One Monday morning, my two daughters woke up sick. We home school but Mondays are not a regular school day for us. I work part-time for my church and on Mondays I usually work for about three hours and my kids stay with my mother during that time.
This particular Monday, though, I felt that I needed to cancel my work plans and stay home with sick kids. My son wasn’t sick – yet, although he would follow his sisters the next day.
Soon after making my phone calls so I could stay home, the skies opened up and it began raining cats and dogs.
On a rainy sick day, it’s easy for everyone to get bored and cranky. Wanting to redeem some of the time, I came up with some fun learning games that my kids really enjoyed.
I called the first one “Ladybug Dance.” Don’t ask me why – maybe because I started out by sewing a small beanbag that looked like a ladybug. I used a bowl to trace a round pattern on red fabric, then cut two of the pattern, sewed them together on the machine leaving a small opening.
I then turned the “ladybug” inside out, took a black permanent marker and began decorating it to look like a ladybug. My six-year-old daughter Mia quickly begged to take over the spot-making.
After she finished with the many spots she drew, all three kids helped me fill the bug with dried beans (dry rice would also work), then I turned in the edges of the opening and sewed it up, double stitching at the beginning and ending of the seam.
I then took ten pieces of construction paper and wrote a number on each piece from one through ten. On the opposite sides I wrote a short, three-letter word (Mom, Dad, cat, dog, pig, bug, hug, etc.).
We scooted the table out of the way to make a large area on the kitchen floor. I first placed each piece of construction paper on the floor, number sides up. The papers could be placed in any order – numerically or randomly. We didn’t tape them down but that might be a good idea to keep the game orderly if you have enthusiastic beanbag throwers.
The rules of this game were each player got five turns, one turn at a time – starting with the youngest and working up to the oldest.
The goal is to throw the ladybug onto a number. The number counts as a score as long as the beanbag is touching the paper – even if it isn’t completely on the paper.
I used a small dry erase board and marker on the refrigerator to keep score. The number on the paper is the score in the first round, then after everyone took a turn, the ladybug goes back to the first player. The number landed on that time is written as a math problem with the first number. For example, Ruby hit the number three on her first try, and number two on her second.
Next to her name I wrote 3 + 2 = ? My third-grader and first-grader were required to figure out the answers to each math problem and each consecutive turn increased the running totals. After five turns, the winner was the player with the highest score.
For the four-year-old, the game was reinforcing her number recognition.
My kids loved the game and didn’t even care that they were doing math!
We then turned the papers over so the words showed.
This time, I was trying to help my first-grader with her reading skills – an area she has been struggling with. When any player landed the beanbag on a word, she was required to read the word, the preschooler had to identify the color, and the third-grader had to use that particular word in a complete sentence.
They loved both games and begged to play more.
The next day was another rainy sick day, with all three kids now sick. Schools lessons weren’t working because we were all on edge due to severe weather.
So, it was time to improvise and adapt in order to work some learning fun into the day and keep everyone’s mind away from the threatening weather.
I began to work on more easily-thrown-together television-free activities that are fun and educational.
Bowling: Two-liter bottles, 20-ounce bottles, empty jars with lids (make sure all bottles and jars have lids and are plastic), or empty aluminum soda cans or tin cans can be used. You’ll need ten “pins.” If you’re like me, you may not have ten of any of these things empty, so use a combination of whatever you have around the house.
Fill the lidded items partially with water, dry rice, sand, dry beans, whatever is readily available. The cans could just be used empty. Make sure any tin cans have the sharp edges sanded down and have been rinsed out well.
Remove labels and write directly on the bottles and cans or cut up scraps of paper. Each pin needs a number or a word on it – depending on what you want the game to teach. Each pin could contain a question or a challenge to be completed. Math, reading, vocabulary, spelling, Bible – the sky’s the limit
How about each pin containing a chore to be done before the game resumes? Just be sure to have fun with it!
Pins could be set up in a triangle as in real bowling or set up in a straight line. Use your imagination and creativity.
Another game using the same pins would be to find rolls of masking tape and have the kids try to land the ring on one of the pins for a score, a question or a challenge.
If you don’t have any bottles or cans, you could use rolls of toilet paper. Don’t worry, they’ll still be usable when the kids are finished.
Scavenger Hunt: Using a graphics program on my computer, I created numbers and letters in fun and interesting fonts and included a colorful picture to go along with the character. I put everything on one sheet of paper.
I cut out each number or letter, then went through the house taping each one in various hiding places – cabinets, cabinet doors, the bottom of chairs, in the refrigerator, underneath the silverware, wherever.
I printed out duplicate copies of the “list” and gave one to the kids.
They had to work together to find all of the hidden letters or numbers and then bring them back to me so we could look at them together.
“Scribbles” is a fun game that encourages creativity and cooperation. Give each child a blank piece of paper, some markers or crayons and ask them to each draw something on their paper: A line, a shape, a scribble. Next have everyone pass their paper to the person on their left. Each person then adds their own drawing to the paper, then passes that paper to the person on their left. This goes on for as long as the kids are interested. It’s fun to see what zany drawings they can come up with.
Here’s a variation of Scribbles, except the kids are telling stories instead of drawing. Sit in a circle and give each person a length of yarn – it doesn’t matter how long or how short. One person starts by telling a story as they wind the yarn around one finger. When they run out of yarn, their storytelling is finished, then it is the next person’s turn. This continues until the story is finished (everyone can take as many turns as they’d like) or everyone is too tired to tell stories.
With a little creativity and a few ideas, rainy days and sick days don’t have to get everyone down. Who knows – the kids may look forward to the next day they are stuck in the house!