We spend so much time scraping the muck off our kids. Wet wipes and washcloths and tissues and sanitizer and soap and baths and showers and sinks, all to wash away the grime. We layer them in coats and hats and socks and shoes…layer upon layer between them and the elements. We even wrote a song about it: “Rain, rain go away…”
But messy is good. Just searching “messy crafts” on Pinterest gets you into the cool parent club. We have a saying in our house when the hurt is small, a banged elbow or scraped chin: “Rub some dirt on it.” It means shake it off. You’re okay, buddy. Keep on keepin’ on. Dirt toughens you up. That’s why it’s a compliment when someone tells you you’ve got grit.
With April coming, so comes the rain. It’s going to get messy real quick. But it’s not something to hide from. Close the Pinterest tab and take the kids outside. Shed some layers and get dirty. No one’s going to melt.
Here are seven ways to embrace the rain and, in the name of spring and freedom, reclaim the outdoors:
Does anyone remember the 70s book, “How to Eat Fried Worms”, about the two kids who bet to see who can eat the most worms? I think it was censored by the American Library Association, which means I probably shouldn’t be recommending it. But if you happen to be in the market for worms (to spot rather than eat), rain showers will bring your harvest.
Have your kids race to see how many creepy crawlers they can find wriggling across the sidewalks or peeking their heads from the flower beds, while you stand at a safe distance. It will be one scavenger hunt that requires zero preparation on your part.
Mud and powder paint
Go truly tribal with some full body mud paint. Grab some paint brushes and let your kids go to town. Think of it as a really cheap spa treatment. Or, if the idea seems just a little too earthy, go artsy and purchase some powdered paint. A little goes a long way on paper, sidewalks, and little bodies. This is splatter paint at its best.
Make a menu first. Everything seems fancier with a menu and three courses, even mud. (You may, however, never eat meatloaf again once you see it in mud form.) Then set up your outdoor kitchen with any pots and pans that have seen better days and let the kids be the chefs – after you carefully explain that these servings are for display purposes only and not to be eaten.
You can always bribe them back inside with real pie. I’d recommend fudge, to keep the ambiance, and because fudge pie will make any day better, rainy or not.
Wetter is better
With water, you might as well go big or go home. There’s really nothing between damp and drenched, so bring out the works. Set up the sprinklers. Aim them over a slip ‘n slide. Haul out the bucket full of water guns. And for therapeutic purposes only, challenge your most devious child to a 10-paced dual with the high powered Super Soaker.
Dress for success
If you or your kids are not up for the muck and mayhem of fully uncensored rain play, then make it an event worth dressing for. I haven’t met a kid who doesn’t love rain boots and slickers and umbrellas with frogs and rainbows and clouds. And I haven’t met a mother who doesn’t want to dress her kid like the Morton Salt girl, just once. Boots up to the knee make for the best puddle jumping. Must have something to do with the centrifugal force of a little body in motion.
At the end of the day, you don’t actually want the outside inside. It’s all fun and games until your kitchen and hallway are paved with grass and slimy trails that lead nowhere good. But the beauty of the rain is that you can come out shiny clean. It’s an entirely washable experiment, and there’s something a little exotic about getting to shower outside. You become one with the elements.
With a little Johnson & Johnson and a hose, you can knock out baths and playtime all in one and allow your kids back inside just as good (or better) than they left.
Chase the rainbow
The magic of rain is the bow it gives at the end of the show. With the leaves and children still dripping as those clouds finally part, you might just catch a rainbow to finish out the day.
There’s nothing like the face of a kid who first spots it hovering on horizon. It’s like finding a four-leaf clover (or the prize at the bottom of the cereal box when that was still a thing) – amazing that something so lucky exists, and that it was hiding there all along.
So, when you see the rain clouds rolling in and you’ve got hours to go before you sleep, don’t wait for the kids to plaster their little faces to the windows, or the television screen. Get out there and paint and run and dig and create with all the craft supplies nature has to offer.
Don’t worry about the mess. It’s a self-cleaning cycle. And it’s spring after all. We all need a little airing out.