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What to do on a rainy day

Here it is, the rainy season. The afternoon downpours are back.

And if you're a mom with young children at home, the combination of soggy weather, school vacation and sibling rivalry can make those rainy days seem never-ending.

Unless, that is, you have a plan.

What can you do to pass the time on those dreary afternoons when the playground is full of puddles and your daily walk through the neighborhood is a wash-out?

Jean Feldman, a teacher, education consultant, and author of the book Rainy Day Activities, said parents first should avoid the temptation to turn on the television or computer.

Instead, simple activities like hiding magnetic letters around the house and sending children on an alphabet scavenger hunt can be exciting -- especially if Mom or Dad is involved.

"For a child, rolling a ball into a paper bag sometimes is all they really need,'' she said.

Feldman said parents who are stuck for ideas need only to think back to their own childhoods. "Call up Grandma and ask her what she used to do when it rained,'' she suggested.

Chances are our children will love to play the same games we enjoyed when we were kids: school, hide-and-go-seek, grocery store, she said.

Science experiments, art projects or cooking healthy snacks can also be great pastimes when the forecast is glum … and you don't want to drive around in the rain to reach the museums and other attractions.

MomsMiami.com asked South Florida experts and children's educators for a sampling of their favorite rainy day activities. Here are some of their ideas:

BE A METEOROLOGIST

Homemade barometers are a great way to teach children about how barometric pressure changes with the weather, said Nicolette Bartolini, curriculum and outreach director for the Miami Children's Museum.

To make a barometer, stretch a balloon or latex glove over a clean, empty glass jar and secure with a rubber band. Tape a straw horizontally to the top of the jar and stand it on a table near a ruler that is taped to the wall, she explained.

The straw should be pointing at a spot on the ruler. As the pressure in the jar changes, the air will expand or contract. The straw will move up or down as the balloon stretches or sinks.

WRITE A BOOK

Pick a topic your children enjoy -- school, sports, pop music -- and have them write and illustrate, suggests Anne Thompson, director of the Office of Parental Involvement for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. You can assist with online research.

TAP YOUR INNER PICASSO

Bring the outside in with an imagination mural, said Kalyn James, spokeswoman for Arts for Learning, a Miami nonprofit organization that promotes the arts in schools.

Help your child create a wall-sized picture, complete with a door and windows through which they can see a sunny day. Start by taping pieces of paper or poster board together to form a large canvas on your wall. Sketch what your kids want to draw with pencil. Add color with paints, markers or crayons.

Have your children add details like birds and bumblebees, trees and grass. Then use your imagination to play an indoor version of your child's favorite outdoor game.

BE A DRAMA QUEEN (OR KING)

Read a book together and then act out your favorite parts. Play dress-up or create a stage and scenery out of cardboard boxes, Bartolini suggests.

GET BUSY IN THE KITCHEN

Cooking is a great way to learn because it involves all five senses, Feldman said. She suggests scrambling eggs and some chopped ham together and adding a few drops of food coloring for Green Eggs and Ham. Or, add some food coloring to a few different cups of milk to make edible paint, using a piece of toast as a canvas. Use Q-Tips to write letters or make designs.

DECLARE A NEW HOLIDAY

Make it "Backward Day,'' when you start your meals with dessert and go backward, Thompson suggested.

Or, she said, it could be "Socks Day'' when shoes are outlawed and mismatched socks are made into puppets.

How about Green Day? Wear clothes, eat food and create crafts that are green.

"Even if you run out of steam and need to do some couch potato time, do it together,'' Thompson said. "You'll always remember the fun you had on a rainy day with your children.''

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