An online friend of mine recently ran into a bit of a parenting conundrum. He’s used to working his day job outside of the home, so it’s an utter rarity for him to have an entire day where he is alone with his daughter. While he’s got a handle on the “taking care of her” part of the situation, he very quickly ran into the challenge of keeping her entertained. What exactly can they do together for this precious daddy-daughter time? How can he keep her engaged for hours on end?

During warm summer months, when the weather is a little more agreeable, we generally have more options for keeping toddlers and preschoolers happy. We can go to the park or the playground or the zoo. But what about rainy day activities when you’d rather not go outside? What can you do then? (Aside from taking endless selfies, of course.)

Deep Dive into Some Books

Reading is an everyday thing in the Kwan household, as it is an integral part of the usual bedtime routine. We always read a bedtime story. This doesn’t mean that reading is only a bedtime activity. What I’ve been doing when we read a book during the day is that we will explore the book’s contents more deeply.

Reading is FUNdamental

For instance, we’ve been reading Rosie Goes to Preschool by Karen Katz. The actual text in the book is rather minimal, but I’ll ask Addie what the children are doing on each page and whether she does that at preschool too. This has the added benefit of extending what would otherwise be a very short read into one that retains her attention for a much longer period of time.

Hit Up the Public Libary

We’ve steadily amassed a growing collection of books as my daughter’s interests and capabilities have changed. But constantly buying new books can prove to be an expensive endeavor, especially if it turns out she doesn’t like the books we buy. In this way, the public library is such a treasured resource.

Part of the appeal is that we get to sample different authors and series to see what she likes. She also gets to spend some time with other kids and the library is constantly putting on different events and programs (for free). For quite a while there, I kept bringing her to story time, even if I was the only dad there sometimes. Our library even has DVDs you can borrow!

Build a Castle

No matter the weather, Addie is always up for building a castle. At least, that’s how she describes it (and I’m not entirely sure how or why she started referring to it that way). What she really means is that she wants to play with her blocks.

She’s not quite old enough for LEGO just yet — or rather I’m not quite patient enough to deal with tiny pieces going missing everywhere as I grimace in pain after stepping on yet another rogue brick — so the bigger, more toddler-friendly blocks do the trick. Her specialty are extra tall towers with a footprint of precisely one unit, but you’re limited only by your imagination when you’ve got a big bag of Mega Bloks on hand.

Oh and sometimes those “castles” are also “birthday cakes” and I have to “blow out the candles.” Because castles and cakes are totally the same thing.

Walk Around the Mall

To some people, the most offensive four-letter word is “mall.” I disagree. For me, it’s not even about the rampant consumerism and the rapid rise of fast fashion. I might change my tune when my daughter gets a little older, but until then, heading to the mall on a rainy day is a pretty great idea.

That’s because the notion of “shopping” doesn’t even need to enter the conversation. Metropolis at Metrotown has a miniature train that’s only $1 for adults (and kids are free). Both Brentwood Town Centre and Lougheed Town Centre have indoor playgrounds for kids, and we’ll oftentimes hit up the food court (or Starbucks) for a quick snack.

Go to Science World

When I was a kid, one of my favorite rainy day activities was spending an afternoon at Science World. There were (and still are) always new exhibits to explore, providing nearly limitless learning opportunities that are actually fun. Up until recently, though, I thought Science World was only relevant after children reached a certain age. There’s no point in bringing a two- or three-year-old, right?

Science World Wonder Gallery

Well, while I was listening to Dr. Scott Sampson talk about raising a wild child last summer, Addie was over at the Wonder Gallery exploring all sorts of different stations and activities. This special interactive section was “created exclusively for early learners” up to five years of age, giving them the opportunity to “crawl, splash, build, climb, play with light, and experiment.”

Better still, kids under three years of age are free.

Visit the Aquarium

There is nothing quite like seeing a child’s eyes fill with wonder. She had a tremendous time exploring the Biodome at Espace pour la vie in Montreal and we plan on taking her to the Vancouver Aquarium (for the first time!) later this year. Most of the exhibits are indoors, so you’ll be protected from the elements, making it safe and easy for toddlers and preschoolers to ask their parents about everything they see.

You’ll know everything about the Giant Pacific Octopus and the blacktip reef sharks in no time, right? Don’t worry. There are tons of shows, training sessions and trainer talks to keep them occupied too. And similar to Science World, admission to Vancouver Aquarium is free for kids three and under.

Work on an Art Project

How complex this gets will naturally depend greatly on the child. I’m of the mind that we should always nurture a kid’s creativity and visual art is one of the most natural avenues for creative expression. Maybe it’s just coloring. Maybe it’s working with different materials and textures, like modeling clay. Maybe it’s deciding that you don’t really need to stay within the lines.

Bake Something Together

While you probably shouldn’t set your preschooler free in the kitchen with raw eggs and hot ovens, they can definitely participate and “help out” in a baking project. You can ask if they’d rather have chocolate chips or pecans in their cookies, for example. Decorating shortbread cookies or cupcakes can be a lot of fun too, especially since the two of you will be able to eat the fruits of your labor.

I’m sure it wouldn’t take much more than a quick search on Pinterest to come up with innumerable toddler-friendly baking recipes.

Dance Like No One’s Watching

One of the many lessons my daughter is teaching me is that I need to forget about what other people might think. So, even if the blinds are wide open in the living room, I have no qualms about cranking up “Havana” by Camila Cabello (her current favorite song, apparently) and busting a move with my little girl.

We have music playing in the house pretty often. In fact, Addie has gotten so familiar with our Sonos speaker system that she knows how to turn it on and off herself. Ooh na-na! See, I’m the cool dad. It’s what I do?