Nobody likes being sick at any age, and a sick, cranky kid can be a real challenge. It can be tricky to keep them relatively happy and ensure that they get enough rest and drink enough fluids, and while some TV is ok, you don’t want it to become an all-day activity: Dr. Lisa M. Asta at the AAP warns that kids who need rest may fight against falling asleep when they’re engaged in an interesting movie, instead of just dozing off.
Reading to your child provides you with a nice snuggling activity, and books about being sick and getting better are extra-comforting. Tired of reading? Download an audiobook or grab one from the library and listen to it together!
Arts and crafts activities are great for filling the day with kids of any age. A sick day is a good day to bust out a brand-new pack of crayons, which is always special and fun; keep a special coloring book on reserve for sick days as a treat. Magnetic activity sets and sticker activity sets allow kids to exercise the same creativity while sitting up in bed, with no mess, and they can narrate stories about the scenes they create.
A nice hot bath feels good when you’re achy and sick, and as long as your child has no skin conditions that would make this a problem, you can take a few in one day (or some pretty long ones). Add some special toys to extend the fun: Tub Crayons let kids draw on the walls and on themselves, and wash off easily with soap and water!
If your child is reluctant to eat a little soup or drink a little juice, writer Ellen Seidman suggests a “critter picnic”: spread out a blanket on the floor, get out some plush pals and play dishes, and go to town! Or, have a tea party – it’s a good way to coax your child into drinking some nice warm fluids and staying hydrated.
Staging an “animal hospital” with stuffed animals is another way to keep kids busy, and get them to talk about how they’re feeling, too. Bring out a kid-sized doctor set and have your child “examine” her bunnies and teddy bears, and take their temperature (getting to play with your real electronic thermometer will be amusing too).
If your sick child is stuck in bed, a puppet show is a great way to keep them entertained – the goony-looking Sockettes from the Puppet Company are guaranteed to get a sad kiddo giggling, with their funny faces (and hidden squeakers in their tongues). The gorgeous puppets from Folkmanis are also perfect for storytelling, and are irresistibly snuggly as well.
Don’t be afraid to utilize the power of screens altogether, since a movie or two will give you a break and is a nice treat. Or, try a different tack with screentime: Dr. Asta suggests putting your child on a Skype call to a faraway loved one. Grandparents will love this one!
And what if you’re the one who’s sick? Babycenter gathered a collection of great activities that don’t require you to get out of bed, including baby dance parties, letting the kids pretend to be your doctor, special sick-day-only coloring books, and my personal favorite, “What’s on my butt?”