Pitter Patter Rain Drops
The beauty of rain play
It seems like we're gearing up for a rainy Autumn, and I for one am glad I invested in a nice new mop. While many of us feel driven inside on rainy days, for children they can be wonderful occasions, given the right preparation so I thought I'd share some ideas for helping children and yourself feel empowered to play outside in all sorts of weather.
Getting outside is important in and of itself--the fresh air and quietly fascinating environments and space to breathe it offers can right almost any grumpy mood, and I suggest to everyone that they make daily outdoor play time a regular part of their (and their children's!) rhythms.
Rain in particular offers such a fabulous sensory experience with it's puddles to splash in and buckets to be filled (and poured out) and raindrop-clad railings to run hands across. Today my students were absolutely enthralled by the processes of plopping pebbles into buckets of rain water and that of shaking the droplets off of leaves! Rain also turns regular playground slides into water slides, which is a perfectly thrilling discovery for older children.
How to get outside
At first, getting outside in the rain can feel like an ordeal. I recommend finding somewhere near your entryway/corner of your living room/kitchen for a child's height hook, a child-size stool, and a designated spot for boots. Even children as young as 1 can participate to some extent in the dressing process, so make a habit of allowing enough time to allow for their "help." Try to have a designated order in which you put things on and a designated spot for dressing. I find that having a rain suit is helpful for younger children, since it's just one step and one non-separating zipper (yes I had to google "kinds of zippers," a separating zipper is the kind on a coat where you have to feed the bottom into the other thingie before you can zip up.) to put on. Children who spend a lot of time playing in damp or muddy places (Waldorf Schools) even when it's not actively raining also benefit from rain pants--I recommend wearing them with a sweater or fleece for much of Autumn and Spring to keep pants clean and dry and add an extra layer of warmth. A good pair of rainboots is also a must: Kamik makes quality ones that aren't too expensive. Boots are something I condone buying two of since when the inside gets wet they can get pretty useless until they've had a day or so stuffed with newspaper by the radiator.
A treatise on umbrellas: I don't believe in them, at least for kids. I don't understand the point for adults either, but to each their own. For children I find them generally ineffective and distracting. Get a good coat with a hood, and their hands and body will be much more free to enjoy the rainy world!
It also helps if you, the grownup, are properly dressed! Nothing like a junky old rain coat and boots with holes to convince you to stay inside on a rainy day. I generally go for simple, quality items that will last for years. Shocker, I know. I look for a good, hooded coat that comes down over my thighs to lessen the need for rain pants. Between that and a proper pair of boots, basically just the knee area is exposed, which I can live with if it eliminates the extra step of putting on another item. In one of my more Waldorf Teacher-y moments I once made a rain skirt that I still break out in the really bad weather, but generally find unnecessary. However you chose to dress, remember: you are just as deserving of good, functional gear as your kids. I promise you'll be much happier for it.
As a city dweller without the luxury of a mudroom, when I come inside from a rainy excursion I typically will hang things to dry in the bathtub to make cleanup easier. A simple drying rack will help you hang more things and decrease the chances of your shower rod falling down. At school I often like to set mine up by the door so mud isn't traipsed everywhere as the children are undressing, then move it fully loaded to a more drip-friendly spot.
There are so many options out there it's hard to know what will actually hold up so below I've shared some gear I've seen work really well over the years. Rain gear care tags can be really tricky, so make sure you read them--I remember my absolute disbelief when I learned that I was supposed to put my rain coat in the dryer. If you know of anything else that's worked for you, please share below!