Water is one amazingly diverse substance. At one end of the spectrum of life, water is vital and without it, all living things will die. At the other end, with the exception of the morning shower ritual, humans stay out of water at all costs. And when it comes to water in the form of rain… oh no… please get it off me! Why? Why avoid the most magical substance on the planet?
That answer may elude us for now, so let’s consider the idea that going outside and exploring one of nature’s most precious gifts is actually be a good thing. We all know that it’s good for kids to explore and let their developing minds go where the moments flow. This is the root of future creative thinking and Steve Jobs-like ingenuity. So put this item on your to-do list: play in the rain. Next, read the following suggestions for how to make your first trip with your toddler out into the rain safe, fun, and enriching.
7 Make Sure Conditions Are Right
Right clothes, right temperature, right time. Safety always comes first with our precious little ones, and so we start our venture into the rain by making sure the conditions are right. Three conditions must be met.
First, let’s purchase the right clothes for this wild leap into the great outdoors, i.e. the backyard. That means a rain hat, rain boots, rain coats, and rain pants, for both mom/dad and toddler. Also include two umbrellas; one for the parent of regular size, and one small version made just for kids. Those little umbrellas are so cute.
If you want to be extra prepared (like the Japanese), go ahead and include a small duffle bag with some dry towels. Maybe consider a healthy snack, plus a compass, fire starter kit, emergency flare, and thermal blanket, just in case.
Second of the big three is the right temperature. Cold, rainy days are out. The combination of low temperatures and water on the skin is to be avoided. Cold rain is just not good for the fragile, biological system that most toddlers have at this age. So, we want to make sure it’s nice and warm outside if possible. Yes, many people live in the cold northern regions of our great country and you certainly can’t control the weather. You will all have to postpone to summer. Or, wait until your parents retire and move to Florida.
Third on this list is choosing the right time. This means we pick the right time of day and the right kind of rain. If it’s a thunderstorm, wait for another day. We don’t want to go out the first time with dark skies, thunder, and lightning. Ideally, the rainy day we choose will have light rain, or maybe a drizzle. In the morning or after lunch while the skies are still bright is a good time to go. Who knows, maybe you get lucky and see a rainbow on your first trip out!
6 Start Slow
This is a primarily concern if you have a timid toddler who becomes easily frightened. Some kids are just born a little more guarded than others and they might become easily upset or scared. So, if you have a toddler like that, you really want to start slow.
In fact, let’s start at the beginning when we are shopping for our rain gear. Shopping for the right clothes can help inoculate a timid child to the upcoming adventure. Choice creates a sense of control. Letting a child choose their rain boots and hat and all of that can really help add a little extra sense of empowerment. This will, hopefully, accumulate with the other little things we do to build confidence.
This can also be a great opportunity to turn our adventure into an even more enriching experience. For example, before going outside, sit at the window and watch it rain. Narrate the action you see outside. Talk about the leaves being blown about on the tree and the cars going by with wipers whipping back and forth. Maybe the neighbor across the street has to bring in the paper; so out he goes, shorts and all with no umbrella, getting soaked the whole time.
Talking about all of this action is great for our toddler’s mind, even if they don’t fully understand what the heck we’re saying. Just make sure it’s not raining so hard that thunder and lightning is imminent. There’s nothing like a bolt of lightning near the window to scare all of the fun right out of your toddler. If the day you choose turns out to be too stormy for outdoor play, then cuddle up with a blanket and read a storybook about rain instead.
5 Stay Close to Home
The backyard is the safest place for your first trip out. You know your backyard well and there shouldn’t be any serious problems. There will be no surprises floating around like in a street puddle. Traffic or hazards related to people driving in the rain will probably not be an issue. Most likely, there will be no traffic in your backyard, so start there.
Make a thorough sweep of the premises one or two days before you plan to make the venture out. You’ll know exactly what day it will rain, right down to the hour, because the local weather forecaster will tell you, so no problem there.
Walk around the yard a bit and look for dangerous objects or conditions. For example, if the man of the house is a bit loose with his tools, look for screwdrivers, nails, or any kind of sharp items in general. Take a bag with you.
Examples of bad conditions would include rocks, fallen tree branches, garden hoses, toys, unexploded WWII ordinances, or anything easily tripped over. If the man of the house is not the construction type but prefers the gentleman’s game of golf, look for something called a divot. It’s a hole in the grass that occurs when one’s swing is not 100% perfect. Some call this the gentleman’s game, but my doctor friends like to call it the “quick road to hypertension.”
Once the ground is clear, look up. Scan the trees for things that might fall. Who knows what this could be, but if we’re going to be cautious, we might as well do it right. You never know what could be up there. A sudden the gust of wind, combined with the weight of the rain, could make something fall. Check the roof as well.
4 Hold Hands
Once you’re at the door and ready to go, pause a bit and scan the face of your toddler. Is she ready? Does he look excited or nervous? Either way, ask if they would like to open the door (and you can help of course). Letting a child control as much of the new situation as possible can help soothe the apprehension (a little… sometimes… maybe).
Of course every child is different and you know best. So, as you exit the house and step on the porch, pause a little to:
-Stop and take a look
-Survey the yard one last time
-Kneel down to eye level with your toddler
-Say a few words about the rain.
-Point out a few interesting features in the yard
-Ask where they would like to go first.
-Take your time.
If you want, sing a song about rain. There are lots of them. You can practice with your child a few weeks ahead of time, and then sing again out on the porch. Music is a great way to soothe a slightly nervous child. Choose your music carefully, though. For now, melodies from Metallica may be off the list. You can save that for next year.
3 Let The Fun Begin
Once you’re ready, you can let the fun begin! Here are a few quick suggestions:
Splish-splash Puddle Stomping: don’t be so controlling and inhibiting. Let the feeling of freedom fly by stomping on, around, through and over every puddle in your yard.
Leaf Float Races: put two leaves at one end of a puddle. See who can make enough waves to push the leaf to the other side the fastest. This takes coordination, so let your toddler win a few times.
Wine Cork Waddles: place an old wine cork or two in the middle of a puddle and watch the droplets bounce it all around.
Digging for Worms: you don’t have to kill the worms after you dig them up. Just the process of digging and getting muddy is reward enough. You can also teach your child about exploring “wildlife” without being destructive.
Follow the Droplets: start at the highest point on a tree trunk or branch. Once you find a droplet, follow it down to the ground as long as you can.
Countdown Dropdown: find a large leaf that has droplets forming at the tip and count how long it takes for a drop to form large enough that it drops from the leaf.
Check out this link for even more fun ideas.
2 Be Natural, Be Naked
Well, okay, I am not really sure if I can legally encourage people to take off all of their clothes with their children, and then go outside in plain view of the entire world. That could involve a federal law or state-by-state rights issue. Already, it’s too complicated.
And in today’s drone-world you never know if your neighbor is trying out his new birthday present. By accident, he could catch a few glimpses of you and your toddler running around naked in the rain. Hopefully, he won’t figure out how to install the “automatic upload to internet news channel” app. You too could become a YouTube celebrity.
So, if you can, wrap your backyard in a large, bubble-shaped tarp to prevent being spied upon; one that will also allow rain in (and sunlight), but keep cameras out. Going outside completely naked can be an exhilarating experience. At least, it was back in my college days. Or, maybe that feeling of “exhilaration” had something to do with those co-eds prancing about. Hard to say.
(Just for legal purposes: if the statute of limitations for being naked in public never expire in the state of Georgia, it was my friend that was naked, not me. I was in the library.)
1 Backyard Camping
Backyard camping is one of the great family activities ever invented. I recommend backyard camping for all ills. Too much for a toddler? Depends really. Some kids are even-tempered enough, even during the terrible twos. If you are so lucky, you should immediately thank whichever godlike entity you believe in (and start buying lottery tickets).
Backyard camping is not only cheaper and more convenient than packing up the car and driving for hours, it is just as fun. It really is. Everything you can do in the middle of the forest, like building a fire or get bit by mosquitoes, you can do in your own backyard. And in case you fail at rubbing two sticks together, or spear a wild boar, there will always be a lighter available in the kitchen and lots of pizza places that will deliver to your tent.
Yes, backyard camping is the way to go. Snuggling up together under the blankets during a steady pour can be an absolutely great bonding experience. Your family will never feel closer.
When all those different sized droplets start splish-splashing on the tent, it will bring your ears to life. The sounds of nature are much more interesting than the sounds of TV. If you buy a tent that has a plastic window, you can also enjoy watching the droplets stream down in their zig-zagging way.
So there we have it; 7 ways to make going out in the rain with your toddler, safe, fun, and enriching. Enjoy, and be sure to take a video and send it to babygaga.com.