of lunch ideas in the back of the classic Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Cake, since my girls used it as their “cookbook” for a recent rainy day lunch.
21. Plan a meal
Once your kids have mastered feeding themselves lunch, it’s time to take it up a notch and help them plan a meal.
I remember learning this skill in Junior Girl Scouts, when every camping trip meant planning out nutritionally balanced meals, figuring out the most cost-effective way to acquire the ingredients, and getting our leaders to sign off on our meal plans before they took us shopping. It was a truly eye-opening experience for which I’ve been forever grateful.
Meal-planning teaches your children about so more than cooking and food prep. This activity is a great way to learn about everything from balanced nutrition to budgeting to time management and sequencing. Even if you don’t get to help your offspring execute their meal plan that day, you’ll have a good start on this activity to follow up on it in the future.
So there you have it – 21 ideas to get you through all sorts of rainy-day adventures! What’s YOUR favorite way to hack a stuck-inside summertime rainy day? Let us know in the comments!