18 great (free) rainy day activities

Umbrellas in a storm
This is Britain. Rainy days are par for the course, so read on for some great ideas of things to do when the heavens open. You won't need to spend a penny or venture outside at all!
  1. Make a tent or den in the living room and have a picnic inside. Pretend you’re on safari or organise a treasure hunt and go on an adventure around the house before returning to your hideout.
  2. Cardboard boxes have endless possibilities; we've all seen how small children cast aside the expensive toy in favour of its packaging! If you can find boxes big enough they can become a house or a car (with the addition of some paper plate wheels and a biscuit tin steering wheel). If you’ve got a few of them they could be tied together to make a train, using kitchen or toilet rolls to make steam chimneys. Smaller ones could become cars, trains or boats for teddies. Paint and decorate them any way the kids like.
  3. Use fruit and veg, packets, tins, jars and anything you can lay your hands on from your store cupboard to set up a shop. If you don’t have a toy till then improvise with one made out of a trusty cardboard box. Use copper coins and make some paper money of your own, and encourage your children to take on the roles of shopkeeper and customers.
  4. Draw the curtains, get some popcorn in and put on a favourite DVD. Pretend you’re in a cinema – your children can choose who gets to be the usher who shows people to their seats with a torch.
  5. Have a photo session. Take some pictures of each other and print them out. Encourage your children to then make some decorative photo frames out of cardboard, glitter glue, feathers, whatever they fancy to make them as beautiful as they like. Why not put them on the wall and create a gallery? It worked for Tony Hart!
  6. Put on a play. Children are natural performers, so help them create and rehearse a play and then find some suitable costumes. Rope in the rest of the family, cuddly toys and neighbours (if they’re willing) as an audience. You could even video it for them to watch afterwards.
  7. Bake something. Cakes, biscuits and pizza are easy to make, children enjoy customising them, and you may not even have to bother with cooking dinner if you time it right.
  8. Get the play dough out. Find as many safe kitchen implements as possible which your children can use to play with it. 
  9. Put on an exhibition. Your children could select their favourite toys, books and pictures and lay them out for visitors to come and see. Each item could be labelled and an entry fee to the exhibition could be charged.
  10. Get messy. If you have a box of crafts then let the children have free rein with the contents. It helps to have a washable surface so the kitchen might be the best place. Hand and feet printing is good fun and anything which involves glitter is always a hit (just be prepared to be sweeping up glitter for the rest of the week!).
  11. Design cards and postcards. If there’s a family birthday coming up it’s a good time to make something special. Even if there isn’t, your child could still make a card or postcard for a relative and you can venture out in the rain to post it.
  12. Whether it’s with Lego, wooden blocks or cardboard boxes, build something with the children. And then knock it down again!
  13. Make some mini-outfits for the children’s teddies, Barbie or Action Man. Maybe your child could dress up in a similar outfit to their toy.
  14. Have a sing-song. Try to remember the songs you sang at Brownies or Cubs and teach them to the children. If there’s an instrument they can accompany themselves on that adds to the fun!
  15. Children love to make a noise and if your neighbours are out then you could gather together pots, pans and boxes to make an enormous drum kit. Play some music they can drum along.
  16. Introduce your children to a new topic. It could be another culture or country or a concept like space travel. Use books and the internet to find relevant information. Print off some pictures and you might find some helpful clips they can watch on YouTube too (keep an eye on what they're watching though).
  17. Jigsaw puzzles and board games keep the whole family occupied. Get the children to put away their game consoles and get your old Monopoly and Scrabble boards out instead.
  18. If all else fails, put your wellies on, get out in the rain and have a splash!