Outdoor Play Ideas For When It’s Raining or Dark

This post is by regular contributor Tricia Hogbin of Little Eco Footprints.

Winter is well and truly diminishing my family’s outdoor time at the moment. I’m working full-time for a little while so our mornings tend to be too rushed for outdoor play, and by the time we get home it’s dark. Then when the weekends come around it’s often wet and miserable.

I’m totally failing my New Year’s resolution to encourage unstructured outdoor play. However, I’m determined to turn that around and have been thinking of quick and easy outdoor play ideas for when it’s wet or dark. Here are my favourite ideas so far.

Nature treasure hunt

Nature treasure hunts can happen no matter what the weather. I love that they require no preparation. Simply throw on some wet weather gear, grab an umbrella, and head outside.

Wrestling with lists of things to find doesn’t really work when it’s raining, so instead of searching for something in particular, simply see what you can find.

Hunt for hidey-holes
Wildlife has to go somewhere when it rains. Head out and ask your child to find some hidey-holes where animals may shelter from the rain: under an eave; in a tree hollow; under a rock. Talk to your child about where animals live and how they shelter from the elements.

Jump in puddles

Is there any child who doesn’t like to jump in puddles? I doubt it. Put on some gumboots and clothes that you don’t mind getting wet and head off in search of puddles. Getting a little wet won’t cause any harm, particularly if you stay out for only a little while and throw the kids in a warm bath with a hot drink when you get home.

Float a paper boat

Take advantage of all those puddles and float a paper boat or fallen leaves. Have a boat race and see who’s boat floats past a particular point first.

Search for sounds
Darkness provides a perfect opportunity to focus on sounds. Go for a walk and ask your child to search for sounds. Stop still every now and then and simply listen. How many sounds can you hear? Rain falling? Car horns? Wind? Can your child guess what caused the sound?

Take your shadow for a walk
I bet your child has never consciously taken their shadow for a walk? Darkness and street lights provide the ideal environment for shadow playing. Take a torch and ask your child to see what sort of shadow different objects create. For example, they can shine the torch on a tree, or a car, or a letter box.

Do you have any outdoor play ideas for when it’s wet or dark?

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  1. I love this :] I took my little group out for a nature walk a few weeks ago and it was a rainy day. We all found things we may not have found if it were sunny and warm! Snails, worms, active animals, shiny rocks…etc. I just wish we had the water build up you did so we could have floated boats! Thanks for sharing :]

  2. Lots of lovely ideas here for outdoorsy winter play!

  3. When it’s wet outside, we for sure like to enjoy the rain and puddles! I enjoyed your ideas; here are our rainy day puddle play ideas from a past rainy day:
    and our winter play ideas:

    You caught me off guard when you said it was winter…then I remembered you’re writing from the lower hemisphere. We just celebrated our first day of SUMMER here!

  4. We love puddle jumping here at our house, and checking out bugs in the garden is always high on the hit list. During winter, Little B is extremely fond of our mudpit (which is just a small corner where he can dig and revel in mudpies and dirt). What I love is because we’ve always gone outside no matter the weather, he loves to be outside in the rain.

    But, I have to say I personally find it a challenge. I hate being cold and/or wet so have to go against my natural instinct to hide inside and hibernate, so that he gets outdoors every day.

  5. love the play ideas for when it’s dark, and we are huge puddle jumping fans around here obviously :-)

  6. Great post Tricia, and it seems particularly relevant to us in Hobart. Funny, I was just thinking about your green hour and wondering how you were going with that now that the weather’s not so lovely… I noticed that although my kids are still heading outside for unstructured play every day (much digging in the dirt lately), I’m less and less keen to be out there with them!

    We love jumping in puddles and coming in for warm baths afterwards – that’s one of the true joys of winter time.

  7. I used to love floating sticks down the gutter in the rain. Loved it! And the shadow idea is really cool too x

  8. i teach preschool at a nature center and when it rains we put on our rainboots and hoodie jackets and go on rain walks (no umbrellas allowed!) the children don’t just see or hear the rain, they love getting to actually FEEL the rain, too.

  9. I love these ideas. We love playing in the rain at our place – my kids regularly have leaf races in the gutter (we have a big hill on our road and it adds to the excitement) as well as stomp in puddles. I love your sense of adventure! x

  10. Theresa Pilgrim says:

    My husband is a runner and has a headlamp for running in the dark. This past winter when the temperatures weren’t to cold, we would take my daughter for a walk in the evening (dark). She loved wearing the headlamp on her head. It has an adjustable band so it fits all of us. Flashlights are another option.

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