Rainy Day Fun: Bring Your Favorite TCMU Exhibits Home 

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Playing with children is important for their overall development and well-being no matter the weather. When you play with children, you are not only providing them with an opportunity for fun and enjoyment, but you are also building a strong emotional bond with them. Playing together allows you to create lasting memories, strengthen your relationship, and foster trust and communication and there are many ways to do this even when you can’t necessarily go outdoors.  

Developmental Benefits of Play 

Through play, children learn important social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and cooperating with others. It also helps them develop their creativity, imagination, problem-solving skills, and emotional resilience.  

By engaging in play activities with children, you are supporting their cognitive, physical, and emotional growth in a positive and meaningful way. Ultimately, playing with children helps them feel loved, valued, and supported, which are essential for their overall development and well-being. 

To read about the developmental benefits of learning through play in more detail, check out this blog post by our very own Chief Learning Officer- Early Childhood Development, Dr. Catie Davis. 

a woman and a little girl standing next to each other

Finding Creative Ways to Play on Rainy Days 

The hardest days for some parents are the rainy days! As a parent of a threenager, I know how hard it can be on those days when we can’t leave the house or play outside due to rain. I hate to immediately turn to screens for my daughter’s entertainment, so sometimes my husband and I have to get creative and use our imagination to pass the time.  

As the Chief of Staff at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, I am surrounded by creative ways to engage children in learning and play. My daughter loves visiting the museum, but when we’re stuck at home, we often do rainy day activities that remind her of some of her favorite exhibits at TCMU. Here are some fun examples of bringing TCMU exhibits to life at home with pretend play.  

a little girl sitting on the floor playing with a teddy bear

Your Healthy Body In-Home, a Prescription for Engagement 

You can set up an at-home version of the Your Healthy Body exhibit at TCMU-Greenville or the Spartanburg Regional Health Center exhibit at TCMU-Spartanburg by gathering items like Band-Aids, toy medical kits, and some patients, of course! Just like we use teddy bears as patients in the exhibit, your child can perform check-ups on their favorite doll or stuffed animals

Establishing Roles and Concepts 

Most often we pretend Ellie is the doctor and my husband and I are patients. If you have more than one child, encourage them to take turns being the doctor and the patient, allowing them to use their imagination and creativity as they treat their ‘patients’. You incorporate learning by introducing basic medical concepts in a simple and engaging way. 

This role-playing game can help children develop empathy, communication skills, and spark their interest in the healthcare field. It also helps ease some of the anxious feelings that children sometimes feel about doctor’s offices. It is so sweet to hear our daughter comfort us when we are having to get a pretend shot!  

a box of learning resources for children

Doctor’s Office Toys for Imaginative Play 

The TCMU Store offers a huge selection of toys to encourage imaginative play, including many that are perfect for creating your at-home doctor’s office.  

  • This Learning Resources medical kit includes six chunky tools like a thermometer and a stethoscope made from durable, soft plastic.  
  • The Pretend Play Notepad helps your child to feel like the real deal, playing as a doctor or vet checking boxes to take simple notes on reasons for visit, emotions, and treatment options.  

a little girl standing in front of a fruit stand

Set up Shop with an At-Home Publix 

My child LOVES going to the grocery store and playing grocery store at home with a child can be a fantastic way to encourage creativity and imagination. The Publix exhibit at the museum can be brought into your home with a couple simple steps and fun grocery toys.  

Ways to Create a Store-like Environment 

Start by gathering items from your pantry, play food set, or pictures of food to serve as groceries, like the props seen in our exhibit. Assign roles for the child and yourself, one being the cashier and the other the customer. Use pretend money or make your own out of paper to add to the fun… even better if you have a pretend cash register or self-checkout station.  

Opportunities to Enhance Learning 

  • Encourage the child to create a shopping list or ask them to find specific items in the ‘store’.  
  • Discuss healthy food choices and teach them about the different food groups as they shop.  
  • Additionally, you can practice counting, sorting items, and even work on social skills by taking turns and communicating during your play time. 
  • I like to use this time as an opportunity to work on manners as well.  We practice saying things like, “Hello ma’am, how are you doing today?” or “Thank you sir, we will see you next time.”  

This pretend play activity will not only provide entertainment but also promote cognitive development.  

a wooden toy shopping cart with wheels

Grocery Toys You Must “Check Out” 

Just like TCMU offers a great way to embrace imagination in the Publix exhibit, the TCMU store offers many ways for you to bring the fun into your own home.   

  • The real-life shopping feel into your home wouldn’t be complete without a toy shopping cart. This cart is made to look like a real cart in-store and is sustainably sourced.  
  • The variety of dishes that this 15-piece food set helps children to expand their knowledge of cultural cuisines from regions across the globe while playing. 

The TCMU Store offers many fun toys to recreate a check-out station, like used in our exhibit. 

  • This beautiful wooden register allows your child to learn counting and sorting with bills and cards included.  
  • The Talking Cash Register offers a high-quality STEM experience with three built in languages as well as pretend cash, coins, and a working microphone.  
a group of people standing around a horse exhibit

Experience the Fun of Grandma Betty’s Farm at Home

Grandma Betty’s Farm offers many ways for children to engage, imagine, and experience life on a farm. From the garden to the barn, and even the table, children love to enjoy the learning experience offered here and the fun doesn’t have to stop when you walk out the door. You can be a farmer at home, too! 

How to Foster Imaginative Farm Play 

  • You can start by setting up a ‘farm’ area with toy animals, a barn (can be built out of Legos or cardboard), fake food, farm equipment (toy tractors or other vehicles), etc. Encourage the child to take on different roles, such as a farmer or animal caretaker. They can also pretend to be certain animals, practicing their sounds and movements.   
  • Let them make up stories and scenarios as they tend to the farm animals and complete other tasks on the farm. You can introduce basic concepts about farm life, such as planting seeds, caring for animals, and the cycle of growth.  

Benefits of Farm Pretend Play 

This role-playing game can also help children develop fine motor skills, language skills, and learn about the importance of taking care of the environment. Have fun immersing yourselves in the world of farming and watch as the child’s imagination blossoms through this engaging and educational play activity.

Bring the Outside Indoors with Farming Toys 

Incorporating imaginative play farm toys will allow for a hands-on and interactive experience for children. The TCMU Store offers many toys that mimic farm life, or livestock found on a farm.  

  • This set of Farm Animal Bendables allows for children to bend and twist animals such as cows, pigs and horses.  
  • The My First Farm Animals set offers a variety of barnyard animals that click apart and together with one another to make interesting and imaginative creations.  
  • My First Tractor Set is compatible with the My First Farm Animal set and offers magnetic discovery through pieces displaying fences, tractors, trailers, and horses! 

Make a Splash with In-Home Water Play 

Yes, there is still a way to have fun with water when it is raining. Like Reedy River Bend and the Toddler Lily Pond at TCMU-Greenville, or Spartanburg Water at TCMU-Spartanburg, there are many ways that you can bring the fun of water indoors within your home.  

Ways to Incorporate Water Fun In-Home 

  • Let your children have a special “bath party” by adding extra bubbles, toys, bathtub paints, etc. You can play music while they play and have special snacks when you are done to keep the party vibe going. 
  • If you don’t want the child in the bath, you can fill up the tub and have them play with boats or plastic animals in the water.  Encourage them to think about what animals can live in water and what animals must live on land.  
  • Another water activity to keep the kiddos busy is a pouring/transferring station.  Provide containers of varying sizes and shapes for children to practice pouring and transferring water indoors.  They can use scoops, cups or other objects to transfer water from container to container.  You can even use ice or colored water to enhance the experience.  
  • While you have the containers out, let the children do sink or float test.  Find random items from around the house and have them put them in the water to see if they sink or float. The kids can practice categorizing the items into two groups- sink or float and have them brainstorm what makes the items sink. 

Working with water will help children’s motor skills, cognitive processing and spatial awareness.  

Water Toys to Embrace the Rain 

The TCMU Store has a marina full of boats to choose from, with friendly faces to greet your little one.  

  • Take a dive underwater with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse submarines. These submarines showcase a spinning rear propeller and features that allow for smooth scoop-and-pour sensory play.  
  • This Mickey Mouse & Friends Linking Boats set includes three boats with interchangeable parts. Children can pour, strain, or funnel water with these toys, creating an experience like that of Reedy River Bend and the Toddler Lily Pond.  
  • If your child enjoys scoop-and-pour transferring, this toy paddle boat offers scoop-and-pour features similar to the Mickey and Minnie submarines and includes a spinning paddle wheel on the back with easy to grasp handles.

Important Takeaways from Rainy Days 

As a parent, it is essential to remember that a rainy day is not an end to your day of play but a way to think outside of the box to find fun and educational ways to play indoors. Incorporating the things you love about your visits to The Children’s Museum of the Upstate is a great way to bring home fun when you can’t go out. When you can leave the house, The Children’s Museum of the Upstate is a great destination to enjoy yourself when the weather requires indoor play! 

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