Rainy Days

Every parent needs an arsenal of ideas for those days when creativity has left us and our kids need something fun and easy to entertain or simply distract them.  Not every day is a "rainy day," but many days feel like that to me - a day we are all stuck together with no idea how to fill the hours. For me, these "rainy day" times come between the hours of 4 and 7, when I've already spent all the energy I woke up with, but there are still so many hours to fill before I can lay my little boys down for a good night's sleep!  Here are some of the things we do together that are easy and cheap.


Digging For Fossils 

Winter is upon us, and we need "rainy day" ideas more than ever!  As you all know, my boys share a love of dragons and dinosaurs, so any game involving them is a sure hit!

I got this idea from a friend last winter and it was a huge success then, but I forgot about it over the summer, as indoor activities were not really needed.  We call this activity "Digging for fossils," but what you add to it is totally up to you, based on what your kids are interested in!  I do have to warn those of you who do not handle extra mess with ease: this activity can be messy and will require some clean-up afterwards.  For me, it is worth the mess with how much fun they have with it!

Here's what you need:
A large, flat plastic bin with a lid
Dried, uncooked rice or beans (we have used both and both are fun, but rice works better for fossil digging.)
We add dinosaur fossils and paint brushes

You will need a big enough bin for all your kids to use.  I got mine at Target.  It needs a lid for obvious putting away reasons!

Get as much rice or beans as you want to put in it.  Make sure not to make the bin too heavy, but there needs to be enough to spread around and bury things in!

Hide your fossils in the "sand," give your little archaeologists some paint brushes, and let them unearth their discoveries!

I surprised my boys with this bin this time around.  I set it up while they were at school, so they didn't know what was hidden in it.  It was really fun to watch them carefully sweeping the rice with their brushes and discover the treasures within!

As I mentioned before, this can be done with beans instead of rice, which is really fun to dig your hands into (I confess, I enjoy it as well...).  You don't have to dig for fossils.  My boys also like to push tractors and cars around in it, making mountains and digging holes.  We bury pennies in it and they get to keep all that they find.  You don't have to come up with many ideas.  Your kids will take care of that part!

It can be messy, even when they are trying their hardest to keep the mess down, but your floor probably needs a sweeping anyways, right?  


I introduced these to my boys before they were really showing much interest in writing or drawing as a way to encourage these things in them.  As they have gotten a bit older and become more interested in both drawing and writing, these journals are  GREAT way to organize their work and also keep their precious scribblings, pictures, stories, art work from school and church - all those things that normally end up cluttering your counter tops or thrown in the garbage.  

 What you need:
a blank notebook
art supplies
pictures if you like
 Just get your child an empty journal, explain what it is for, and let them fill it!  My boys love pictures of themselves, so I put a picture of them in the front of each of their journals.

Mitchell's journal is still pretty heavy on the  scribbles so far.  Now that he is in school, we tape in some of his school art and letters he brings home because he is pretty proud of them.  

Ben is really starting to get creative with his though.  What began as a place to scribble and draw page after page of cars has become a place for him to draw all sorts of pictures, tape in school work, practice writing short sentences, and dictate stories to me to write down.  

"Writing stories" is a favorite thing for both boys, actually.  They think up stories, and I write them down word-for-word.  Ben illustrates his with appropriate pictures, then I read them back to them and they LOVE it!  Ben's are quite descriptive and have a little bit of a plot, while Mitchell's are just hilarious and crack the boys up over and over again.  They sometimes pick these stories over real story books when it comes time to read to them. 

We fill the pages with dragons and dinosaurs, cars and pictures of our family.  We use all sorts of supplies: crayons, markers, stickers, scissors, magazine clippings, pictures... probably all things you already do with your kids, but don't have a great way of keeping the best ones without cluttering up some part of your house.

These come in handy when I am busy feeding Jack or they need something to settle them down in quiet time.  We bring them on road trips with a few crayons for entertainment.  The boys no longer need any encouragement from me to use these and are quite proud of their collections of special creations.  They often bring them out to show babysitters and relatives when they are here.  I also love to have a record of what they are doing and love to look back at older ones to see how they are improving and to remind me of what they were doing and interested in when younger.   


Tubby Toys

Here is another great idea for making toys out of recyclables!  My kids are always watching for when I run out of something in the kitchen so that they can be the first to "call" the squeezie container and bring it up to the bathtub as a new toy.  

What you need:
any empty condiment container - ones with squeezie tops work best.  

All you have to do for this one is wash out your old plastic ketchup, syrup, mustard, or honey container!  Beware of running it through the dishwasher though.  Mine is so hot it melts them and ruins them.

These are so much fun for my kids.  They use them for making potions, for squirting each other, and for making food for their dinosaurs that they always have in the tub.  They also enjoy dumping them on baby Jack's head, but that is not how I intended for this toy to be used!  However they decide to to use them, they definitely prefer them to any "real" tubby toy.  


Men At Work

I recently got an idea from my mother-in-law for a fun thing to do outside while it is still nice enough to do it.  If your kids love playing with water as much as mine do, this will be an easy way to let your little ones entertain themselves for quite some time!

What you need:
paintbrushes (a variety keeps them happy for longer!)
bucket of water
an outdoor space 

Put a little water in a bucket.  I stick with just a few inches rather than filling it so that when it inevitably spills, it isn't as much mess.
Let your child pick their brush, dip it in the water, and paint away!  It's just water, so everything (at least on my patio) is fair game besides the dirt in the flower pots!

Of course, it is best to do this on a warm day, as painting the wood quickly becomes painting each other and the baby, but the amount of water involved can be as little as you choose so the amount that ends up on clothes (and the baby's head) can be minimal.

This works best on a surface that "turns color" when wet, such as wood or cement.  The side of our house is boring to "paint" because it looks the same wet and dry.  

We bought a variety pack of brushes that had 4 different sizes.  The big one is a hit with Mitchell because it carries the most water and gets things the wettest.  Ben prefers the smallest one because he can write his name and draw dragons with it.

Even the baby can be involved with this one!  He loves the texture of the brushes, and he loves to splash around in water, so this is perfect for him.  He is even patient enough to let his brothers "paint" him!

Mitchell especially likes to keep physically busy as often as possible.  He's not one for sitting quietly in most instances.  He calls this activity the "Men at work" game, and even developed rules for it: I have to call the workers on the phone and tell them I need the workers to come paint for me.  When they show up, I have to point out what needs painting, they paint it, I pay them, they "leave" and then it all starts over again...and again...and again...


Water Guns and Window Washing

All through the summer, my boys were obsessed with soaking each other.  We bought them a variety of water guns, but the big ones are too hard for them to use without parental help and the little ones barely hold enough water and have to constantly be refilled, which they quickly tire of.  When they give up on the water guns, they head for the hose, and that is always a mess!  As much as we all love a good soaking with the hose sometimes, especially on a hot day, sometimes you just don't want quite that level of mess.  We have discovered the perfect water guns!  

What you need:
empty (and thoroughly rinsed)
spray bottles
an added extra: window

Make sure you thoroughly clean out these spray bottles, of course.  Be ware of putting them in the dishwasher though - mine is too hot and it melts them!

These are much better than regular water guns for a few reasons: they hold a lot more water, they are easy for kids to open/close/fill, and they have two different settings - spray and squirt!

I fill these up and turn my boys loose on the patio.  That way, there is no dirt involved, only water!
I also give them both their own squeegie and
they "wash" my windows for me.  I have big
glass doors on both my patios that get a
constant thorough cleaning!  Mitchell also
squeegies the BBQ, the table, the ground, his
legs, Jack...you get the idea.  He loves that thing!


Treasure Hunting
Sometimes, I like to disguise a normal activity as something more special.  If I ask the boys, "Hey, do you guys want to go take a walk?" they almost always decline.  However, if I ask them if they want to go on a treasure hunt, they run for their shoes and bags!  This is a great thing to do when you can't think of anything else to do and you are tired of the park, but you wan to get outside and provide some exercise/entertainment for your kids with very little effort on your part!

What you need:

a bag
possibly some sort of anti- 
bacterial wipes 
that's it!

Now, just roam around the neighborhood or park, letting your kids find "treasures" to pick up and put in their bag!  If your kids are anything like mine, you will need to watch what they are picking up, as some "treasures" are best left on the ground.

One thing we do with this activity sometimes is to have a theme for our treasure hunt, like find dinosaur eggs or a specific color rock or the most interesting stick.  I usually encourage them to explain to me why they have chosen each treasure to help them learn to describe things.  We are learning about "details" now and what they are and how to describe them.  

Here are some examples of some of the loot we have come home with:

These are our dinosaur eggs.  We took them home, filled a bucket of water, brought it out on the patio, and scrubbed the "eggs"  clean.  Of course, they immediately had to go in the "nest," which is a planter full of dirt, so I'm not sure they needed scrubbing first.

Here we have just some rocks.  We were seeing who could find the most interesting rock with the most detail.  They love dumping their bags out, sorting through them, comparing their finds, washing them up, then finding a use for them or simply displaying them somewhere.  

Another treasure we hunt for are interesting leaves.  My treasure hunters love fall because of all the varieties of leaves they can find!  This is a really fun thing to do during this season.

We have a lot of fun with this and it takes no supplies and no creativity on your part.  I realize you have to allow your child to pick up things off the ground, but what do you think soap (or antibacterial wipes) are made for?


Drawing On The Walls

If your kids are like mine, drawing on a small square of paper may be something to do, but not really something to get excited about and actually ask to do.  We found an interesting twist to simple coloring (or painting) that is almost as easy to set up as regular coloring, but a lot more fun!  When I first did this, I set it up with them out of the room and then called them in and asked them if they wanted to color on the walls.  They thought I was joking until they saw the paper on the walls.  They loved it.  It was a fun surprise they ask for all the time now.

What you need:
large roll of paper (Ikea and Joanne's have 
cheap ones)
crayons, markers, paint

Cut off a section of paper as tall 
as your child is, then tape it to 
the wall.

Make sure you turn it around 
and use the back side as well!

Watermelon Popsicles

One of my favorite things about summer is all the different kinds of delicious and affordable fruit!  My boys LOVE fruit.  We have not found a fruit they will not eat.  Even baby Jack gobbles up whatever fruit is put in front of him - small pieces of fruit is the one sure way to keep him quiet and happy.   Among the fruit readily available in summertime is watermelon.  We love it!

For this next idea, I have to give credit to my sister, who suggested it to us when she saw how much my boys enjoy watermelon.  This is a really fun way to use up that giant watermelon, rather than constantly cutting and slicing and letting it take up so much space in your fridge.  These can be made by you and your kids ahead of time, then stored in your freezer for a tasty and healthy treat any time you would normally serve fruit!

Things you will need:

cookie cutters
popsicle sticks

Let your kids pick a cookie cutter and press it
into the slice.  You should be able to get a
couple out of each slice.
Remove the shape from the slice and stick a
popsicle stick in the bottom, then put it on a

Pop them into the freezer, let them harden,
and enjoy your delicious, home-made
watermelon popsicles!



We Never Throw A Box Away!

My boys both love boxes.  It used to be that they used them simply to put their treasures in, but as they get older and more creative, we find more and more uses for cardboard!  One of our favorite things to do with old boxes is make picture frames.

Here's what you need:

crayons or markers,
box cutter (I highly recommend NOT using your kitchen scissors)

Cut the cardboard into rectangles, then color a frame around the outside.  I did the frame part because Ben didn't like how messy they looked when he did it.  Funny kid.

Now you have a perfect little frame for your artist to make his/her masterpiece!  

I think Ben's favorite part of this activity is hanging them all over the house.  I have them in my bedroom, my bathroom, the hallway, and they are all over his room, of course!

I actually have a stack of these pre-made, just waiting for a time when my poor little boys have run out of things to do and are sooooo bored that they resort to mischief.  


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