If you haven’t read There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather, I highly recommend doing so. It’s a Scandinavian mother’s perspective on how children need to be outside more than they are inside, and, basically, how Americans are too soft and overprotective of our children by not allowing them to get dirty, be in the elements, and really let themselves go in nature. And a big part of that is letting kids play in the rain — just in time for spring.
When I was a kid, I was told not to play in the rain because I would catch a cold or get a “cold in my bones.” This myth just isn’t true, and there are actually incredibly important reasons to take your kids outside in the rain. (Not to mention, it can be a lot of fun for everyone.)
There truly is no such thing as bad weather — just bad clothing — and kids need to be outside as much as possible for all the incredible health benefits that being outside brings, along with the wonderful memories they’ll have of their magical childhood of playing outside and being allowed to just be a kid and play.
Why you should take your kids outside to play in the rain
Pediatrician Dr. Daniel Ganjian very sweetly tells Romper that as far as the benefits of playing in the rain go, “Playing with mom and dad is always great — letting your child see your playful side brings you two closer. It teaches a child a valuable life lesson. Even if your current situation in life is difficult and rainy, learn to still be happy, dance, and have fun. Sometimes you cannot control what life gives you, but you can control your response to it: Be sad as you try to avoid it, or make the best of it.”
Playing in the mud and dirt is also really great tactile stimulation for kids, which is really good for their development, according to Ganjian.
Other health benefits include children developing physical skills faster in the rain. They have to manage risks and evaluate different activities, like knowing when not to slip and how to avoid a big puddle that they might fall into. Plus there’s a lot to learn about from a rainy day of play.
“Children have more ability to engage in gross — large — motor experiences when they play outdoors. Gross motor experiences help children to work off extra energy,” Donna Whittaker, vice president of curriculum and education at Big Blue Marble Academy, tells Romper. “Playing outdoors helps to limit children’s screen time and allows them to create, imagine, problem solve, and explore.”
Pediatrician Dr. Gina Posner tells Romper that playing outside in the rain, mud, and dirt is good for kids because it also helps them to build a good immune system. She adds that studies have shown that kids who are “kept too clean” have more allergies, and that a little bit of dirt is good. Which completely negates the myth that playing in the cold or playing in the rain will make you catch a cold.
Myths about letting your kids play in the rain
Sorry southern Memaws, catching a cold from the rain is simply not true. “Colds are from viruses, so you can't catch them from being cold,” Posner says. “Exercise actually helps with your immune system, so it is actually the opposite [if they play outside].”
But it is important to remember that cold weather can lower your immune system, making kids more susceptible to colds. So it’s important to take some precautions in order to stay safe while playing in the rain, like putting your kids in jackets and boots so they don’t slip or get hurt.
Outdoor rain activities for kids
Obviously, just going outside in raincoats and rain boots and jumping into huge puddles provides a ton of entertainment, but there are other activities you and your kiddo can play together in the rain. Rainy days are perfect for sensory exploration, according to verywellfamily.com, and they suggest catching raindrops on your tongue, hands, and feet, or bringing out washable paints and paper and “letting the rain make a masterpiece.”
The website also suggests choosing some educational activities to participate in outside during rainy days, like observing how the rain changes dirt, sand, grass, and even pavement. You can do a bit of math and use a measuring cup to measure how much rainfall there is, and it’s also the perfect time to look for worms — my son’s favorite activity.
Follow the rain when it falls on the ground and see where it flows, or you can throw rocks into puddles to see which rocks cause the biggest ripples. And of course, there’s always playing in the mud or mud kitchen, sliding in the grass, sitting in kiddie pools in bathing suits if it’s warm enough, or setting up an obstacle course.
Again, watch for signs of hypothermia if it’s really windy or cold outside during your rainy day play. And remember that the proper rain gear does wonders for keeping everyone safe, warm, and protected when playing outside in the rain.
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Rain Gear for Kids
While Reima seems to reign supreme in reviews about quality, performance, and sustainability, it can be a bit pricey, albeit a great investment. Here are rain coats, pants and boots your child may need to have fun in the rain while keeping their body dry and warm.
Daniel Ganjian, MD, pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
Gina Posner, MD, pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
Donna Whittaker, vice president of curriculum and Education at Big Blue Marble Academy.