It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere, which means a lot of us are experiencing a whole lot of rain.
And while I’m a big fan of sending my kid out to play in the rain during the spring and summer, when it’s cold outside it’s not fun for anyone.
Like many households, screen time is a whole giant topic in our home. Our kid gets one hour a day to spend doing whatever he wants on screens. Sometimes he gets extra time if he’s playing a computer game with a friend, or we all also love to watch things together (we’re currently going through Band of Brothers with him, and it’s still just as devastating as it was the first time).
However: On rainy days, it’s so super tempting to let him stare at a screen as long as he wants to. And you know what? Sometimes he gets to because we’re not perfect. But other times, one of us will pull it together and come up with an idea or two that will keep him entertained, and we all usually end up having fun as a result.
So here are 10 of my favorite screen-free rainy day activities. The best part? They’re totally fun for your tween (and maybe even your teens), too.
1. Use yarn to build a string maze.
OK, there are two ways to talk about this idea. One is that you are building a maze for your kids to make their way through, and the other is that you are building a laser light simulation with string for your kids, who are spies. In the former, you use yarn or whatever string you have lying around to weave a web through your home, with clear beginning and end points. In the latter, your children have to try to make it to the end of the simulation without tripping the wire and getting zapped and/or caught by enemies.
After you build the first maze/laser trap, the kiddos will inevitably want to build their own. Seriously, this can go on for hours. Let it!
2. Build a blanket fort and have a Nerf battle.
I know there are many truths to get out of the way here: First, not everyone likes toy guns. Second, not everyone lets their kids shoot Nerf guns in the house. I actually abhor guns of all kinds, but my kid quickly realized that he could spend the money he gets from his allowance and gifts on Nerf guns, and that was his prerogative. I admire a spirited child who finds loopholes, so I let him. Now he has an entire arsenal, and we have embraced all things Nerf.
I digress. I think you know where this particular idea is going: You build a fort out of blankets (or maybe two forts), and you launch yourselves into Nerf battle. Watch out for the pictures on the wall/the dog/any vases you might have on tables. It’s going to get messy!
Challenge: If you really want to be adventurous, turn the couch over on its side and use that as a base. You’ll win every time.
3. Use a box to make a cardboard television.
If your kids are bound and determined to watch television, totally let them … as long as it’s a cardboard TV. If you happen to have a large enough box nearby, have your kids make their own TV and pretend to watch it. I know it sounds silly, but they will probably totally get into it. You could even cut out the screen and your kid could act out the television show while everyone else watches.
4. Build a workout station with pool noodles.
This idea is a little out there, but it’s something my husband came up with for our son ages ago. We had a bunch of pool noodles in our apartment because we were planning to set up some kind of fun exercise that could double as physical therapy for our then 4-year-old. My husband ended up cutting the noodles in half and hanging them from the ceiling at varying heights. The goal was to have our son try to kick them, but instead, he just ran through them with his arms outstretched and had a glorious time for HOURS.
5. Use another cardboard box to make dioramas.
I love a good cardboard box, because they really do open up endless possibilities for fun, especially on days when you might be a little stretched thin. Another great use for a cardboard box is building dioramas. You can build any kind you want! Dinosaurs, fairies, a circus — you get the idea. In fact, my husband once built our son a diorama with the characters from Interstella 5555 in it, and it was a big hit. Our son played with the little characters for a really long time and was always so happy to see the stage sitting in his room.
6. Have your kids write a short play.
If your kids are anything like mine, they might resist this idea at first. My son is a great storyteller who loves pretending and has been capable of playing on his own for hours his entire life — but he hates the idea of having to formally commit his ideas to paper or anything resembling paper. If you are up for it, however, or if you have lots of kids who will all love the idea, challenge your kids to write their own short play. They will be consumed with the script, the set, the costumes … it can take all day.
7. Play "pet spa" with the family pets.
OK, this is an idea that will keep everyone happy but also do you a HUGE favor. Round up the family pets, and play “pet spa” with everyone. You know: It’s time to bathe and groom the whole gang. We have three dogs, a cat, and a gecko, and the idea of taking care of all of them on the same day is simultaneously thrilling and exhausting, so I get it … but at the end of the day, your animals will be freshly cleaned and clipped, and your kids might be so tired they stop asking you for another dog.
8. Put on a lip-sync concert.
I love a good family dance party or lip-sync concert, and they’re so easy to have! If you have a CD player and CDs (I know, I know, we’re like that), you don’t even need to cheat and use a screen for this one. If you don’t, use your phone to pull up a playlist of all your kid’s favorite songs. Then put on a show! Everyone takes turns lip-syncing to their favorite tune. Bonus points if you wear costumes!
9. Finally learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons.
OK: This is an undertaking, but if you have a committed group of kids who will listen, it’s worth it. Our family started playing D&D together last year after my husband had been asking us to for what felt like eons. It turns out we all love it, and my husband even runs a kids group for my son and his friends. A wet, rainy day is the perfect day to pull your D&D materials together and start playing.
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10. The ultimate: Don't fall in the lava!
I saved my very favorite rainy day activity for last — everyone’s favorite classic, Don’t Fall in the Lava! You know how it goes: You can jump on the furniture, on chairs, and maybe even the rug, but no matter what, you absolutely cannot let your feet hit the ground or you will burn up in the lava and never, ever recover.