I consider myself to be a reasonably creative mother, but because I live in a tiny home where there’s not a lot of space to spread out big projects, I’m often stumped by the question of what to do on a rainy day. Thinking of something isn’t the hard part—it’s thinking of something that won’t require my cleaning and organizing for two hours after the activity. Here’s my quick list of go-to activities that will hold your child’s interest, avoid a huge mess, and keep you from climbing the walls when it’s raining cats and dogs.
1. Invisible Ink
You can certainly always turn to the craft table when it’s soggy outside. But if your kids are anything like mine—prolific every single day: morning, noon, and night—then attempting to fill a large swath of time midday with coloring isn’t really going to cut it when they’ve already created 14 masterpieces by 9am. For this kind of challenge, you’ve got to go full-on Bond on their behinds.
Show Tell Share reminds us that all it takes to create super secret invisible ink is lemon juice—straight up. You may want to refrain from disclosing this ultra-confidential information, however, and let them pen invisible messages using Q-tips with their “super spy serum” all afternoon. Then, when conditions are ideal, choose either a hot iron or flame to unveil your top-secret spy code.
2. Make Your Own Sunshine
Whether spring has sprung where you are or not, we’re bound to have a few setbacks, including rogue days when wintery weather makes a comeback. Here’s your chance to bring blue skies and sunshine inside! Inner Child Fun has a great rainy day activity that’s got a fun surprise attached. Spend a soggy afternoon having your children paint coffee filter flowers with vibrant colors. Once dry, have them tape their creations to the windows. After they go to sleep or off to school, use acrylic paints to add stems, leaves, and a bright yellow sun. They’ll love the surprise of finding their spring flowers have sprouted!
3. Finger Knitting
Take a rainy afternoon to teach your kids to finger knit! I might be skeptical about this one, but my sister has two kids—a 7-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son—who love to finger knit. Her kids go to a one-room schoolhouse in the mountains of Colorado and they teach this skill—especially for boys—to give them something productive to do with their hands while they’re listening in the classroom. It’s actually been proven to help kids—boys in particular—focus their immense energy. And before you write this off as some kind of hippies- or homesteaders-only activity, keep in mind that my nephew’s favorite things to make are accessories for his iTouch. This skill is cool, yo! Check out Dharma Flyer for step-by-step instructions on how to get your kids going, plus links to fun finger-knitting projects.
4. Spy Training
If your kids need to burn some energy, string some red cord down the length of a hallway and challenge them to navigate their way through without breaking the “lasers.” Confessions of a Wisconsin Housewife suggests taping string to the wall, then letting spy training begin. Start by taping the string wide and far apart, then—once your spies master the easy level—up the ante with string that’s increasingly closer together. You might even have a secret message telling them where their super spy snacks can be found—written in invisible ink, of course—for them to decode after they successfully complete their training.
5. Toothpick & Marshmallow Structures
I love this great rainy day activity from Little Bit Funky. I’m sure they didn’t invent it—I’ve seen kids come home from school with these structures for years. But what I think is unique here is the suggestion of putting out a big bowl of mini marshmallows and a big bowl of toothpicks and declaring “family time!” The creations my 5-year-old came up with were pretty darn cool; think of how amazing your creations could be if the whole family worked together. You may even teach your child the rough meaning of dodecahedron! I can’t wait till the next rainy day to do this activity together. And since your kids are bound to want to taste a couple (or 50) marshmallows, keep them from snitching sugar by setting aside a small bowl and promising s’mores when the project’s over.