Be honest. You’re a little disappointed it’s an El Niño year, aren’t you? Even though we really, really need the rain, being stuck inside with toddlers for more than one day takes the stamina and patience of an Ironman, an Ironmom , if you will. I’m certainly out of training. The drought brought beautiful weather year round, which meant I moved about the city freely with my kids, never bothering to check the weather.
My weather app is telling me our rain marathon is in full swing, so I searched online for rainy day activities in San Francisco. Lists exist, but many of the suggestions are better for kids who are 5+ years old. I need a game plan that works for a 2 ½ and 1 year old, so here are my ideas for entertaining young toddlers at home and around the city, while El Niño does its thing.
I am not crafty, so you won’t find adorable art projects on this list. These are my strategies for keeping peace and sanity in small spaces with small people. Spoiler alert: It’s all about introducing novelty.
1. Make a rainy day kit. Stash away toys, art supplies, games, whatever your kids might like and pull them out when you’re stuck inside.
2. Let them play with forbidden toys. In my house, this means Play-Doh! Let them play or do something they’re normally not allowed to do. By the end, you’ll be reminded why you forbid the stuff in the first place, but at least it killed some time.
3. Play in the bath. Let your kids paint or draw in the bathtub with surface-safe crayons like these. They’ll get a kick out of being in the bath mid-day, and you’ll confine the mess to one area, which, let’s face it, probably needs to be cleaned anyway.
4. Unlock an off limits area. Most of us live in pretty small spaces, but I bet there’s a place that your kids typically don’t play. Maybe it’s your bedroom, a closet, or the kitchen cabinets. Wherever it is, clear out some space, make sure it’s safe, and let them play. A change of scenery will do a world of good.
5. Call in reinforcements. It’s ok to wave the white flag and get someone to watch your kids, while you take a break. They will benefit from the new dynamic (even if they protest when you leave).
6. Let them watch lots of TV. I won’t tell, if you won’t.
1. The SF Public Library – Go anytime to read some books and play with the toys in the children’s section of the branch near you. Check the schedule to join one of the many classes offered throughout the week.
2. Randall Museum – Currently in a temporary location at the Mission Art Center, but their live animal exhibit is there! Go on Tuesdays between 10:00am-12:00pm for the drop-in art class ($10 charge for this part).
3. Go to the mall – This is free as long as you have self discipline. Let them play in the lounge areas in the center of the mall. Buy some frozen yogurt for an extra treat.
4. Invite yourself to a friend’s house – She will be happy for the company, and you will be happy for the adult time. Return the favor on the next rainy day!
5. Play outside anyway – Our kids don’t get to experience snow days, so let them have rain days.
Now, here are some “pay to play” spots that offer drop in classes or open play time with no membership requirements. (Although most give you discounts, if you are a member.)
6. California Academy of Science—The aquarium and rain forest are the highlights for toddlers. Free for kids under 4 years old.
7. Children’s Creativity Museum – Let your kids explore on their own or check the schedule for group time and workshops.
8. JCC—Offering a variety of drop-in classes with no need to sign up online in advance. Don’t forget to check the Family Swim schedule for open swim time in the children’s pool .
9. Peek-a-Boo Factory – This indoor play space has sections dedicated to babies, toddlers, and older kids, so children from 0-10 years old will find a place to play.
10. My Gym – Check the schedule for their Practice and Play sessions or the open gym time that doesn’t require membership.
There you have it: my game plan for toddler activities to do at home and around the city during this extra rainy season. Now, let’s make this a team effort. Please share your ideas in the comments section. I’d love to know what you have planned for the weeks ahead.