Survival Tips for Outdoor Rainy Day Activities with Kids

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If the idea of going out in the rain with young ones gives you cold feet, it’s normal. We’re essentially happy inside where it’s dry and warm. However, it pays to face the weather and enjoy a rainy day with outdoor activities. With the right prep, a walk or a nature stroll in the rain is the closest you’ll ever get to a VIP outdoors experience: no crowds, vibrant greens, shiny leaves, slimy creatures and any parking spot you want. Let me share some pro tips on how to dress your kids for a rainy day outdoors activity and how to keep them warm and dry–the secret of happiness.

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Last week when we were in Redwood National Park to re-enact the Endor scenes of The Return of the Jedi, we took a hike with the girls in the rain. On the Northern California coast, forests are lush and primal, remnants of the last glacial age almost untouched by the human hand. Knowing about the rain forecast, we expected to be the only visitors in the company coastal redwoods, newts and a misty river. To make the best of wet weather, so we came prepared and that really made all the difference as we spent an entire half-day out with our two daughters. It rained but it was all right. There’s a reason these forests are so green!

Kids can have fun with their boots too. Photo credit: Western Chief

For the hike (or any outdoor activity on a rainy day), here was my survival plan:

      • Shoes = Rain boots (or wellies). Good rain boots keep the moisture out, prevent mud from getting on the bottom of the clothes and provide enough traction to walk over roots, branches and inclines. They’re even adapted to short walks in a stream or a pond! If you only have hiking boots in your cupboards, you might wonder if rain boots are necessary. Unless they’re top of the line with a super Goretex shell, kids’ hiking boots are likely to get wet after 2 hours of rainy trails and puddles. If your plan is only to be out during an hour, it shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re out more, think again.
      • Thick socks. Inside the boots, make sure those feet wear thick socks that are not going to slide down when walking. I usually go for wool or a synthetic blend but I avoid cotton at all costs. It’s a killer in wet weather! Once it’s wet, you’re cold and miserable because cotton dries very slowly.
      • Warm layer for legs. If your kids are up for it, you can try polyester tights or light thermal pants under the regular trousers, or thermal-lined trousers. Layers close to the skin are essential to keeping the body warm, especially if you stop for a snack or to look at frogs and snails.
      • Waterproof outside layers. Our girls wore winter pants and tops stayed dry and warm with winter jackets. As outside temperature was hovering in the 30s (Farenheit, that’s close to freezing), we didn’t want to have to deal with a cold when we got home. If you have good rain coats that are long enough and lots of synthetic quick-drying layers, you’re good to go.
      • Blister-specific bandages. Our oldest daughter became miserable when her socks started crumpling inside her boot and gave her blisters around the ankle. Though her socks were the right size, they were just too stretchy and didn’t stay in place. The end of the hike required fortitude and courage for her blistered feet. I now always carry blister-specific and waterproof bandages (plasters) in my wallet and they’ve been useful more than once, even for strangers met on the trail.
      • Kid-sized umbrellas. Our girls each carried theirs. They’re relatively small, bell-shaped and clear, which makes sightseeing easier.
      • Clean change of clothes. When we came back rather drenched from the hike, I whipped out a fresh and dry change of clothes from a bag inside the car. Minutes later, my girls were dry, warm and a lot happier.
      • Rain cover. I protected my backpack with a rain cover. Sports stores carry them in all sizes, from the city day pack to the multi-day ginormous backpack. They’re light weight, useful and effective.

In hindsight, the only item I should have thought about was the blister bandage kit or thick tights to avoid the blister problem.

Snacks were eaten, water was drunk (though not a lot, you don’t get that thirsty when it’s cold and wet outside) and a good time was had by all. My girls got to enjoy the redwoods through their pink umbrella.

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Were we really the only visitors? Not quite.

Another family arrived with their kids just as we were leaving. When we reached the trailhead, they were wrapping their feet in plastic bags before slipping them into running shoes. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable and sweaty their hike must have been, but I can’t say plastic bags are strangers to outdoor rainy days. I’ve regularly seen people wrapping their tennis shoes in plastic or trash bags to hit the trails. More times than not, these plastic bags don’t cut it when their feet sink in puddles or muddy spots. Plastic bags start getting loose, they tear up on roots, water gets in and they just don’t do a very good job of keeping feet and clothing dry.

I say: be ready and you’ll be happy.

Now you can look forward to an outdoor rainy day out with the kids. Never mind the weather forecast!

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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

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4 Responses to “Survival Tips for Outdoor Rainy Day Activities with Kids”

  1. December 08, 2010 at 3:53 pm, Debi said:

    Walking in the rain is a unique experience – especially for kids. Things just smell, sound and feel different. Thanks for the great tips!

    Reply

  2. December 09, 2010 at 8:26 am, Stephanie said:

    We love a fellow rain hiker. There is nothing like the squish of mud or the ticklish feeling of a raindrop sliding through your hair. And it always ends with hot cocoa! Love the tips as well!

    Reply

  3. December 09, 2010 at 10:51 am, Eva said:

    I’m not very good at getting out when the weather is not so nice – but it IS fantastic to be in the woods when it rains, with the intensified smell, the soft forest floor, and the sound of the rain falling through the trees – lovely!

    Reply

  4. December 10, 2010 at 12:56 pm, Angela said:

    This is an awesome post! Thank you for notating your family’s rain hiking experience. The pictures are lovely, and it is nice to see another family that will not let the weather restrict their outdoor play. And also thank you, for your tips! I plan to adopt your prep work when my own clan goes on a rain walk in the woods.

    Reply

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