Rainy days are something that we teachers sometimes groan about. A whole day inside with a class of energetic, hands-on children? How will I survive, we wonder? Easy, get outside!
Why do we worry so much about getting a little wet? While often our first thoughts of going out in the rain involve getting cold and soaked to the core, children usually have an entirely different response. Puddle jumping, mud, a new playscape to discover! There are endless possibilities for fun, learning and discovery on a wet day. And with a little preparation, you can create a culture in your classroom where a rainy day is seen as gift from nature, not a sentence to be indoors all day.
There’s no such thing as bad clothing, just inappropriate clothing
- Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Create a culture of being outdoors
Begin a discussion with your parent community about spending time outdoors in all types of weather. Ask them if they have any childhood memories of going outside on rainy days. You could also share interesting articles about the benefits of nature play, such as this one by the Nature Wildlife Federation.
Send home a note asking parents to help their children come prepared on rainy days by bringing gumboots, a waterproof jacket, an umbrella and spare clothes. One of the things I love about teaching in the Czech Republic is that the kids are always arrive at preschool dressed for the elements. Snow? No worries! We still head to the forest, play in the meadow, or go to the playground.
Your school could also consider investing in a set of inexpensive raincoats (the plastic type) or umbrellas for children who forget to bring their rainy day clothing.
You’re outside in the rain…now what?
Go on a sensory walk. A rainy day feels so different from a typical sunny day. Discover and talk about these differences with the children when you’re outside. What can you smell? See? Taste? Feel? Hear? How many raindrops can you catch on your tongue? Does the sky look different from yesterday? Or even this morning? Are the clouds moving quickly or slowly? What colours do you notice? There are unusual sounds too, from thunder claps, to the sound that cars make when they drive on the wet road. Even the sound of the rain falling changes, depending on the intensity. And of course, there’s that unforgettable sound of splashing in a puddle.
Give the children time for unstructured play. The playground, sandpit and outdoor environment will be very different than on a dry, sunny day. Let the kids discover these differences and incorporate them into their free play.
Go puddle jumping
What’s a child’s first instinct when they see a puddle? That’s right, jump in it. And what’s our adult brain’s instinct? To tell them to stay out of it. But if the children have a change of clothes, they can simply get changed once they’ve had enough. Plus, they’re learning valuable skills when they dress themselves and manage their belongings independently.
Catch raindrops, draw, hunt and make boats
Catch raindrops together. A fun activity can be to give the children a container to catch raindrops in, or challenge them to find something themselves – such as a leaf or a piece of bark. You could also obeserve the clever ways that plants ‘catch’ raindrops and funnel the water down to their root systems.
Draw with chalk. Create bold, vibrant artworks by drawing onto wet surfaces with chalk.
Hunt for rain-loving creatures. It’s not just kids that love to get out in the rain! Snails and worms come out to play, and it’s a lovely sight to see a magpie taking a bath in a puddle!
Make boats. Collect natural materials such as bark, sticks and leaves, and make boats to float in puddles.
And when it’s time to come inside…
Ask the children to remove wet boots or any muddy clothing before they enter the classroom. Have a few chairs and towels sitting by the door too, so children can sit to remove any wet clothing and dry themselves off. A bucket by the door to pop umbrellas in is a good idea too.
The rainy-day fun doesn’t have to end when everyone’s back inside either. Talk about what you experienced. Turn off the lights, lay down and listen to the rain falling together. Does it sound different from being outside? You could also try making your own rainstorm using body percussion! Follow this link for ideas.
Or, get some art supplies and make a sound-map of the rain.
Until next time – happy puddle jumping!
This article was written by Wenone Hope (Blue Mountains, Australia).
Wenone was born and raised in the farming region of Wagga Wagga, Australia. She now finds herself teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in the Czech Republic. A teacher for 12 years, she has a background in Early Childhood Education and has also done postgraduate studies in Special Education and Early Intervention. Wenone is an Early Childhood Consultant at Lipa Learning, and has also been a Preschool Educational Leader in the Blue Mountains and a Primary School Educational Director in Canberra, Australia. She’s an advocate for inclusive education, where diversity in the classroom (and life!) is celebrated. When she’s not in the classroom, she’s out in nature, playing roller-derby, traveling, or enjoying a good book.