Turn the kids bed into a pirate ship
Do your children make their beds in the morning? We’re willing to bet they don’t, especially at weekends. So, on a rainy week-end, when everyone wants to lay in their pyjamas a little longer, why not embrace it, create a pirate ship right in your child’s bed and play a little pirate game. First name your ship, something like The Deceitful Eel, the Flying King or the Good Squid. Then make a team of crew mates – with dolls, toys and teddies and give them names : Hysterical Darius Scarr, or Sweatin’ Benjamin Sparrow. Take the top sheet and throw it over the headboard to make a sail. Make sure everyone – the captain, the crew members are on the bed, ensuring that they are not eaten by sharks (remind them of the shark at regular intervals).
After some navigation it is time to arrive at other islands, such as the kitchen or the living room where it is time for a hearty pirate breakfast. You can go ahead and try to make the bed once the children have had enough pirate fun.
Draw the biggest ever picture
It feels like an exciting challenge to draw on a giant picture when you’re stuck indoors on a rainy day. If you have rolls or paper or even several bits of paper, begin by unrolling the paper roll or putting the bits of paper together down on the floor through to the hallway. Any theme is possible for your masterpieces: life-size trains, landscapes or animals. You can then reuse the picture to pin it in your children gallery of paintings.
Make a mask and pretend to be a superhero!
Our son loves to hide behind the couch pillows and giggles so we have to pretend we can’t find him and wonder why the couch is giggly. He also loves his cat suit and mask that we bought from e-bay. There’s no need to buy a mask, though – you can make a very low cost mask with an empty cereal packet ( a large one), a bottle of black paint and rubber bands. Cut the cardboard in the shape of the mask that you desire – can be Batman or any other character and paint it black or any colour you like. You can also stick decoration on the mask, like glitter, feathers or anything else. This should keep the children busy during a long rainy day for a couple of hours. Attach the elastic bands through a hole and hook them behind their ears and they’re ready for some pretend play.
Create a family picture tree
You can go as far back as you have pictures – grand-parents or some great-great grand parents. Call out to grandparents to dust off the old albums and pull out the baby pictures. I have a photograph of my great grand-parents, on their wedding day, a black and white almost brown picture from a different century and era.
First draw the tree on a piece of card (check out this link here on other ideas to draw trees) and mark the positions for the pictures. You can add as many family members as you want – brothers, sisters, cousins etc. To preserve the photos, use a scanner to make copies. Start with the eldest generation at the top, then work your way downwards, jumping down a step so that the youngest end up somewhere in the middle of the tree. The children will have fun trying to guess who is that auntie or uncle in those baby pictures.
Make art from literally anything
We have made art from recycled material before, but you can use a pair of scissors, chop anything you see in your way (well….almost!) and create some piece of art. The advertising material that you get through your post, can become a pile of colourful scraps. Use anything you have hoarded, wrappers, bottle tops, electrical wire, scraps of shiny paper to create animals, such as a fish with a shiny belly, fins, big eyes and teeth.
Freeze ice moulds and make some sculptures
You can make beautiful translucent sculptures with little treasures inside, such as leaves, berries, or flowers. The simplest way to do this is to fill a container – such as cake moulds, or even sand toys with water and leave it in the freezer.
Or you can take more time (always practical on a long rainy day) and make something more elaborate a mould out of clay, line it with cling film and fill the hollow with water. You can also use balloons, fill them up with water and hide a little toy in them like a little toy dinosaur and then pretend to excavate the dinosaur eggs.
You can then ask your children to do some archeological digging, to find the hidden treasures in the ice sculpture.
Play I Spy
This game is a classic and can be played not only with the eyes, but with the nose, ears, fingers and tongues. Try to play I Hear With My Little Ear while asking your children to close their eyes. You will soon discover that the range of sounds that you can hear in a house is huge – from the humming of a fridge, through the noise of the rain drops outside, the squeal of the TV on stand by or anything else. This should also be quite a great game for relaxation and mindfulness so that’s a bonus for stressed parents!
Make some (non alcoholic) mulled wine for kids
…and some alcholic one for you!
This activity requires some preparation beforehand – in that you’ll need the spices. But, if you are used to making mulled wine at Christmas, this will be easy and a great idea for those rainy days.
This is pretty easy to do, gather a carton of cranberry juice, the rind of two oranges, about a dozen cloves, four tablespoons of clear honey, a teaspon of vanilla extract, a couple of cinnamon sticks and some freshly ground nutmeg.
Heat gently the cranberry juice in a saucepan, add the honey and vanilla extract and stir slowly for a couple of minutes. Drop in the orange rind, cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and warm through.
And now do the same but using wine!
Create your own board game
When you are housebound with your children on a rainy day, you can create your own board game. All you need are 2-3 sheets of A4 paper, some scissors, pencils and a bit of imagination.
Board games are great because they teach children things like abstract maths such as probabilities “you have a one in six chance of landing on the square”. These games also teach preschoolers social skills, such as turn taking and learning to deal with winning or losing.
Choose a topic that children know about, like visiting the doctor while ill, or going on holiday or making new friends.
For example, one aim could be to chose a holiday destination like Paris. A roll of the dice will determine which mode of transport is taken, rail, plane or even bike on foot for a giggle. Random event cards can be drawn on specially coloured squares (such as a flat tyre, a train breakdown, or taking a different route).
Capture autumn’s colours
Colours in autumn with a large array of red, orange, yellow and brown are very pretty. As daylight decreases, the clorophyll (the green bit of the leaf that converts sunlight into energy) dissolves revealing colours that have always been there, often the product of waste.
You can capture those colours relatively easily. As soon as autumn arrives, collect different-coloured leaves, including one still green (nettle or spinach from the supermarket). You will need some surgical spirit or acetone, some small jars, a large flat dish, hot water and bleached coffee filter papers.
Cut up the leaves into tiny pieces, then grind them with a mortar and pestle. Pour each colour into its own jar, cover with a few millimeters of surgical spirit or acetone and place the jars in the dish and pour in some very hot water. This may need to be topped up to keep it heated for at least half an hour.
Remove the jars from the heat, take the lids off and dip a strip of filter paper into each one, which should be left for at least half and hour. The science behind this is that the alcohol rises up the paper through capillary action, pulling up pigment from the solution. As it evaporates, different colours travel different distances. If you are lucky the paper will dry to reveal a good spread of colours.