Muddy puddles are where the fun is. I have this on good authority from the constantly replaying episodes of Peppa Pig I've been subjected to. As it turns out, benefits of playing in the rain go beyond having a really good time.
Dr. Lisa Lewis, a board certified pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas tells Romper that the benefits of unstructured play, which is exactly the kind that occurs when kids are outside splashing around, are well-documented. She says that playing in the rain is a great way for them to explore their environment, and that "enjoying new and different ways to play helps promote healthy brain and body development." For example, she says, learning to walk in piles of mud helps enhance gross motor skills.
Developmental Psychology professor Gabriela Martorell of Virginia Wesleyan tells Romper that playing in the rain can even help children "develop a love of the outdoors and an appreciation of nature in all its forms." She agrees with Lewis that it is the sort of playtime that fuels children's developing minds. "That unstructured time, especially if they're playing with other kids around the same age, is really important for their social-emotional development," she says. When kids are "just playing," there are a lot of interpersonal dynamics at work. They have to agree on the field of play, on the manner of their interactions — will it be a game? Are they going to play house? There's a lot of cooperative management and collaboration going on.
Of course, playing in the rain is just good old-fashioned fun. Who doesn't remember the lure of the rain as a child? The feeling of the raindrops splashing on your skin as you spin around in circles, ankle-deep in mud and laughing without a care in the world. It's an intoxicating sensation to a child, and it's a sneaky way for parents to give kids a science lesson...
The National Association for the Education of Young Children noted on their website that the activities and games that kids can play in the rain, such as jumping in puddles, can also be used as teaching moments. When children jump into the puddle, not only are they learning cause and effect but they're also learning about water displacement — a real scientific fact for them to have in their mental library. You can also do experiments to figure out what floats (a twig) and what sinks (a rock).
Growing up, my MawMaw, in an effort to sate my rambunctious personality and boundless energy, would tell me that "the weather isn't bad if you put on boots and a raincoat," before shuffling me out of the back door onto the rain-soaked lanai. My siblings and I loved it. It was an adventure full of mud, slipping on wet grass, and counting raindrops on our tongues. And in the end, we were no worse for wear after a good hosing off. Not to mention we were blessedly exhausted — a real benefit for tired parents.
Yes, Dr. Lewis does stress that children need to dress for the weather, with raincoats and clothing that will keep them warm, and she also cautions that parents need to be on the lookout for dangerous phenomena like lightning and high winds, but it's an overall safe and entertaining way to pass a day, one where the kids don't even realize they're learning. That's pretty extraordinary.
Dr. Lisa Lewis, board certified pediatrician at Kid Care Pediatrics
Gabriela Martorell, developmental psychology professor at Virginia Wesleyan