Learning and Development

Rainy day activities – 12 brilliant ideas for Early Years

  • Rainy day activities – 12 brilliant ideas for Early Years

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but don’t let that stop you having keeping busy and having fun, with these brilliant rainy day activities from Jude Harries…

Wet weather ideas

Mud printing
On a rainy day, invite children to put on weatherproof gear, including boots, and go outside to play in the rain. Yes, let the rain be seen as a resource rather than a nuisance!

Encourage little learners to step onto the edge of flowerbeds and make muddy footprints on the playground or outside area. Can they create a trail for each other to follow?

Roll out lengths of lining paper and let children walk on it to create patterns of muddy prints. Splash in puddles to clean off all the mud before going back inside.

Rain soup
Leave buckets and washing up bowls outside to catch the rain over night. Add small bowls, jugs and spoons and create a portable mud kitchen. Ask children to put on raincoats and boots and go outside to mix soil, sand, gravel and stones into the collected water to create rain or mud soup.

Can they find different natural materials to add into the mix, such as leaves, herbs, moss, feathers and twigs? Remind children not to eat the soup! Instead, go inside and have some homemade hot soup (see ‘Inside ideas’ below) for snack time.

Stepping-stone bridges
Show the children some images of stepping-stones. Talk about how they can be used to create bridges across water. Go outside and make a collection of stones, rocks, pebbles and logs. Invite children to construct stepping-stone bridges across muddy puddles for small toys to walk over.

If possible, use bigger stones so children can try balancing or walking on them. Inside, make some stepping-stones out of paper or card, write letters or numbers on them and build bridges across the room. 

Ideas for cold days

Frosted art
On a cold and frosty morning, help the children to wrap up warm in coats, scarves, hats and gloves before going outside to explore the frost. Look at patterns of frost and ice on the ground and on leaves. Take photos of frosty patterns.

Back inside, read Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara or look at images of Andy Goldsworthy’s ice sculptures.

Show children how to use blunt pencils to make patterns on Styrofoam blocks. Paint with white paint and print onto blue paper to create frosty patterns. Alternatively, make patterns with white chalk on leaf shapes cut out of sugar paper.

Snow painting
If you’re lucky enough to have some snow, take the opportunity to play outside with the children, all wearing appropriate gear of course. Use found sticks and twigs to create canvases or frames for some snow art.

Make some snow paint using just three ingredients – warm water, cornflour and food colouring - or use ready mixed tempera paint. Try painting on the fluffy snow with brushes.

Pour some paint into spray bottles and spray the snow. Have fun stamping on the snow to make a flatter surface to paint. Paint a picture, take a photo and then move on.

Winter jewels
Another Big Coat Weather activity! Fill some high-quality balloons with coloured water to create lots of different sizes and shapes. Tie them off tightly and then freeze outside overnight or in a freezer. The next morning, slide off the balloon casings to reveal different coloured winter jewels.

Make sure all the children have gloves or mittens before they handle their creations. Let them enjoy transporting the jewels around the outside area in wheelbarrows or on sit and ride toys. Can they build some sparkly structures? Do the ice shapes roll or stay still?

Suggestions for spring

Gumboot dancing
Watch some South African gumboot dancing on YouTube.

This originated in the gold mines of South Africa, where miners worked in the dark and wet underground and communicated with each other by tapping their boots, stamping and clapping.

On a showery day, go outside with wellington boots on and try some gumboot dancing. Invite the children to stand in a line by some puddles. Have fun making up patterns of stamping, splashing, slapping boots, and clapping hands.

Pancake races
This idea is perfect for Pancake Day. Organise some weatherproof pancake races outside using small frying pans, paper or cardboard yellow circles as pancakes and an obstacle course for the children to tackle. Use balance beams, steps, slalom cones, and a finishing line.

Can the children practise tossing the pancakes as they run? Go inside and make some real pancakes to share for snack time, with a choice of accompaniments such as lemon, sugar, fresh fruit and maple syrup.

Chasing raindrops
When sudden rain forces you inside unexpectedly, read some books about rain such as Rain by Sam Usher or Singing in the Rain by Tim Hopgood.

Try some raindrop races. Invite children to find a partner and take turns to sit with their friend by the window. Each child chooses a raindrop to watch as they fall down the windowpane. Which raindrop will reach the bottom fastest? This game also works well on long car or coach journeys!

Inside ideas

Writing on the wall
Create a wet weather writing wall in your setting for the children to use on a rainy day. Cover a display board or moveable screen with white or black backing paper. Provide lots of different pens and chalks for children to practise mark making and writing.

Let them access the wall by allowing them to stand on chairs, step ladders or upturned boxes (under supervision of course) as that will increase the attraction to write.

Den building
Build a cosy den in your setting for children to enjoy after playing outside in the cold and wet. Use screens to make it enclosed, like a cave, and provide cushions, pillows, blankets, drapes, and comfy chairs for children to snuggle with.

Set up a reading corner with lots of books about the transition from winter to spring such as Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson or Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring by Kenard Pak.

Talk about the den being a hibernation hide and let children role play waking up after a long sleep or rest. Provide hot chocolate as a ‘hug in a mug’ and cookies for energy. Alternatively, go outside and build a den using pallets, crates, tarpaulins, plastic sheets and fastenings. Keep children on the move to keep them feeling warm.

Green soup
Make some tasty green soup with the children to share on a wet or cold day. Pour a 500g bag of frozen peas into a saucepan. Let the children stir the peas with a wooden spoon and enjoy the clattery sound.

Peel four potatoes, cut them into small cubes and add to the pan with one litre of stock. Simmer for 10 minutes until the potatoes are soft, blend the soup, and stir in 2 spoons of green pesto. Make croutons from bread or fish fingers and serve with the soup for snack time.

More rainy resources

Don’t forget to use the rainy weather as an extra resource. Yes, puddles are for splashing and jumping in; but they can also be used for measuring.

Let children find different-sized puddles and select the smallest and biggest ones. Use tape measures and rulers to measure puddles and record the changes as they either dry up or get bigger. Measure depth by using chalk to mark water levels on wellies.

Make a rain gauge to measure daily rainfall using a clear plastic bottle: cut off the top and fill the first 2cm with pebbles to stop it being blown over, then fill with a small amount of water to cover the pebbles and use a Sharpie to mark it at 1cm intervals, starting with the water level as 0.

Finally, investigate the water cycle and find out where rain comes from by reading Drop by Emily Kate Moon.

Jude Harries is an author and teacher of music and drama, with experience of working with children aged nine months to 11 years.