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Wind and Rain and Toddlers
by Marty Layne

umbrellasWhen my children were little one of the things we liked to do was go to the beach on a windy day to see the waves and hear the wind on the water.

We often take children outside just in good weather, forgetting that our children and we are waterproof. Our clothes may get wet, but we can take them off and put on dry ones. Or as the Swedes say: “There is no bad weather, just bad clothes.” So what are some of the things to do outside on a rainy day? And why do them?

First, taking a page from the Swedes, wear appropriate clothes. Rubber boots are terrific! Toddlers can slip boots on and off of their feet more easily than shoes. Two-year-olds in particular seem to enjoy boots because “I do it myself.” A rain outfit or puddle suit of some kind means your child won’t get as wet and therefore not as cold. However, if you plan on just a short outing, a jacket will do. Babies can be dressed cozily and placed in a front or back carrier and be sheltered from the rain with you under a large umbrella.

Why go outside on a rainy day? The world looks different in the rain. The air is different, the moisture in the air makes it feel different when you breathe. Especially after a winter of being indoors with central heating and dry air, a rainy day walk is refreshing. It’s also fun. You don’t have to go far; a walk to the end of the block or your driveway can give your little one an opportunity to experience rain and how it changes familiar things.

Look at the rain and how it falls. Describe what you see to your child. Or your child may describe the rain to you. I remember one spring day when it began to pour unexpectedly. My oldest, who was seven at the time, said, “What a drubbing deluge!” I felt so pleased that he remembered the words from a book my husband and I had read to him many times. These words were used to describe a sudden summer shower in Farmer Palmer’s Wagon Ride by William Steig.

One of my favorite poems for rainy weather is A. A. Milne’s Happiness from his collection of poems When We Were Very Young:

John had great big waterproof boots on
John had a great big waterproof hat
John had a great big waterproof Macintosh
“And that,” said John, “ is that.”

Listen to the sound the raindrops make on the fabric of the umbrella. Here’s a fingerplay you can do inside after you’ve come in from walking in the rain under an umbrella:

Pray open your umbrella, pray open your umbrella, pray open your umbrella to shield me from the rain.
The rain will soon be over, the rain will soon be over, so close it up again.

Put your hands palms sides together in front of you. As you sing the first part, you slowly raise your hands above your head and pull apart your palms, leaving your fingertips touching to form an arc with your hands and arms above your head. Reverse the actions on the second verse. Make up a tune to go with the words or go to my website (www.martylayne.com) to listen to the tune I use in my parenting classes. The Itsy Bitsy Spider is also good song for a rainy day. Raffi has a recording of Robin in the Rain on his album Singable Songs For The Very Young.

To keep rain adventures fun, make sure you head home before your child gets cold and soaked. When you get home, change clothes, make a warm drink and read some stories together.

Puddles are very attractive to small children to jump or splash through. You may see some puddles with oil rainbows in them. Take a stick and stir them up to see what happens. And float things on puddles, such as bits of grass, leaves or paper boats.

To keep rain adventures fun, make sure you head home before your child gets cold and soaked. When you get home, change clothes, make a warm drink and read some stories together. I’ll list some books that you might enjoy reading to your children about rainy days at the end of this column.

It can also be fun to write about your rain adventure. Ask your child to tell you what he or she liked about being out in the rain and write it down. Together, you can draw or paint pictures of your rainy day walk to accompany the story. You’ve now got the beginnings of a book. Make sure you write the date and the child’s name on the story. Whether or not you draw a picture or write about your rainy day adventure, experiences outside in both rainy and sunny weather go into a child’s memory bank and help him or her to connect with nature.

This connection with nature, being out in the natural world is vital to a child. In Last Child in the Woods; Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder Richard Louv writes, "Healing the broken bond between our young and nature is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demand it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depend upon it.” Studies have shown that children labeled with ADD are calmer and more centered after spending time in natural settings. Louv’s site, www.thefuturesedge.com, has a number of interesting articles and summations of research about nature and children.

The website also provides information about the movement to connect children and nature. There’s a PDF file that offers a Children & Nature Network Community Action Guide with information to build local initiatives for reconnecting children and nature.

However, we don’t need an organization to take our children outside. No matter where you live, there are parks or green spaces available. I remember growing up in Holland. We lived in a tiny apartment in a big city. My mom took us for a walk everyday rain or shine to either the beach or the woods. Both were a 45-minute walk away. She pushed us in a pram. As I got older, I came along on my scooter while she pushed my brother and sister in the pram. She put a small board across the front of the pram for my brother to sit on with my little sister in the pram with our picnic things. Those experiences are the foundation of my love of the outdoors and my connection to the natural world.

One of the great things about exploring the outdoors with a young child is that we get to experience the world anew. We become aware again of the beauty of a sparkling raindrop as we describe it to our child. We feel the force of the wind as we walk and hear the sound of it sighing through tree branches or watch it blowing paper around on street corners. We refresh ourselves as we give our children experiences in the natural world.

Books:

Rain by Peter Speir – a wordless book with many pictures illustrating two children’s adventures on a rainy day. For 2 yr. olds and up

Alfie’s Feet by Shirley Hughes Alfie gets new boots. A delightful story for toddlers and up

A Walk In The Rain by Ursell Scheffler – A boy and his grandmother go for a walk in the rain. For 3 yr. olds and up

Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car by John Burmingham – A number of animals, two children and Mr. Gumpy go for a ride in his car. It starts to rain and everyone but Mr. Gumpy gets out to push the car out of the mud.  For 2 yr. olds and up

Tales of Oliver Pig by Jean Van Leeuwen –The first story in the book, Baking Day, is about making cookies on a rainy day. This is an easy reader book and has 5 short stories – similar to the Frog and Toad series of books.  For 3 yr. olds and up

Marty Layne is the mother of four adult children and the author of Learning At Home: A Mother’s Guide To Homeschooling, Newly Revised Edition. She has also recorded a children’s music CD called Brighten the Day – songs to celebrate the seasons. You can read more about her at www.martylayne.com.

 

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