As an adult, it is easier to take the rain of a blustery day than our children counterparts. We could always use that extra nap or hour of sleep we missed some day during the week. And when it’s rainy out, we don’t have to worry about what’s going on outside our doors when everyone stays in. Of course, this does not mean that we turn a blind eye to what may be happening in our own home. We just have to wait for the house to get “disturbingly quiet” and then we know that something is dangerously wrong. (Disturbingly quiet is an oxymoron with which parents are frequently confronted.) So we have to find ways to come up with creative things to do with our kids. No turning on the TV or putting on Netflix all day will suffice. It will not hold the children’s interest for long, especially when you have day after day of bad weather. (Being a Southern California person I understand the rest of the world is giving me eye rolls, but bad weather does happen for two or more days in a row . .. sometimes . . . I swear!!!)
And speaking as a single dad, I also know that engagement is such an important thing with the little time that we do have with our children. It is why I know that when I have my daughter I want to get out of the house and do something. Getting out and away from the house and the TV means that my daughter actually has to talk to me. (Yes, talking to our kids is a good thing, even about scary topics that we don’t want to mention like Donald Trump, or what kind of hair style we were wearing in the 80’s.) So what things are there to do when it’s a rainy, or even a snowy day and the kids are stuck indoors? This may be another top ten list, but I hope many people add on to this list as I am always looking for unique things to do. I would love to know what fun and inventive things others do amidst the gloomy weather outside.
#1 – Puzzling. Ummmmmm….. is puzzling even a word? I didn’t think it was until this last week when I put up pictures of a puzzle I was working on with my daughter and friends of mine asked whether I was “puzzling.” They said they would love to be puzzling with me. I am hoping that this meant that they wanted to engage with me over a puzzle and not to do some 20 questions game because I am not good at that game. (And yes I do know that animal, vegetable or mineral is usually the first question in that game.) Take out a puzzle and work on it with your kids. It may not engage them for more than an hour at a time, but it’s something you can do and come back to later as you have cycled through other things to do in the house. Try to keep it at your kid’s level, although a little more challenging is not necessarily a bad thing. My daughter just got excited by learning that with any puzzle that is 500 pieces or more, you should be starting with the edges and then you can fill in the center. I just don’t recommend any circular puzzles no matter how beautiful they look. They are scary, and way beyond most child’s capabilities. Unless you are raising Einstein and then, by all means, best wishes.
#2 – Board Games. Here is something similar to puzzling where you can pull up a chair and a card table for a little while and play a game that is suited to their level. It’s also something that with a game like Monopoly, you can start, go away from, and come back to as you find other things to do throughout your day. Monopoly is a good one for this. I love Risk personally. Candyland or Chutes and Ladders works for the little ones. Settlers of Catan can also be a really fun game to do if your kids are up for it. There is even a Lord of the Rings board game that you play as a team as you try to get the Ring into Mount Doom. The only dangerous thing about some of the board games is that one person can end up losing while the others continue on. That can be dangerous because it can lead to those disturbingly quiet situations. My recommendation is that you make sure you lose first, or you find a way to count up money, troops or whatever so that when someone loses the game ends.
#3 – Cooking. If you haven’t already gone to the store to pick up a bunch of groceries to have around the house in order to cook for yourself this might be difficult. But cooking can be a lot of fun and is a hands-on activity. Kids always love to engage with you on things you enjoy. Maybe you don’t enjoy cooking. I think that as long as you make sure you are the one around the stove, you will have a fun activity to occupy your time. And on a rainy day, you have the easiest and probably best thing to cook where you and your kids can get creative: Soup!!! Who doesn’t love soup on a nice cold day? Older kids cut up the veggies. Maybe the younger kids make sandwiches. Let them be experimental for a day. (I might make them reconsider if they tried to make a peanut butter, jelly, and mustard sandwich.) Or just be safe and have them make toasted cheese sandwiches. This does get more difficult the more kids you have, but maybe you portion out the jobs to each child. I’m getting hungry already.
#4 – Playing hide and seek in the house. I suppose that this can also be very scary. The possibility for disturbingly quiet moments are endless. Obviously, you don’t want your kids getting into dangerous things. Just establish some ground rules before you begin the game. No running; limit places that they can hide; limit the amount of time that they can hide; Increase the amount of seconds someone has to count before they can start looking; etc. It may be difficult to find places to hide inside of an apartment, but you would be surprised at how good your kids can be at hiding from you.
#5 – The mall game. I know a bunch of you are looking at your computer screens with a quizzical look on your faces wondering what in the world I am talking about. I will give a shout out to my ex, her mother and father. I am not the kind of single dad who pretends that the former family had absolutely no good ideas to their credit. This was one of theirs. The rules of the game: Each person is given a limited amount of money with which to spend. Everyone goes throughout the mall and spends that money. They try to get the best deals possible with the limited amount of money that they have. (You will be surprised how many free things you can get at the mall like food, candy, tea, facials, etc.) Make up your own prizes that everyone gets to vote on at the end. Awards usually go for things like most things purchased or received, best individual deal, most items that are the color red, etc. Make up your own awards for your game. Announce what the awards will be for and let everyone vote on them when you are finished. This game might be more fun if you have a few other parents and kids come with you, especially if you are a single parent.
#6 – Build a fort! Hey! Building a fort is a classic of indoor fun. It’s pretending like you are camping inside instead of outside. And now that everyone is forced to be indoors, be sure to make the fort as elaborate as possible. I’ve seen some pretty impressive things done in my time. I wouldn’t suggest attaching anything to a ceiling fan or any other part of electrical equipment. I don’t care how cool the blanket is when it’s electrified to make the fort warmer or whether it looks cool with some bed sheet being flung across the room by the ceiling fan. As Nancy Reagan once opined: Just say no!!!
#7 – Time to form your own family band. Even if it’s just the two of you, you can form a duo. Who doesn’t love a good duo? But what about the noise? Too loud, you say, on a nice rainy day. Would you rather have loud or that dangerously quiet moment? Besides, now the next door neighbors won’t be hearing all that “loud banging” coming from your house and you probably won’t be accused of throwing a house party. It allows you to do something productive and have fun. Be inventive in the kinds of instruments you create. Have them learn whistling, or snapping if they haven’t mastered the skill yet. There are all kinds of songs you can practice, or make up a few new ones of your own. Just have fun with it.
#8 – Legos. I know your children have to have Legos around the house somewhere. Pull those out and get to building something. It can be as easy as building a set that you haven’t put together yet, or you haven’t put together for a long time, or creating one of your own. You can build a house or a tall skyscraper as I was always one to do; you can make your own exotic garden of Legos; or you can go in an entirely new direction and do like the Lego movie says and be your own master builder. Don’t use the crazy glue, unless you really love what you have made. I know I had friends of mine who engaged with their kids in some pretty incredible engineering projects with Legos. You want a teachable moment? Mic dropped!
#9 – Scavenger/Treasure Hunt. Have the kids find different items around the house from items on a list. I wouldn’t recommend having anything too specific because you don’t want your children fighting over the particular items that they are looking for. Be broad and have them find things that are round, square, or some other shape. Or have them find their favorite book, or a book they really enjoy. If you haven’t gotten to engage with them about a lot of things, this is something where the broader the topic in the scavenger hunt, the more likely you are to find something about them that is specific to them. Maybe they will share a secret with you that they only tell their friends at school. Whatever happens, it’s a win for you and a win for them.
#10 – Read a book to them. It does get a little harder with multiple kids of multiple reading levels, but when it’s dark outside it’s a perfect setting for telling scary stories. You can turn off all the lights in the house. (Hey! It’s an excuse to use less electricity. Reduce that carbon footprint.) Get out the flashlights. Prepare the creepy voice. Turn on the scary background music. And let your children’s imaginations run wild. It’s a good way to help them enjoy reading. And it encourages them to read further. Your child’s imaginations are far better than anything that goes on with a TV screen. Just make sure that you tell these stories in the middle of the day so your kids get to fill their minds with other things before going to bed unless you want your kids to sleep in the same bed with you at night. As cute as that is, I prefer my ribs to be in one piece in the morning.
And with that, I am done. But don’t be done thinking of ideas yourself. I am sure that there are a ton of to do list things out there for kids, and mine is hardly the first. Although I think number 5 is pretty darned unique. Thank you, Reese family. Would love to hear about some of the things that you do when you have several days’ worth of weather for which to prepare. So sit back this weekend, relax, and happy puzzling to all of you.
David Elliott – Single Dad’s Guide to Life