Well, you probably would agree that we are experiencing unusual weather and in Australia it has been raining a lot this year. Many parents may not complain, because it is lovely sleeping weather for toddlers and wrapped babies! But many parents are pulling their hair out with energetic house-bound toddlers! Since I am always encouraging ‘wearing out’ your toddler in the preparation for sleep, I have had a lot of phone calls and emails asking for ideas on how to achieve this when it’s raining.

So here are some of the ideas I have been suggesting:

  • No TV! just music for dancing (the wiggles/playschool music CD etc) or at home kindygym type activity. There are a specific cd’s aimed at home dancing/exercise for toddlers and young children.
  • In an appropriate room play games with balloons/soft balls, chasing, kicking, hide and go seek, trying to see who can keep the balloon in the air the longest.
  • Create cubby houses from the dining room table and blankets/sheets, encourages crawling.
  • Use a spring out tunnel in the lounge room and encourage the toddler to crawl through it to play with different activities at either end. You could have farm animals at one end and jungle animals or people figures at the other end and suggest a game where the toddler encourages the different toys to visit each other.
  • Use large boxes to create cars, planes, ships, cubby houses, shops, a city, police cars, fire engines. Add some dress ups and encourage journeys around the house to complete missions.
  • Create a letter box from a nappy box (paint it red or cover it in red paper) and give your toddler your old junk mail in old envelopes. Address the envelopes to your toddlers toys and have the toddler dress up and be a postman. When addressing the envelope use a different colour for the first letter in the name of the toy to encourage learning the sounds of the letters (phonetics) to help with reading. Get creative and encourage deliveries all over the house. After delivering the mail, the toddler could dress up and help the toys open their mail.
  • Bubble blowing and chasing the bubbles around.
  • Indoor play centres, where mum can have a coffee and the toddler can get tired.
  • Wait for a break in the rain and dress the toddler in puddle wear (from Mothers Direct-Australian Breastfeeding Association) and gum boots. Then let them run and jump in puddles.
  • If it’s hot you can still go swimming even if it’s raining, after all you are going to get wet anyway.

Knowing that the preparation for sleep influences the quality of sleep your toddler experiences will help you to be realistic about how long your toddler will sleep. If they are not interested in a day sleep and starting to look like they will cope with not having a day sleep at all, maybe a rest with stories on the lounge or in bed will suffice.

You are the expert on your toddler and will know how much sleep your toddler requires during the day to enhance their night sleep. Remember to lower your expectations of the day sleep when we are travelling, visiting, shopping or are not in a position to ensure the active play and rainy days can be treated as similar days. Also plan carefully what your toddler eats to avoid unnecessary sugar, colours and preservatives that excite and energise them!

Tip: The one activity that does help the toddler to wind down and recognise that they are tired before bed is sitting still for some stories. Aim for 2-3 books over 8-10 minutes. Lie the toddler back on your chest and hold the book up so they keep lying down and can still see the book! Encourage this position for all three stories and if the toddler becomes fidgety and wants to wriggle away try to distract them with the story. It is the total length of time sitting still for the stories that makes the difference to how tired they ‘feel’, don’t think that 3 books with a jumping, active toddler on the lounge will do the same thing!!