Being the caregiver for a sick child can be challenging. Despite trying to prevent the common cold or something more serious, your children will get sick, and being home with kids while they're sick can be a tough task for any parent. Children react to being sick and homebound in different ways: some are fidgety and active; others may be whiny, tearful, needy, extra emotional, calmer than normal, or just generally out of sorts. Children tend to act the way they feel. Some get restless being in the same indoor environment, without fresh air for an extended period. Many children tend to want to be cuddled, held, or entertained. Often, they don’t know what to do with themselves. They may feel hungry but not want to eat, or feel tired but not want to sleep. Mostly, they want to stay closely connected to us. At the same time, as parents, we may be worried about missing a day of work and the consequences of what we will be coming back to. This can be a formula for a bad day!
Believe it or not, in spite of this, some parents find that their favorite times with their children were when they were mildly ill; sick enough to stay home from child care or school, but not so sick that they were totally confined to lying in bed. These days can turn out to be close, cuddly times with lots of opportunities to read books, play board games, and talk.
Tips for Planning Sick Day Activities for Kids
We might start out a sick day with the idea that we will take advantage of the "down" time and use part of the day to catch up on housework, job-related work or family responsibilities. But then we realize that maybe it's best to postpone the chores, and enjoy the special quality time with our child. It is important to remember that we can never get this day back.
So we decide to maximize the time with our child, but after reading books, playing with Legos, and watching a movie, we might think, "Now what?" Below are some tips to help you plan indoor activities for your sick housebound child.
Plan Your Child’s Play Area
If he/she needs to stay calm, plan sick day activities that can be done in bed, on a couch, or perhaps create a cozy corner on the floor:
- Plan activities that can be done lying down or in a sitting position that do not require a table. Some examples include: playing with magnetic letters or shapes on a metal cookie sheet, paper dolls, sewing cards, or using a laptop computer.
- Set up a cozy corner or tent. A child might need to be calm or rest but that does not necessitate staying in bed. Furthermore, a child who has been home for awhile needs different environments. A cozy corner or a tent can be created in any room of your home with pillows, blankets, or sleeping bags. You might enjoy reading with your child, making up stories together, or drawing.
- Break up the monotony by spending time in different rooms. Spend time outside could be an option, but only if the weather and your child’s health permits.
Plan Open-Ended Activities
Time spent alone with your child affords magical moments of shared discovery. Open-ended activities encourage your child’s creativity. When your child is ill, his/her attention span is typically shorter than usual. It’s best to plan sick day activities that can be easily interrupted and returned to at another time. Also, this makes it possible for children to drift off to nap for a bit.
- Photo albums: Being home presents a terrific opportunity to sit with your child and look at photos, sharing memories and sorting the photos or putting them into hard copy or digital albums.
- Sensory doughs: If your child is well enough to do quiet table activities, playing with playdough can be a relaxing, soothing time. You can buy it or try making the playdough by involving your child depending on how she feels. A child can help pour, stir, and mix colors, then play with it on a baking sheet. A simple playdough recipe is: Mix 1 cup flour, 1 cup warm water with food coloring, 2 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon oil, and ¼ cup salt. Stir over medium heat. Remove and knead until smooth.
- Look at magazines together (sports, cars, food, etc). Cut out photos, glue them on paper, and write what your child says about them. You can take sick days and make them into a day of craft projects for kids. Make cards, draw with pencils, crayons, or felt-tip pens. Display the creations around the house.
- Technology: Listen to podcasts, audio books, or music, or record yourselves singing or telling stories. Watch amusing movies, or play educational online games together.
Plan Simple Activities around Food
When your child is not feeling well, she often doesn't care to eat; however, children are more inclined to eat when they've prepared the foods. Below are a few suggestions for cooking with kids if they are feeling well enough. Make sure what you are preparing fits your doctor’s guidelines for what to eat with this illness. Make hand washing a part of the food preparation.
- Blender shakes: This is fun for most children but especially for those who do not feel like eating. Gather favorite fruits, juice, water, milk, or frozen yogurt to make shakes.
- Frozen juice pops: Fill ice cube trays with orange or other juice and place a stick in each cube as it begins to freeze.
- Make soup: Children like to wash, peel, and cut vegetables. Vegetable soup provides many nutrients and is easy to eat, even with a sore throat. And don’t forget the healing power of chicken noodle soup. Most children love it with lots and lots of noodles.
While it may not have been your choice to stay home, enjoy the unexpected gift of a sick day with your child by planning simple and easy indoor activities with your kids.
- To get ideas for other fun activities for kids, check out our article about fun family learning activities for anytime & anyplace.
- Visit our Learning at Home Activities page to find simple and easy learning activities by age and theme.
- Blogger Mary writes about the lack of a break when mom is sick. Our online parenting community has some advice for her, including ideas for managing kids when mom is sick.
- Media Mom finds humor in the reality of at-home sick days with children. How long can you really wear yoga pants for?
- We've pinned a lot of great arts and crafts ideas on our Pinterest page, perfect for sick day activities!