Recently, we have been feeling so much pressure to register, to organize play dates, to structure. What about spontaneity?  Learning through play? We have been soliciting ideas for fun, learning-enhancing activities that can be done with little or no cost. Pretend play offers young children a chance to practice skills within their own frame work and rules, letting them set the boundaries. You can always make suggestions if they need it but follow them, not the other way around.

Pretend play ideas for rainy days

1. Grocery store.  Empty your recycling box, and set up a grocery store with the kids.  A cardboard box or stroller could become a grocery cart, and pennies in a ‘cash register’ and ‘wallet’ are a nice touch.  You could even get more complicated with receipts and price stickers to do some math work.  At many ages you can use this as a tool to learn counting, money management, and creativity.  If we want to bake a cake, what do we need?
2. Hide the toys.  Make a scavenger hunt with favourite toys. (like an Easter egg hunt anytime of the year!)
3. Playdoh from scratch is fun and you can put it into glass jars with recipe tags for birthday party giveaways.
4. Clues.  She draws up paper “clues” of objects around her house and then turns off the lights.  The kids have their flashlights (ecotronic ones from Raspberry Kids of course!) and she gives them their first clue.  They figure out what the image is and then they go to it to find their next clue.  At the end the kids get a ‘You Win’ drawing with a happy face and we will give them a small treat.
5. Coffee grind Sensory Table, from Gather your materials. Allison saved up 3 days worth of used coffee grinds. You will also need a tub, some coffee scoops (anything will do) and some mugs. Explore! There is no wrong way to do this. Her son did a lot of filling and dumping to start with.  After the sensory exploration you can feed your garden with the coffee grinds.
6. Use alphabet flash cards, and pick a different one every day.  You must do something that starts with the letter.  ‘P’ could be highlighted for an activity like Picking blackberries, or Playing the Piano.
7. Play coffee shop.  Kitchen mugs, pretend sugar, cappuccino foam, and flavours, an apron and a menu.
8. Grab a Nature Bag and get outside.
9. Plant a salad garden.  Lettuce is fast and easy to grow, then invite some other kids over to pick it and do a big salad bar.
10.  Movie theatre.  Have you played soccer all day and just need to sit down?  Why not turn family movie night into a game.  Have the usher seat you (with a flashlight of course), have a server bring popcorn, or go to the snack bar during an intermission.

There are lots of cool ways to spend your time at home, like these rainy day games.  For free.  No registration required.