“A rainy day is the perfect time for a walk in the woods.”
– Rachel Carson
Rain, rain, go away
Come again another day
Many of us have heard this popular English language nursery rhyme, and some of us even remember exuberantly chanting these words on the rainy days of our childhoods, fervently wishing the rain to stop so we could go outside and play. At The Little School, however, you won’t find us singing this rhyme while sitting inside with our noses pressed up against the windows longing to go outside – because we already are outside! On rainy days, you will find us carrying on, playing and learning outside, undeterred by the falling raindrops.
Outdoor play and learning across all seasons are valued at TLS. Rather than limiting our time outdoors to those days when the weather is a pleasant 70 degrees and the sun is shining, we have embraced our climate and are outside rain or shine.
We see rain as an opportunity that provides endless possibilities for fun and learning. When we think back to our own childhoods, many of us have fond memories of gleefully splashing in puddles, getting to use an umbrella or scooping up rainwater into pails. Water is a sensory material which is deeply interesting to children. It invokes a different set of invitations and possibilities for children’s play. When the element of water is introduced, new creative themes emerge.
Below are classroom ideas and observations to help you turn your next rainy day into a day of wonder and laughter.
“There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
– Norwegian saying
Make sure you have the layers you need to be comfortable and engaged. Then, help families find the gear that their children will need.
Celebrate the Rain
As teachers model a positive mindset towards blustery, rainy days, the children share the excitement and prepare for their adventures. Chanting, “Yay! It’s a rainy day,” energies shift as the kids put on rainsuits and head outside to play and explore.
On white boards with a morning note, teachers set out prompts and guiding questions to invite ideas about engaging learning outside. Where could we collect rain water? Do you want to dance in the rain or build with wet sand? What is your favorite kind of precipitation – rain, snow, hail?
We look with the children for places to collect rainwater, set up buckets and use and reuse our collections. Puddles form in the same places and gutters blocked by leaves create cascading waterfalls. Inevitably, the children take over and build on their discoveries. As rain changes their outdoor spaces, children improvise and design.
“Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and, when the grass of the meadows is damp with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet.”
– Maria Montessori
You aren’t wet when you are in waterproof layers. Let kids get messy in wet sand or puddles. Offer dance parties or tea parties. Celebrate the wonderous ways that children’s imaginations ignite and describe the play they create so that this creativity is reinforced.
There are also many opportunities for scientific and mathematical learning that naturally arise on a rainy day. Observing the flow of water down a gutter, collecting and measuring rainfall and noticing the different properties of wet sand compared to dry sand are just a few examples.
Days of steady rain provide children with opportunities to look for places to collect falling water as well as pour, move, spread, stir or mix it using natural materials. With time to try things out, think and engage in rich independent learning, these young learners have been experimenting with math concepts like measuring and volume, and science concepts like sinking, floating, motion and flowing water, water displacement, cause and effect, and water conservation.
As rain steadily fell one recent morning, rainwater, leaves and sticks in two galvanized buckets engaged the attention and curiosity of several children. As one child picked up a smaller bucket and poured the contents into a larger one, another child pointed to the stream of water and leaves flowing down. Shortly, several children joined the exploration, some watching while others poured water between containers of various sizes (concepts of measuring, volume) added leaves, sticks and other natural materials (floating and sinking, water displacement) or used long sticks to stir and move the watery mixtures (motion). The finale to this exploration happened as children turned over the buckets, watching as the water flowed out and on to the ground (flowing water, cause and effect)!
The following week, several days of rain provided opportunities for continued explorations. To spark children’s natural curiosity and encourage investigation, new materials were offered with the rainwater – water wheels, scoops, ladles, buckets, bowls and funnels. These were placed on and around plastic crates for children to use, experiment and explore with. Several buckets of rainwater were available to enable exploration by a larger group. While scooping and pouring water into a waterwheel, one experimenter noticed water moving through the waterwheel and down on the ground below. They moved a bucket under the crate the waterwheel sat on top of. They continued to pour water into the waterwheel, watching its direction out of the wheel and moving the waterwheel until they saw water falling from it into the bucket – conserving the water to use again!
The next time you catch yourself thinking, “Rain rain go away,” stop and remember all of the joyful play and learning that happens while outside on a rainy day.
“A child's world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement.”
– Rachel Carson, "The Sense of Wonder"
- outdoor play