By Melissa Smith

The Hurricane brought some strange weather to Texas this year. We’ve had ice storms (yes, plural) and unending gray and rainy days. While I am very thankful for the cooler air, the dullness of the days is beginning to wear on my heart. Where is the sun?

Along with the weather, the midyear school blues have also crept in at our house. I am rethinking all our curriculum and therapy choices, the kids are getting restless and dragging, and we have months left to go. Help!

In light of the Rainy Day Blues setting in, we’ve had to get creative and remember to savor the moments at home. Here are some fun ways to redeem these gray days and have fun as a family to break up the winter doldrums.

1. Read Alouds
We love books in our house! From picture books and classics, to a great fantasy novel or mystery, we enjoy getting lost in faraway places and learning about interesting and inspiring people. Somewhere along the way, we lost this wonderful practice in our home, but we have reinstated it this winter. Our children will set their tablets and schoolwork aside to ask for a chapter or two of the book we’re reading. Nothing breaks the monotony like a great book!

We put on our comfy clothes, grab blankets, and curl up on the couch together. For my wiggly young one who has a short attention span, we bring Thinking Putty for him to play with or a pile of paper with markers for him to draw on while he listens.

If you need a place to start, I recommend a wonderful book called Honey for a Child’s Heart and Honey for a Teen’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. The author has compiled lists of books by genre and age group with short summaries. We have found many excellent gems in this book for both read alouds and independent reading.

Still need an idea of where to start? Look at historical figures or missionaries that you would like your family to learn about. If you are anything like me and your voice gets tired of reading out loud after a short time, we’ve also had a lot of success with audio books through Hoopla. It is a service that links your library card to the account. You can then checkout audiobooks to listen to on your phone or tablet for free.

2. Game Day
As a box-checking mama, I have a hard time setting aside my schedule for the day. However, I’ve found that my children often learn better and have more success in school when we take a day off to play together. Their love tanks get filled, and all of our minds and hearts are refreshed! Since we have a variety of abilities and preferences in our house, we play games Round Robin style. Everyone picks three games they love. Then the youngest child picks first from someone else’s pile of games. We have a blast, and everyone gets at least one of their favorites picked.

3. Puzzles & Playdough
This one is an old friend in our house. My mother gave me her homemade playdough recipe when I had children, and we have used it ever since. The warmth of the playdough, the fabulous smell (we add mint), and the glorious colors (we also add food coloring), give us hours of fun. Pull out your cookie cutters and rolling pin and see what you can create! My older children will even enjoy this for a while before wandering off to pursue other things – like puzzles.

Puzzles are not just for little kids! When we are able, we will set up a card table in a corner and pull out a puzzle to work on. It will take us weeks, but it’s a nice brain break from Algebra or the laundry. We have found some wonderful puzzles at garage sales (they even had ALL the pieces!), or we pick them up at Hobby Lobby when they are on sale.

Homemade Playdough
Double as needed, but prepare to stir!

  • In a saucepan, stir together the following:  1 cup flour 2 tsp cream of tartar 1/3 cup salt

Next, add the following:

  • 1 cup of water 1 tbs of vegetable oil
  • Heat on medium-low and stir, stir, stir!
  • Add a drop or two of your favorite scent – vanilla, mint, or essential oil
  • When it has reached a playdough texture, turn it out onto wax paper and press it out.

Divide it up between your children and help them make a ball. Press it down in the middle and add a drop or two of food color. Enjoy pressing and squeezing it until the color mixes!

4. Craft & Hobby Time
When my children were younger, nothing made them happier than lots of glue, paper, scissors, craft sticks, and the freedom to create anything their hearts desired. A quick trip to the library will help those that need more structure. You can pick up a rainy day craft book full of ideas and inspiration.

My older children now have hobbies and ideas of their own and desire time to pursue them. When I give them permission to set school aside to read up on their hobbies or take time to enjoy them, their minds and hearts fill with dreams and creativity. I love watching them grow! In fact, my teenage son always works harder at school the next day when I’ve given him time to dive into his passions for an afternoon.

5. Cook Together
Yep, it’s going to get messy! All of my children love to get in the kitchen with me and create. I am no great cook, but the time spent mixing, pouring, and laughing together always creates great memories. They learn to work together and follow a recipe, and we get to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Our favorite tradition is Friday night Pizza Night with Dad. My husband helps the children make homemade dough. While it rises, we all play games together. Later, each person “decorates” their personalized pizza with their favorite toppings, and we cook them up! Voila!

If you decide to turn on some music and dance around the kitchen while you create, I encourage you to grab a spatula as a microphone and sing to your heart’s content! My little one always joins in and my teenagers feign embarrassment, but I know they all love seeing their mom have fun.

6. Clean Out a Closet
Okay, this one is not really for the kids. But hey, while your kids are happily crafting and playing, pick a cabinet or closet and go to town! Organize that plastic storage drawer, sort out the bins of school supplies, or dig around in the kids’ closet for stained and outgrown clothes. I often co-opt my children to help me with this and we make piles: throw away, give away, sell. It’s a great way to institute some order in one corner of the house and help teach your children good stewardship.

A Final Thought
Savor the moments, friends. Spring is on its way along with beautiful days outdoors. Until then, grab your children and tell them how much you love them. Then don’t be afraid to set aside the schoolwork and the schedule to relax and laugh with them. It might get messy, but it is worth it. What are your favorite ways to find joy with your family?



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