raising little ones in the great outdoors

Ideas for a Rainy Day

Spring is fickle. That Saturday forecast calling for clear skies and a summer breeze can turn to 40 degree showers by Sunday. Dark clouds can wilt motivation. Remember though, your kids don’t necessarily share your aversion to rainy days. This is something we grow into as adults with aching knees and surgically reconstructed shoulders. A number of companies sell relatively cheap rain gear for children and for the penny pinchers out there, there’s always the option of cutting arm and neck wholes in a heavy-duty trash bag.

Kids pick up on attitude. If you view a rainy day as a reason to drag your heals, so will they. So get creative and do your best to view the spring showers as a chance to get after it.

Get Creative – Save the Worms!

Dad and design blogger Pat Goltl suggests putting the little ones to work – in the garden. Our yards can be great places to teach. On the next rainy day, first try creating plant starts from seed in the comfort and warmth of your kitchen. At this time of year, it’s best to start with late season vegetables like kale, which can survive Fall’s cold nights. Have your kids plant the seeds in an old plastic lettuce or spinach tub filled with potting soil. Put the seed just beneath the surface and mark what you’ve planted with a chopstick or tongue-depressor so you’ll know what you planted.

Once you’ve tapped that activity, bundle them up and take the opportunity to embark on a mission only a kid could handle – save the worms. After a big rain, you see it all the time – drenched worms beached on the sidewalk. Collect the worms – this is sure to be worth at least a few laughs — bring the worms back to the lettuce seed box and set them free to till the tiny seed farm. Earthworms churn through the soil. In the process, they aerate the soil and make it easier for the young seeds to absorb the mineral nutrients. A backyard garden can teach a hundred lessons. This one happens to be perfect for rainy spring days.

Embrace the pain…err Rain

Two words for you — puddle jumping. All our parents suggested this time honored tradition.rain

Being the voice behind the Dirtbag Diaries and all, you’d think I would have felt that way as a kid as well, but I didn’t. My parents weren’t the types to run like crazed maniacs through unknown bodies of water. I have a distinct memory from age 12 at summer camp. It had been raining for days, and cabin fever was setting in. Our counselor ushered us out the door for a mile-long puddle dash. I stressed about it. I worried I was going to get muddy. My shoes would be wet for days to come. My clothes would be ruined. All the other campers started screaming through the giant mud puddles. Reluctantly, I dipped my foot in them, but realized that if I wanted to fit in I would have to be a little more convincing. I put a little more gusto into my next leap. Water filled my shoes. Mud splattered up into my face. I did it again. Something deep inside of me came alive. This was fun, no matter what I had been told. I literally think this is the moment when I began to see the limitless fun the natural world has to offer. My life was filled with rules and somehow that day of puddle jumping put those rules into perspective for me. In my 11-year-old mind, I realized that some rules were meant to be broken.

Come Prepared

Ever watch a child swim in mountain water until their teeth are chattering and feet are blue? Kids may not have our aversions to cold and wet weather, but they also are discovering their limits. Just like us, cold can creep up on them. Avoid the bonk.

“Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and treats,” suggest Jason Albert who sees the Central Oregon spring storms as an opportunity. When the kids get cold, a quick jolt of warm sugar ramps up the system to fend off cold. That’s basic wilderness medicine. And it’s a bonus for wandering out in the rain.

“Kids don’t melt, but have a back up plan,” adds contributor Andy Guinigundo. If you live near a metropolitan area, look into purchasing an annual family membership at the local zoo or aquarium. For a family of four, the annual membership option typically costs just a bit more than a single family visit and once you have the pass, you’ll be inclined to use it. Consider the zoo and aquarium a climate controlled outdoor classroom where young curious minds can find answers to their burning questions about the natural world.

— the Outdoor Parent Collective.

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7 Responses to “Ideas for a Rainy Day”

  1. Alex says:

    What a great article! I am a huge believer that nature is the best toy a child can ever receive! I do worry at the thought of cheap raingear- most inexpensive raingear is made from PVC which not only poisons our amazing planet but poisons our children. Not to mention the “plasticizers” used to make PVC soft- that damage our childrens (and our) reproductive systems and build up “toxic load” in our bodies.
    There is an alternative-
    Puddlegear is PVC and Phthalate free raingear for kids and soon for adults!
    Its tested to be free of over 100 harmful chemicals.
    There is no bad weather just bad raingear!

    Now get out and play!

  2. Peakology says:

    Another wet day idea (if you are already kitted up to get wet…)
    We made corkboats with ‘penny’ keels and raced them down a mini-waterfall stream. Happily kills a few hours for a 2 & 4 year old (and us!) when too wet to climb. All you need is:

    Glue gun
    Foam paper
    Corks from many bottles of red wine (If I must..)
    Bit of creativity.

  3. Lauren says:

    Great ideas! I’m so glad I found this site…awesome.

  4. lawless says:

    Great site! Glad I stumbled across it from The Cleanist Line post.

    This one is especially relevant with a 3 day weekend coming up and a tropical low stalled over us right now dumping an inch of rain a day on us.

  5. We love mud season around here, too. And our “driveway” is one of the muddiest, wettest places around. One of the things my son (and most other campers under 12 around here) loves is river building.

    We dig channels for the melt, build dams, float “boats” (love the corkboat idea–thanks!), make small streams into bigger ones, and generally get incredibly wet and even more dirty.

    Sticks work for digging, though my son and I usually wear our waterproof boots and just excavate with our heels. These are my favorite hours…

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