Rainy Days: Toddler Book Activities

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Jai is still in the early stages of toddlerhood and therefore limited by what he can do with organized activities. Many of the activities have to either be done by me for his benefit, or with a lot of supervision to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. That’s if his attention span lasts long enough.

That said, Jai loves books. He’s not able to read them yet, but he loves sitting down on his bedroom floor and flipping through the books for vast stretches of time. I’ve walked in to check on him only to have Jai chase me out of his room so he could have his private book time. Jai brings his favorite books to whatever adult is close at hand and makes the reader repeat the book a couple of times before moving on.

It came to mind to find a couple of activities we could do on a rainy day that ties into his favorite books. His current favorite authors are Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, and Sandra Boynton (this last one makes me happy because she is a local author where I grew up). I know that making the connection between his favorite story and activity would make him happy, plus I always enjoy a creative endeavor.

Below are the activities I came up with to do with Jai on those rainy, summer days.

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Rainy Days: Visiting the Library

I was lucky enough to live in a small, rural town growing up. There wasn’t a lot to do because of it, but it was perfect if you were a parent wanting a child to get creative with their entertainment.

In the summer, if I wanted to get away from the house, I had two choices: pool on the sunny days and library on the overcast/rainy days. Living in a valley in rural New England meant that there were plenty of days where I would have to go to the library as clouds got trapped by the mountains.

I loved my little library. Repurposed from an old Victorian farmhouse, the downstairs was filled with books, while the upstairs housed a creepy taxidermy collection and stored books meant for the summer book sale. The library was run by volunteers, so they were all older women who were either retired or looking to get away from their retired husbands.

This also meant it was extremely low-tech. I left my old town in 2008 and I believe they just got a computer for public use in 2005. I grew up knowing and loving the smell of a card catalog. The place was so tiny that I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t still use one because hunting through the cards or shelves might be faster than doing a computer search.

I loved my peach-colored, cardstock library card. It got so worn and frayed around the edges from use and lived with a place of honor in my wallet. It was the only card that actually did something, as most of the other cards were pretend or store loyalty cards.

Going to the children’s section, I knew where all my favorite books and series were located. I broke my visits down into two parts: the books I wanted to read there and books I wanted to take home with me.

I can’t remember the names of the series, but there were some short children’s books meant for teaching manners that had interesting artwork I read every time. They were super short so I would spend a half-hour reading through these books before moving on.

I was such a voracious reader as a child that I had to get two to three young adult books because I had a tendency to read a book a day. It was the reason why my parents encouraged me to go to the library when I was old enough: they could not afford to keep up with my reading habit. Book fairs, bookstores, all were a bane to my savings because I had to buy more books that I would finish in a couple of days.

The library was a wonderful way to save both my chore/odd job money and give me a sense of independence to go somewhere unsupervised.

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Activities for a Rainy Day

What is summer without some rain?

As adults, rain can be nice because it means a cozy day inside with books, a great TV show, and delicious snacks. But for kids, rainy days are the enemy. No outdoors depending on the amount of rain and limited active games inside so the house doesn’t get destroyed.

I remember it being particularly rough when it felt like I had nothing to do. Those were the worst days where it was physically draining to think of something to do while stuck inside.

With a little one obsessed with spending time outside, it’s hard to say “no” when Jai wants to go out despite the rain. Some days I am able to accommodate him, but other days it’s storming really bad or I don’t feel getting wet myself.

Below are some activities I’ve come up with the help combat boredom on rainy days for Jai. As he gets older, the activities will evolve to be more age-appropriate and reflect his desires.

Make Rainy Days a Special Occasion

This required some planning ahead, but I have a set of toys and books that only get pulled out when we have a rainy day. It makes the day a little more special and exciting for him. It’s the same concept behind packing a special travel bag for kids that have a special set of toys – if the item is “new” to him, he will spend time playing with it rather than asking to go outside.

One such toy is an indoor bowling set. While he doesn’t understand the concept of bowling just yet, he loves rolling the ball or knocking over the pins. Jai has a vehicle that moves forward with the push of a button, so we line it up with the pins to knock them over.

It’s hilarious. For him and for us to watch his enjoyment of the game.

I also make special snacks and drinks for the day that he won’t normally get in good weather. This includes popcorn, chocolate “milk” (a coconut milk and date-sweetened drink), and herbal teas. I try to make sure they are healthy in nature, but the chocolate milk feels like a real treat for him.

Finally, I try to limit his screen time on a daily basis. Right now he’s obsessed with a song from a popular children’s movie, so I have to play that at least three times a day on a streaming site. But we try to make that the extent of his screen time. So on rainy days I will pull out his favorite PBS kids show or play the movie his favorite song is from.

The TV is a wonderful thing, but by limiting it to rainy days it becomes a treat that makes it easier to turn on and off when I need to and less of a fight when it’s time to do something different. I don’t know how long this attitude will last, but I am not taking it for granted.

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Have a Healthy Summer

For most of my adulthood at the beginning of each year, I fell into the mental trap of “getting healthy and in shape for the summer.” I wanted to have that perfect beach body, even if we never made it to the beach, and feel comfortable wearing cute summer outfits.

I never succeeded.

Life would get in the way, I would get distracted or frustrated with my diet and exercise and so I would enter summer either at the same weight I was at the beginning of the year or a little bit heavier.

Since I made significant lifestyle changes and stuck with them, I have found that I am finally entering the summer the way I always wanted to: beach ready and several cute outfits.

Still no available beach and rarely do I get out of my “mom uniform” because cute outfits and a toddler do not mix.

But I am experiencing something I’ve never before: staying fitness-minded and motivated in the heat. As I discussed on Monday, having MS and living in a hot and humid climate is not a good combination. I am finding that my motivation and my ability to stay fitness-focused is waning more than it did in the cold winter months.

What do I do? Well, I have to make some adjustments to accommodate this unforeseen speed bump.

Healthy Choices

The main thing I’ve learned is that my choices had to change in the summer months. This can range from the food I eat to the time of day I exercise to the intensity of the exercise I commit myself to complete.

If there is a day where I know I won’t be able to exercise for a while due to the heat, I have to adjust my eating to reflect that. Rather than eating heavier or caloric-dense meals, I adjust to more frequent and lighter meals throughout the day.

If we expect a high heat day or extreme humidity, then I will make sure to get out earlier in the morning to avoid dealing with either. 6:30am is usually a great time to get out, beat the heat and the traffic, and be home in time to say “good-bye” to Ash before he heads to work.

If it’s too hot or humid out to exercise, then I move any sort of workout indoors with the A/C blasting or a fan on me if I need to do something with intensity. I also need to make sure that keep drinking water throughout the day.

The hardest choice to adjust is the first one: I love to eat. So if I am having a craving for something particularly heavy, potatoes of some sort, I want to indulge it. I try to find ways to compromise or satisfy the craving with something else. Popcorn works best, but a cool piece of fruit will do in a pinch.

Remembering to drink enough water can also be a problem for me – so by carrying around a water bottle or cup can help remind me to stay hydrated. I need to keep drinking water if I am going to keep exercising throughout the hotter months.

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A Berry Picking Time

Another favorite outdoor activity I had growing up, besides camping? Berry picking.

Every late-spring my mom would take me berry picking at the local farms. We tried to do two trips a year: strawberries and some other local fruit (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or apples). Living in New England meant shorter picking seasons so we could miss a specific harvest by a week depending on how well the fruit developed.

This meant my mom would announce one morning that she’d be heading to the farm in a few days and ask if I’d be willing to help her. When I was younger, I had little choice in the matter but I loved it anyway; and when I was older it would depend on my work schedule for the week.

I found on the days I had to work or go to school and miss helping her were always disappointing. She’d try to adjust her schedule to accommodate me, but sometimes the weather and harvest wouldn’t cooperate.

Our Family Traditions

Strawberries were a must in our family.

If we could only do one picking a year it was strawberries. We had a rhubarb plant growing in our backyard so my dad always requested a strawberry rhubarb pie every summer. My mother never believed in doing anything half-measure so she would make sure to bake him a pie with only the freshest ingredients: rhubarb and strawberries she picked herself.

With the haul, she would preserve a batch of strawberries in syrup. My mom would freeze this mixture and thaw it for Christmas morning every year. Our favorite traditional Christmas meal, besides the evening feast, was homemade scones, clotted cream, and those syrupy strawberries picked earlier in the year.

There was something wonderful in knowing that I helped make Christmas breakfast a little more special by helping pick those berries. During the cold, dark New England months it brought a little bit of spring sunshine for the day.

Another fun tradition that started while strawberry picking was the story about a mouse visiting his relatives whenever we picked. No matter the farm and no matter the location (I happen to know he’s moved down South), my mom and I would create this elaborate story about his adventures over the past year and all the fun he was having while visiting.

It was one of those fun traditions that started one day when my mom spotted a mouse in the patch we were picking in. I think she started talking about it to make sure I wasn’t startled or to keep herself from being startled, so a story began about why he was there. Our stories grew over the years, though we’ve never physically seen him again.

berrypicking

Jai helping pick strawberries this year. Photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography

Like all my favorite traditions and childhood memories, I’ve wanted to share them with Jai in some small way. I didn’t even wait for him to be born before I took him berry picking: I was between 5 to 7 months pregnant when I went picking for strawberries, peaches, and blueberries.

Last year, we took him peach and blueberry picking while he was in my carrier. This year we’ve gone strawberry and peach picking so far (blueberries are around the corner). Because peaches are on a tree, it was easier for him to physically help this year, though he may have grabbed several under-ripe ones for Ash, who’s a fan.

Jai is a blueberry lover,  and the farm we go to has such tall bushes that he’ll be able to help me again, so I know most of the fruit he picks will be put straight into his mouth and squished into my shirt. I have accepted and plan to be prepared for it.

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