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Rainy Day Play

Today is all about rainy day play! Keep reading for a mini lesson plan, as well as a few more ideas and resources for getting outdoors to learn on rainy days.

"When it rains is when the mud makes the best globs."

-- Swedish Outdoor Association

The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates

A simple but invoking book about hospitality and inclusion, this is a wonderful book to jump into rainy day play and practice developing empathy along with a host of other important skills.

Big and Tiny Shelters

After reading The Big Umbrella, this is a wonderful way to stretch those empathy skills by thinking about the needs of other creatures and then acting upon those needs.

Materials: normal umbrella, towel, blanket, large stick or broom handle, water (if it's not a rainy day), recycled lids and containers, nature treasures (leaves, sticks, rocks, pine cones, moss, etc.)

Play Invitations

The main idea today is finding ways to include everyone, both humans and other creatures like our tiny insect, bird, and mammal friends. Today’s play also helps children learn that they have tools to help them persist through rainy weather. To help us get there, we invite play through these questions in each part of the activity.

Hook: How can we make an umbrella big enough for our whole family?

Let’s Play: How can we create shelters for our bug and animal friends?


  1. Read The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates then wonder together “How can make an umbrella big enough for our whole family?” 

  2. You can show your kiddos a few items you brought for play (umbrella, towel, sheet) or you can let them search the house or outdoor space themselves.

  3. As different items are brought up ask “Can we all fit under this umbrella shelter? Let’s try!” Be silly with it and have fun experimenting differently sized ‘umbrellas’ until y’all find one that fits the whole family. If it’s right for your kiddos, also wonder together what you could use for your big umbrella’s handle (large stick, broom handle, etc.).

  4. Once you’ve got a big umbrella with everyone underneath, celebrate! “We fit everyone who wanted to play under our big umbrella! What great teamwork!

Let’s Play!

  1. We have umbrellas, raincoats, and rain boots to keep us dry on rainy days. “What do you think our bug and animal friends do when it rains? Do they like to get wet?”

  2. Brainstorm together different animals your children know about (such as squirrels, roly polies, honey bees, and small birds) and think about what they might do on rainy days or if they like to play in the rain.

  3. “Could we make them some umbrellas and shelters to stay dry in the rain?” Search together for natural materials to use such as sticks, leaves, rocks, etc. and also show the recycled lids and containers you brought to play with. Then step back and observe or co-play with your kiddos as they build tiny shelters for tiny creatures!

If you’re trying this activity out on a day where it isn’t raining, it can be fun to simulate rain with water hoses, sprinklers, or pouring water from buckets and through colanders.

What are we learning when we build an umbrella big enough for all and tiny umbrellas for the creatures in our outdoor spaces?

Persistence → We are reminded that we as humans have created so many tools to help us persist and thrive in every season and many types of weather. 

Empathy → A sense of belonging is a universal need, and communities in which everyone is included are the strongest for all people involved. Empathy is developed as explorers consider the needs of their class community and the needs of other creatures in our park.

Creativity and Problem Solving → Deciding what materials can cover the whole class as well as searching out materials that could be used for tiny shelters.

Collaboration → Working together to come up with an umbrella large enough for the whole class.

Enclosing Schema → Building the big umbrella and mini-umbrellas to fit ourselves and tiny friends beneath activates the enclosing schema.

More Playful Learning

Looking for more rainy day play ideas? We love these!

  • Float the Boat - If there are puddles or small streams of water after a rain it can be a joy to make leaf or container tops into boats and float them.

  • Puddle Stomps - We love to read the book Puddles by Jonathan London and G. Brian Karas then go outside and make or find puddles to observe and stomp in!

  • Make a Rain Gauge - Tinkergarten created this wonderful activity in honor of World Water Day on March 22nd. Kids can turn a jar into a rain gauge to measure rainfall and collect water for plants to thrive! This is a great way for kids to explore measurement, the water cycle and put their empathy into action.

  • Make a Mud Pie - Playing with dirt and mud is simultaneously stimulating to the senses and ground. Mud is such a wonderful tool for play and learning because it is so open-ended, offering endless chances for kids to discover and create.

I’d love to hear which ideas sparked play and joy with your explorers or if you have any other connections for play! Comment below or tag me in your play on Instagram @magnoliaoutoor.


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