We have all had those days, parents and teachers a like, when it has rained for days on end, and everyone is going stir crazy. So, what can we do to curb the cabin fever, without relying on screens to entertain our children? I like to prepare some things, at the beginning of each school year, that I can pull out when Mother Nature clashes with my agenda. I set aside a bin that I store in my classroom with things for different sensory and science activities.
- -Food coloring: this can be used in so many different for art or science.
- -Cornstarch: this is used for making goop or other sensory activities.
- -Salt and flour: these are for making salt dough -Small soft ball or bean bag: this is for tossing games
- -Shaving cream: this is for sensory play
- -Other items for science and sensory play; vinegar, baking soda, saline solution, borax, dried beans or pasta, colored sand, butcher’s paper, pom-poms of various sizes and colors, water beads, coffee, soil, any other interesting things you can think of.
- Making sure to store all of these things according to state recommended guidelines.
- Update or replace items as needed. You do not want to be short an ingredient mid-project.
- I also like to recipe cards to go along with the things in the box, so I am not scrambling to google ratios when the time comes. I find it helpful to note little hints on these, for example I like a slightly higher amount of water mixed in to the salt dough. The longer the children work and kneed the dough the more they activate the gluten making the dough tough to manage. This is also especially helpful if an assistant or substitute is managing the classroom.
- Science, Sensory, Art Projects
- Color Mixing; -Use a pipette and ice cube tray with food coloring to learn the science of primary and secondary colors. You can extend this activity by allowing the children to create art by dropping the colors on to coffee filters and watching them spread out.
- Goop: -Use corn starch and water to create a medium that isn’t really solid and not really liquid. I like my goop runny, so I use a large wash tub with 16oz of corn starch and two cups of water. I dampen all of the cornstarch beforehand, to prevent the powder flying everywhere. I prefer to not color my goop because it is messy and has the potential to stain. *This is an extremely messy activity best suited for normalized children who can help clean up.
- -Slime 4oz white glue and ½ cup water and food coloring in one bowl 1 tsp borax with 1 cup of water in another bowl Slowly pour glue mixture over borax mixture, whisking to combine.
- -Shaving cream on a table, easy peasy.
- Gross motor
- coloring on butcher’s paper. Tape long sheets of butcher’s paper to the floor and allow children to engage their whole body in coloring or painting the paper. You can use stamps and roller stamps.
- -Pintrest is full of ideas for engaging activities like these. I save them for rainy days because they can detract from typical lessons daily. They can also lose their appeal if incorporated in to a standard part of the environment.
- -Sit and spin -Tunnel (note that this a place where biting can occur with toddlers)
- -Balance board or balance beam
- -Walking on the line
- -Bean bag toss, ball rolling games
- -Dance party, silly songs, freeze game
As I said, I like to keep all of these things on standby. This past February we had nearly two weeks of very poor weather. My children held out for nearly four days before the lack of sun and outdoor gross motor finally got to them. My otherwise peaceful classroom was full of yelling, pushing, running, and crying. So, this is what we did… We stopped our work cycle 45 minutes early. The first few rainy days the children had been working through their normal outside time, so I did not feel too badly about this. We had a group meeting with lots of sensory contact and gross motor, jumping and dancing songs, whole body rhythm. I find I need to remind myself that after four days inside it is natural for the children to be loud and frustrated and embrace it. We finished up with fun toddler dance party songs; Gummy Bear, Baby Shark, Kidz Bop (brought to you by my iPad.) Again, it took some time to curb my natural Montessori instincts to play anything other than classical music in my classroom. However, these children needed to move their bodies, so I had to… Let It Go! We brought ourselves back to center with some yoga poses and deep breathing. While my assistant guided these gross motor activities I was busy preparing the next step.
Once the children were had settled they got to choose and move freely between these “special” activities. We did some prep for our Valentine’s Celebration, art, sensory, and I did add some gross motor items to the classroom (not pictured). Our school utilizes traditional toys for our extended day program. Occasionally during prolonged periods of bad weather, I will replace our standard outside time with toys. I like only chose things that promote open ended play; connects, Lego, kitchen/play food, trains, and so on. I maintain control of the classroom by setting up the activities on work mats spread out around the classroom and limiting it to four children per activity. With older children you can incorporate games like Heads up Seven up or Doggy, Doggy where’s your bone. Primary is a great age to introduce board games. Some of my favorites are Blokus, checkers, chess, puzzles. I find it important to instill the idea of comradery over competition with this age group. It allows the children to practice grace and courtesy, turn taking, strategy, and sportsmanship. Hopefully you can find some useful tips to survive your next rainy day.