Rainy day: sensory play ideas for pre-schoolers

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Guidelines suggest that once children can walk by themselves, they should get at least 180 minutes of physical activity during their day, including both light and energetic activity. Most settings have fantastic outdoor spaces designed for physical play which help them  achieve this target. However, there are days when the weather is just too much for it to be enjoyable without some inspiration!

When you consider senses of the body, you may instinctively think of the basic touch, sight, sound, taste and smell.  Incorporated with all of these is movement and children need a good range of large motor play as part of their development, as well as to use up energy. On a rainy day, it may seem more of a challenge to get children active.

Don’t let rain stop play

A rainy day calls for an umbrella:  that parachute that comes out for summer play or a sheet of tarpaulin is the perfect opportunity for building an outdoor shelter. Children’s imagination can be sparked by collecting twigs for the ‘fire’; moving the large blocks to create seating or somewhere to cook your leaf stew!

Quite often, children don’t mind playing whilst it rains, as it is an excuse for splashing in puddles. But, to add something exciting to the mix – they could do chalk painting, ball bouncing, mud soup or fishing in puddles!

child reading
Storytelling is an excellent platform for children to learn

Bringing the outdoors indoors

Mark making for pre-schoolers is an important part of learning to write. Mud and twigs sourced from outside are the perfect ink and pen. Collect leaves, twigs, cones, grasses and chippings to create an indoor play tray of the garden outside. Add animals to create a story about what is happening in the garden that day. The children will love to decide what the horse or the duck is doing out there in the rain. Nature play is perfect for creating  fun science experiments, too. Sinking and floating experiments with the leaves, twigs and stones will make an exciting game.

Music and stories

Action songs have long been used for pre-school activity and are fantastic for getting children moving. Research has shown that musical activity stimulates development in every area of a child’s  brain – from hearing to emotion. The use of music with ribbons, juggling scarves, shakers and pompoms adds a new physical aspect, as well as being more sensory and allowing a child to be creative with their moves!

On a rainy day, storytelling is an excellent platform for children to learn, form opinions, expand vocabulary and stimulate their imagination. By using role play during story time, a child’s senses are heightened – whilst they listen, watch and wait for the story to unfold. The use of props and dressing up will make for an amazing adventure, wherever the story may take you!

As you can see from the list of suggestions, rainy play shouldn’t stop children from engaging in creative play! Make the most of nature by bringing items indoors, or putting on wellies and letting children experience the weather outside. If the elements really do present a challenge, active play inspired through music making and story telling can be equally beneficial for children’s development.


Lisa LaneAbout the author

Lisa Lane launched Sensory Scenes in 2014 with the aim to provide themed bags of fun for play, exploring and learning. With three boys of her own, she is passionate about children being able to manipulate, explore and use their imagination.

Sensory Scenes’ themed bags are perfect for individual play, sensory tray play and themed subject planning.


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