The two words that strike fear in to the heart of every primary-school teacher.
You pray it’s not your duty. You near-faint with relief when you find out it’s Beryl in Year 3. You sprint for the staff-room to neck coffee like it’s your last drink – which may not be far from the truth. For you know, on your return to the classroom, the carnage of the wet-play explosion will have you cowering in the corner, as will the children who will be at the furthest reaches of the feral spectrum.
Luckily, this is with a class of thirty or so children who know the consequences of misbehaviour, will tidy up under duress and who you can cheerfully wave off at 3:25 every day.
The four words that strike fear in to the heart of every stay-at-home-parent.
WET-PLAY DURING LOCKDOWN.
You can’t give them back. They’ve been programmed since foetal to know which buttons to press to really wind you up. And there’s only so much crafting you can face.
The sense of impending doom when you check BBC Weather to discover 98% chance of precipitation for the next two days is akin to what I imagine those on the Titanic felt as the ship began to go down.
We have been truly blessed that for the majority of the COVID lockdown; we’ve had dry days and at times a tantalising taste of summer. Cold I can do. Stick on a scarf and hat and we’re traipsing through the forest. But rain. No thanks. Yes he has wellies and a puddle suit. But no thanks. It’s just not for me.
“So what on God’s green earth am I going to pull out the bag to entertain a toddler with the attention span of a goldfish and the attitude of Rottweiler,” I cry to myself?
I rally the troops and hit the “Press In Case of Emergency” button – that’s WhatsApp to the uninitiated. The Mum Squad mobilise and fire ideas at me faster than a Red Arrow.
I write this as I am shielding, not from COVID (well, that too) but from the midday sun and thirty degrees of glorious heat. But we all know – we know the rain is up there – waiting to make a damp squib of our plans. So in preparation, here are my: TOP THREE RAINY DAY ACTIVITIES.
One – Den Building
It’s a classic. It requires zero mess ground in to your carpets. There are no fiddly bits. And if you’re lucky, you can encourage them to take sole possession of the aforementioned, banning you entry so you get to sit on the sofa with a piping hot cup of coffee.
There’s the basic den building kit: the washing airer, duvet cover or throw and lots of cushions. You can give a partial nod to ‘learning’ by chucking a few books and a torch in there but we all know that the only reason you’re doing so is to try and eek out another 3.7 minutes of non-mum time whilst they flick through ‘Ten Little Robots’ for the umpteenth time.
You will, despite encouragement to the contrary be asked to join them in their den of iniquity. My favourite rebuffs would be: a) I won’t fit darling b) No, it’s your special den, and pulling out the big guns c) would you like your snacks in there? C) will buy you another 4.2 minutes if you don’t scrimp on the goodies.
If you insist on trying to squeeze a little mathematical learning and problem solving out of the situation then I have to recommend the “Build Your Own Den” kit from The Works. At £12 it looks like you could potentially bosh together the Crystal Maze in ten minutes. You attach rods to sphericalish holey balls to craft a multitude of igloo-esque structures that you can just whack a sheet over whilst discussing the language of geometry and churning out a future engineer. The Shard… paw! It ain’t got nothing on our Essgloo (figured it was a more fitting name than Igsex – Essex + Igloo – are you still with me?).
Two – Online Classes
It has to be said, we haven’t been massive class attenders. We’ve rock up to a soft play. We love a free-for-all at pram group. We can’t beat a museum session. But we have form from classes. Attendance at Sing and Sign went on for an entire year. In that time Harry picked up the sign for dangerous (not too dissimilar to a shark) and no. The rest of the time he spent chasing his best buddies around and channeling his inner Elton John.
It slightly put me off attending, having to break up scraps over coloured scarves and Jessie Cat. Note to self – do not buy a toddler the class mascot, no matter how much they adore it. Every time you go to the class, they will believe with every fibre of their being, that it’s their cuddly being passed around the circle and will lose their tiny mind. All that work on sharing? Out the window. Lesson learned.
So how does this rambling interlude in to the challenges of toddler management help us when barred from the church hall or any other venue by rain and COVID19? Remove the social aspect from the class, add in a piping hot cup of coffee for mumma (my health and safety regs are far more lax than your usual class) and jump aboard the iPad for some online action on that glum day. Yes – the fun machine is in effect with zero rain-mac requirement.
We were lucky enough to be selected by ClubHub UK as one of their first reps. We were chomping at the bit to access some of the fun we never knew existed in our local area, until COVID hit. In return for sharing the good word about their amazing nationwide directory of classes, clubs and activities, we were offered a free Gymboree session online. Aaron (who clearly hadn’t been up since 5:30am and had a youthful joie de vivre that I could never capture, even after eyeball shots of espresso) was running a tea-party themed session.
There were no other toddlers there to pour imaginary hot tea over. There was no expectation to share the imaginary cookies they baked and he even got to play ball with mummy, shortly after trying to strangulate her with a silk scarf.
Don’t get me wrong – in an ideal, virus-free world, we would be merrily joining in and developing the social skills of sharing and turn-taking with his peers. But in lockdown, where I am responsible 24/7 for entertainment deliverance, I frankly could’ve kissed Aaron – if it weren’t for COVID, and social distancing guidelines and well, I’m married Aaron!
So once you’ve finished den-building, hook up the tech and jump on to Club Hub Uk to access their amazing range of online activities suitable for 0-18 year old!
Three – Play-doh
So the last one is a risky business. I’m not going to lie to you – there is potential of mess and mum meltdown. But get this right and you’re on to an average of fifteen minutes down time.
Who doesn’t love a bit of dough. Malleable. Colourful. The opportunities to create are endless.
With playdoh – there need be no forethought. No beautiful presentation. No invitation to play. Of course you can do all these things with aplomb – but a wet, rainy day – you can slap it on the table, let them loose and twitch as they mix purple with pink.
One of the best things I bought was a set of play-doh tools. From frankly medical-grade plastic scalpels (again with the future career path planning – engineering first, now senior registrar) to a ‘dough extruder’ (looks a little like a sausage-making machine where you push the doh through but it makes wiggly worms rather than a Tesco Finest Cumberland). Chuck a few animal-shaped cutters in there and you’re away.
Your coffee may have to wait with this one. If anything like me you’ll be maniacally trying to put colours back in to separate pots the second he has dispensed of them but the beauty of the doh is – they’re exercising their creativity, developing those fine-motor muscles as they knead, roll and chop and if you’re less neurotic about colour-mixing you can sit back and enjoy the fun. Or hell, you’ve got nothing better to do – get stuck in and fashion a bust of loved ones you cannot see.
So there you have it. My top three sanity-saving rainy-day activities.
Tomorrow will be thirty degrees here in the South East of England. But we all know what is lurking. We’re practically in July – summer’s done! It’s not too late though – order that play-doh and jump on to Clubhub UK!
What would be your go-to rainy day activities? What keeps you from climbing the walls when precipitation prohibits outdoorsy action?