Jo Gatford runs through her favourite ways to entertain the kids during a Great British downpour….
When it rains, I swear my children become 50% more feral. Being stuck in the house makes us all stir-crazy, and though we’ve had some glorious weather lately the rain is back with a vengeance and it’s been a bit of a shock to the system not being able to spend the day in the garden! But luckily it’s still lovely and warm, and the kids have headed outside in wellies and coats to collect snails for a (very slow) race or to see how many centimetres of rain they can collect in empty jars.
For the sake of my sanity over the summer holidays, I’m not going to let the rain stop us! If we can’t stand being at home there’s always the library, or the aquarium, or the museum, or the swimming pool. For us, rainy days usually mean a tiring morning day trip and an afternoon slumping on the sofa with a film and some snacks.
But sometimes we can’t face getting everyone in and out of wet weather gear and heading out in the car, so we’re forced to get a bit more creative with our indoor activities. Here are a few of our favs for you.
Living room forts
My eldest’s latest obsession is moving every dining chair, every toy box and every cushion into an intricate configuration complete with front door, back door, secret escape hatch and often some sort of super laser blaster security device. A few days ago he dragged his car seat in from the hallway and set it up as a rocket ship driving seat. Last week a line of chairs and cushions were laid in a line to make a train that was on its way to Africa. Meals, books and cuddly toys are all taken into these dens and exciting adventures ensue while I get to sit on the sofa and read. Win: win.
Baking and cooking
An oldie but a goodie. But we don’t stop at gingerbread men and fairy cakes – cooking a whole meal with little ones is actually great fun, especially when you’re not in a rush on a long rainy day. Let them chop veggies with a table knife, mash potatoes or mix white sauce; make pastry or pizza dough from scratch and create your own toppings. My kids will eat all sorts of things they’d normally turn their noses up at when they’re in the kitchen handling and tasting ingredients, and they love washing up at the end, which means the floor inevitably gets a good clean, too.
If you have bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and food colouring in the house then you have the ingredients for hours of fizzy fun. Set up a PVC tablecloth on the kitchen floor and dump a load of bicarb into a big mixing bowl or tray, then pour some vinegar into a couple of cups along with a few drops of different food colouring. If you have a medicine syringe or a dropper, the kids can use them to practice their fine motor skills and drip the vinegar onto the soda. Or, if your kids were born under a chaotic star, they might prefer to just pour away. It doesn’t really matter – when the two ingredients make contact you are rewarded with colourful fizzy madness that can be mixed, squished, poked, scooped and fizzed over and over again.
Another great simple experiment is mixing cornflour with water to make a bizarre non-Newtonian substance which solidifies under pressure (eg: when rolled into a ball in your palm) but liquefies when left alone. Gloopy (and easily washable!) fun.
Write a book
Nothing makes my five-year-old happier than a few pieces of paper stapled together into a blank book that he can fill with his own stories, comics, pictures or stickers. Cut out images from magazines or raid your art and craft stash for collage materials, or print out family pictures to make a mini photo album. If your kiddo can’t think of their own story, you can always re-write a favourite fairytale and let them illustrate it themselves.
Paint the bath
Remember, you don’t have to go outside to get wet – sometimes a long, playful afternoon bath can see you through a fractious day stuck indoors. Who says baths are for bedtimes? Mix together some shaving cream and food colouring and you have homemade puffy bath paint for creating masterpieces on your bathroom tiles and washes away with the bathwater.
Don’t let the rain get you down – when worst comes to worst, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional day flopped in front of the telly with your little ones.
Sometimes rain just means everyone gets extra cuddles.