Updated: May 24
With wet weather conditions, children are often forced to stay indoors and miss out on their regular outdoor activities. Rainy days can be challenging for both children and parents, as kids tend to have more energy than usual and usually become restless when cooped up inside. However, there are plenty of fun indoor activities that can help keep children entertained and engaged while staying safe and dry.
Now listen, I love my kids to death. Every parent I know loves their kids more than anything in the world, but that doesn’t mean that having them at home all day, every day, for weeks and months at a time, is easy. I just wanted to drop in here and give you some tips to keep your children feeling secure and rested and to help you keep your sanity while you’re at it.
Rainy day activities at home
Stick to a routine
Have you ever wondered why babies can engage in the same boring little pastime for hours on end? Why can a game of peek-a-boo make them squeal with delight as heartily on the hundredth time as it does on the first? It’s because, at least in part, their expectations are being met. They watch you put your hands over your face, then think to themselves, “Oh hey! I know what happens next! She’s going to move her hands away, and her face is going to be right there!” And sure enough, the hands drop; Mama gives her the familiar “Peek-a-boo!” and baby thinks to herself, “Oh, I knew it! I knew that was going to happen!”
Routines give kids a sense of security. Knowing what’s on the schedule provides them with a road map for their day, and that knowledge makes them confident and puts their minds at ease, so even though we may need to make some serious concessions, there’s a lot to be said for keeping things predictable and consistent wherever possible. This doesn’t mean you need to book in every single second of their day, but a loose schedule of activities goes a long way.
Embrace screen time
In my case, and in the case of nearly every other parent I know, we’ve slightly upped screen time by about three thousand per cent. Although we would prefer to be the type of parents who use this time to teach their children how to make sourdough bread and macrame bespoke hoodies for their iguanas, let's face it, none of us are excited about the current situation. It seems like those Instagram-influencer parents are not restricted by the same laws of space and time as the rest of us, and their children are robotic creatures who are programmed to follow through with any Pinterest project their parents concoct obediently. For those of us in the real world, extra screen time for the kids might just be the difference between a peaceful afternoon and a mutual meltdown.
Just one caveat; screens emit a lot of blue light which can interfere with the body’s natural circadian rhythm, so go ahead and let your kids indulge in extra screen time, but turn them off two hours before bedtime. (The screens, not your kids.)
Keep meals consistent and minimise snacking
Again, try to stay as consistent as possible when it comes to mealtimes. Few things affect our bodies’ sense of timing, like when we eat, so allowing meal and snack times to fluctuate too much can upend your little one’s schedule. Sugary snacks will likely leave them with too much energy come bedtime and the occasional upset tummy, so keep an eye on how much junk food they’re getting into.
Outside play at home
Your kids will likely have a ton of excess energy from being cooped up inside. With no playground to frolic in and no friends to chase around, you’ll need to get creative to help them tire themselves out. Using your outdoor undercover area is a good idea, especially if you have a lot of space. Even some sunlight will help maintain the circadian rhythm, and a bike ride or even a brisk walk can help reduce feelings of confinement and keep you and your kids from going stir-crazy. Building a temporary indoor play area out of furniture and cushions can be a great project to keep your kids occupied and provide them with some stuff to climb on too.
Set your alarm
Now, since many of us are no longer under any obligation to get up for work and school on time, we might get to thinking that this is a good opportunity for everybody to catch up on some sleep by turning off the morning alarms. I’m tempted to do so myself, to be honest, but sticking to the usual bedtimes and wake-up times is really important. Predictability and structure are, again, sources of comfort for our kids, so even though there’s no morning bell, it’s still a good idea to keep things on schedule. Besides, things are eventually going to go back to some kind of normal, and trying to get them back onto their usual schedule is going to be a challenge. You’re better off just sticking to the tried and true.
For older kids, some deep breathing exercises during their bedtime routine can help to settle them down at the end of the day. I’m not suggesting they start meditation classes, but deep-breathing games can actually be a lot of fun! Check out Coping Skills for Kids for a ton of great ideas.
Maintain a happy atmosphere
Outside of the sleep realm, there are a couple of other tips I’d like to offer you. As you undoubtedly know, kids are perceptive little creatures, and they probably know that there’s something serious happening at the moment. They might not bring it up too much, but there’s likely something pinging around in the back of their heads that has them a little bit on edge. This can be amplified if they see that their parents are concerned and on edge as well, so try to keep the atmosphere cheery and light. I know it’s not easy, given the circumstances, but stressed-out kids aren’t going to improve the situation. If they have questions, you should be honest and forthcoming, but your attitude towards things will work wonders in keeping their minds at ease.
Last but not least, try not to watch the news coverage with the kids around. They’re always listening, and hearing terms like “death toll” and “flooding” will increase their stress levels. It’s essential to stay informed, but try to do so after they’ve gone to bed.
This article was written by Richelle Franklin, Parents You've Got This Sleep Expert and Melbourne's top sleep consultant from Sleep Right Tonight. Richelle presents at Parents You've Got This Baby Basics and Starting Solids and Infant Sleep classes.