by: Emma Aguirre

There’s no end in sight for Houston’s rain and if your toddler is anything like mine, they’re probably ready to start bouncing off the wall. But don’t let the rain dampen your spirits too much. All it takes is a bit of creativity and an open mind!

I recently changed up how my daughter plays. We keep her giant toy basket with her random smaller toys in it, in her bedroom. It used to be in the living room. There are some toys on the bookshelf and some in baskets, but everything is sorted and organized, which has really saved us the last few days. Sometimes we bring out the toy box, sometimes we bring out the puzzles, sometimes we bring out the dolls, sometimes we read…there are options that she gets to pick and she’s not overwhelmed with too much choice. Usually we do whatever activity she picks in her room or the living room, but today as the storm was passing over we jumped on my bed with a basket of books and read under the blankets for a while. It was so cozy and sweet! A total treat, and she might normally have associated books with sleep but the change of scene really kept her excited and engaged. Go play in the spare room, play in your room, your office…there are no rules that say you can’t play with dolls in the kitchen, or give them a pretend bath in your sink!

I’ve also created an arts and craft area with containers that have new, not-for-everyday, learning toys (as well as arts and craft goodies, which are always handy on a rainy day. Keep a box with fun stickers, stampers, new crayons, some coloring books, glue, glitter, on hand.) and we’ve been able to use a few of those this week. Keeping a few birthday presents in hiding, or a few items you’ve picked up on sale, will really help you out when the rain is pouring. How exciting getting out something shiny and new!

Pull out some photographs. My daughter loves pouring over my scrapbooks and can name off several of my friends this way. Its fun to tell her the stories associated with them.

Rainy weather is the perfect time to clean out closets, your kids AND your own and what a perfect excuse for dress up! As she gets older, my daughter’s clothes fit longer and longer, which is awesome, but we still seem to grow out of shoes pretty quickly in this house. She loves trying on my shoes and yesterday I caught her putting on a pair of my shorts around her neck. She was able to wiggle her entire body out of one leg! If you have a few old Halloween costumes laying around, get them out and throw on some wigs too! Use your purses, scarves, old chunky jewelry, hats and make sure you show them their new selves!

Make an obstacle course for your little ones and build a tent with a prize at the end. This is especially fun for several kids together. Throw some pillows on the floor, stick some tape down as a tight rope and make them crawl through the tent, then do it backwards. Have them mimic you somewhere along the way. Today, I lay on the floor and stuck my feet in the air and my daughter did exactly the same thing and thought it was just the funniest thing. That triggered another half an hour of fun playtime. Do some jumping jacks and see just how coordinated they are – or not!

Today we read and pulled out the puzzles and one other ‘special’ toy from the craft box, and our afternoon was filled. What I’ve noticed is that my daughter does better if I set something up, show her and have her maybe try it and then let her go off on her own. I noticed that she’ll come back to it many times, but she just needs that 5 or 10 minutes away from it (perfect for bathroom breaks!), and then she comes back full force. So don’t get discouraged if you’re little one decides to sit in the middle of the obstacle course and hide under the pillow. Just go with it and turn it into hide and seek!

Yesterday during nap, I created a color game. I got out different colored paper and the hole puncher and my plan was to punch out holes and then pick them up (working those fine motor skills) and group them together on the matching color plate. C was fascinated …for all of 10 minutes. And couldn’t even work the single hole punch. She ran off, came back, ran off, found a crayon, colored, had a snack…all while I was punching holes. BUT, when I emptied the hole punchers and all the little circles fell out, her interest piqued once again. We tried to match and failed, maybe a little beyond her right now. Then I sneezed and blew the circles all over the floor which my daughter found fascinating. So that’s what we did. Then, I had to get a dust brush and sweep them up into a pile and she blew them again. We had SO much fun and in the end she was doing it all by herself. Blowing, then sweeping, blowing then sweeping (I have tile and wood so the clean up was minimal and worth it for the giggles!). The afternoon raced by and the rain kept pouring but we had so much – unexpected – fun.

Don’t forget to go splash in those puddles when the rain does stop!