Children will challenge either your nerves or your ideas. Obviously, it’s much better for both parent and child if the parent has a storehouse of ideas. This is particularly true on a rainy day.
Before discussing specific ideas and rainy days, mention must be made of the value of a good home filing system, which is an organized method for finding everything from recipes to income tax forms to that certain article clipped from a magazine last year.
A home filing system isn’t complete without one special section labeled “Rainy Day File”—a collection of ideas, suggestions, and directions for things for children to do. When the children are housebound or restless or bored and harass mother with an endless round of “What can I do now?” the file offers some answers.
Not only do these ideas help fill long hours for children, but they also do much to encourage youngsters to make their own fun and to develop themselves. Children need to live life, not just watch it. Opportunities go to the people who have creative ability and imagination. Certainly projects and crafts—rainy day fun—can do much to foster creativity in children.
Actually, a collection of ideas and directions for creative activities isn’t enough. You also need lots of stuff. By stuff, we mean crayons, pencils, paints (washable, of course), scissors, paste, paper of all sizes and colors, boxes in a variety of shapes and sizes, tubes from paper-towel rolls, paper bags of assorted sizes, paper baking cups, bits of fabric of many colors and textures, drinking straws, empty juice cans and baby food jars, bright-colored yarn, macaroni of all types, a large box of dress-up clothes, and any other likely items around the house. You’ll find, if you haven’t discovered it already, that the best toys in life are free.
If you already have this sort of file serving you, then keep adding to your collection. But if this is a new idea for you, now’s the time to locate a container, label it “Rainy Day File,” and start filling it. Here are some ideas to help you.
1. Collages. “A collage is an artistic composition of fragments of printed matter and other materials pasted on a picture surface.” (Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary.)
A collage can be a very interesting and attractive piece of artwork. Children love to make collages and are particularly clever and creative in doing so. Some ideas for collages are:
Bunny rabbit: Use paint, crayon, or fabric, and real cotton for the tail. Mount it on heavy paper or cardboard.
Indian doll: Use a walnut shell half for face (features painted with pen), yarn for hair (may be braided), and arms, legs, and clothing of appropriately colored fabric. The background may be enhanced by twigs or more fabric or felt.
Scarecrow: Make clothing from fabric. Use real straw (perhaps from an old broom) for feet and hands.
Greeting cards or stationery: Clever figures (animals, clowns, insects), trees, and flowers can be made from buttons, felt, or bits of string or yarn.
Sections from egg cartons, bits of lace and other trimmings, paper baking cups, and leaves and blossoms from the garden are just a few more things that, when coupled with imagination, can be turned into clever collages.
2. Paper Bags. Small bags, appropriately designed and decorated, make delightful hand puppets to use with songs, stories, and pretend games.
Larger bags with cut-out eyes and mouth and decorated with eyelashes, curly hair, rosy cheeks, and lips (made from colored paper) make clever headpieces. These can be used for Halloween, parades, and dramatic presentations.
Large bags (the type used for Christmas shopping) can be cut and decorated to make space suits, gingerbread men, robots, and so forth.
3. Tear Pictures. A different twist to the usual cutting and pasting type of project is to challenge a child to make a picture, such as a funny old man or silly house, by tearing the various pieces and parts. No scissors are allowed!
4. Cutaways. Draw a cutaway picture of a house or department store and let your child decorate and furnish the rooms or supply the department store by cutting and pasting items from magazines and catalogs.
5. Christmas Tree. A large outline of a Christmas tree can be drawn on paper and decorated by pasting cuttings from last year’s Christmas cards on the branches.
6. Paper Plates. Funny faces, clocks, and wall hangings can be made by coloring or pasting colored paper on paper plates.
7. Mosaics. Dried corn, nuts, and beans of various types, and chips of colored paper, plastic, tile, and linoleum make good mosaics.
8. Doll House. A child can make a doll house from a cardboard box by cutting windows and doors and decorating it with crayons or paints. The house can be furnished with tiny boxes, cans, lids, and other small objects. Pieces of fabric can be made into carpets, curtains, bedspreads, and pillows. Magazine cuttings might be used for pictures along the walls.
9. Potato Block Printing. Cut a potato in half and then carve a design (such as a square, triangle, half circle, or letter of the alphabet) on the cut side. Apply some food coloring to a moistened sponge and let the child press the potato against the colored area on the sponge and then stamp the design on a piece of paper. The process may be repeated until the desired picture has been printed.
10. Trivets. Toothpicks or popsicle sticks, glued together and then painted with shellac, make handy trivets.
11. Straw Dolls. A variation of paper dolls may be made from soda straws (which form a stick figure) and a head and dress made from paper or fabric.
12. Jewelry. Necklaces and bracelets may be made by letting children string macaroni, doughnut-shaped cereal, or colored soda straws (cut in small pieces). The macaroni can be colored by shaking some in a jar with a little food coloring and water and then spreading it on paper toweling to dry.
13. Finger Paint. A simple yet effective finger paint is made from buttermilk or liquid starch, mixed with poster paint or food coloring.
14. Play Dough. Combine 1 cup salt, 4 cups flour, and 1 teaspoon powdered alum (optional). Add 1 tablespoon salad oil and 2 scant cups water (to which desired amount of food coloring has been added). Knead until workable. Dough may be stored in an airtight container, such as a plastic bag or jar, and kept in the refrigerator.