Do you remember being a kid and catching whatever bug was going around school? You probably had to stay home for a day or two, and if you were lucky, Mom or Dad took the day off work to be with you as well. Sometimes illnesses make us so tired that we can’t do much more than sleep and eat; but if you were simply getting over a rash or a sore throat, you might remember those days as being long and incredibly boring.
As adults, we now understand the struggle that our parents went through on those days. On the one hand, all parents have the urge to coddle their sick children, to let them do and eat special things in order to make them feel better. But on the other hand, we also don’t want to tire out a sick child, who may not understand their own limitations when sick. For some parents, there’s even a feeling of guilt when we let a sick child play; if they are healthy enough for games, surely they should be in school?
Strike a Balance
Luckily, there are many ways to find a balance between giving your child plenty of rest and care, and keeping them entertained while they are home sick. You can, in fact, make your kid feel loved and special when they are feeling down, and still feel like you are being a good parent.
Of course, any activity on sick days should reflect the instructions of your doctor, and you should always watch your child for signs that they need extra rest. They may not be able to tell you that they need sleep, especially if they are having fun. In this article, we’ll look at things to do that can entertain a child who is both bedridden and not.
Story Time Together
The first activity puts a new spin on story time and can be used for an older child or a young one. Find a good audio book that your child will love, and cozy up together on the couch or in their bed to listen. Audio books are perfect for headaches because they don’t require looking at a screen, and they are a little more “special” than listening to Mom or Dad.
Audio books are much easier to find than you may think. Audible offers a free trial for new users, where you can get a book for free. Grab a long kid-friendly story like Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia, and you’ll be set for the whole day. You can also check out audio books from your local library through Overdrive if they have that service available, or check out Librivox.org for classic stories, include many Beatrix Potter favorites.
Connect with Family
If your child has grandparents or other retired relatives that live far away, now may be the perfect time to set up a video chat. Perhaps an older sibling that is in college or already living on their own has time during the lunch hour to chat? This is an awesome way to keep your child entertained by their “favorite” relative, taking the pressure off of you. It’s also nice for the other party, especially grandparents who so often miss the chance to be a part of the daily life of their grandchildren.
Video chatting can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Smartphones typically have a video call option, and Skype is a free service that anyone can use via the Internet. If a video chat cannot be accomplished, consider offering to record and send video messages to friends and family. Your child might get a kick out of recording themselves, even if it’s just to say hello.
At some point, especially if the sickness lasts more than one day, your child is going to get tired of being on the couch or in bed. It’s a good idea to have a handful of tabletop activities ready to entertain them elsewhere. There are many things that can be done comfortably, at a slow pace, on a table. Try getting a new coloring book and fresh crayons, or Play-Doh, for a younger child, or a puzzle for an older child.
You can also use this time to brush up on your board game skills. Chess, checkers, Battleship, card games and many others can be played with just two people. Better yet, if your child is older, have them teach you their favorite game. You may not understand what “Magic the Gathering” is, but it’s a great way to get their mind off of being ill.
Sometimes, there is a good reason to have a television. Sick days are one of those reasons, and there’s nothing wrong with dimming the lights, grabbing some tummy-friendly snacks, and watching a movie or two together. Now may be a great time to introduce your child to one of your favorites from when you were a kid – if they hate it, they’ll likely end up getting a much-needed cat nap.
Be careful to monitor your child for signs that the screen is making them feel worse. Headaches can be exacerbated by the eye strain caused by TV, and if they are forcing themselves to stay awake to finish a show, they’ll feel worse in the long run. Keep the lights and sound low to encourage sleep if you choose this option.
Break into the Stash
Almost all parents have “the stash” of toys, books, or other little gifts that they have been collecting for stocking stuffers or emergency birthday party gifts. Now is a good time to go stash diving and give your child something new to enjoy. Younger children especially are easily entertained by the lure of something new.
But don’t force the issue if all they want is their trusty teddy bear and their favorite blue cup. Some children find comfort in having their favorite things surrounding them when they are ill. Know your child, and how they are best comforted, before choosing this route.
Involve Your Child in Their Care
Whether your child is 7 or 17, they may find it interesting to learn more about their illness. If your child is restless, anxious, or upset about their illness, spend some time learning more together. First, turn to any materials your doctor gave you regarding the diagnosis and care.
Then you can turn to the Internet, but be sure to screen material for alarmist messages that won’t make your child feel better. Use sensible sources to learn more about what is making your child ill, how it is treated, and how to prevent it in the future. Chances are, you’ll find that your child sees something else they want to look up while you are researching, and that can lead to a few hours of entertainment while they are wrapped up in a blanket.
Two Words: Blanket Fort
There is nothing better for helping a child feel better than creating a blanket fort in the living room. Drag in the kitchen chairs, and gather up all the blankets or sheets you can find. You’ll need something to secure the blankets to create the tent-like area underneath – ropes, clips, curtain ties, and other fasteners work well.
Once you’ve gotten the tent area created, fill the inside with pillows, sleeping bags, more blankets, couch cushions, and anything else you need to create a cozy bed area. This is a wonderful way to encourage a fussy child to take a nap, or at least to rest quietly. Add some books and their favorite stuffed animals, and they won’t have any reason to leave their fort.
Go for the Special Treats
When your child is sick at home, it’s the perfect time to prepare some special treats. Homemade ice pops can help alleviate a sore throat, while a batch of your mother’s homemade noodle soup can fix a myriad of woes. If your child feels up to eating, you may as well use the time off to try out a new recipe, or fix up a fancy platter for eating in bed.
Good foods to try when sick include homemade broth, hot teas, spicy foods (if your child enjoys spice), toast, bananas, and rice. Stay away from dairy, fatty foods, and sweets that can make a stomach bug or a phlegmy cough worse.
Get Away Virtually
Your child may not be able to leave the house, but now is a great time to help them “get away”. Pull up your laptop and research places that they want to visit. If they are too young to have a dream vacation list, try showing them the National Geographic website for kids, and talk to them about the places you want to visit.
Check out Netflix for documentaries on the places you researched, or look on YouTube for virtual tours. If it’s appropriate for their sickness, you could even try out a new recipe from the location you researched, and check out Pandora or Spotify to hear music from that region. In addition to giving your sick child a “get away”, you could also spark a life long interest that leads to a family vacation in the future.
Get Some Fresh Air
If the weather is nice and the doctor hasn’t expressly forbidden going outside, try creating a comfy place outdoors for your child to get some fresh air. A hammock with lots of blankets, a lounge chair with a plush cushion, or even a cozy picnic blanket in the yard can be great places for your child to catch a nap, or just watch the world go by for a few moments.
Be sure you use sunscreen, even if it’s overcast outside. When our immune systems are weakened from illness, we are more susceptible to sunburns. It’s probably best to limit this activity, but a little bit of sunshine and fresh air can help a restless child feel less cooped up.
Take a Drive
This isn’t the most eco-friendly option for soothing a fussy child, but many parents of infants know that the gentle feeling of being in a moving car can really help a child drop right off to sleep. If your sick kid is young and simply can’t get rest due to being in pain or feeling restless, a car ride might be a good idea.
Set up the car seat to be as comfortable as possible, with water and snacks in reach, and plenty of blankets and pillows for their head. If you have any errands that don’t require you getting out of the car, such as running to the bank, now is a good time to do them. Put on that audio book or some quiet music and let the car work its magic.
Ask Your Child
Finally, if you have a variety of ideas for entertaining your sick child at home, but you aren’t quite sure what to offer first, it may be a good idea to offer your child the choice. For younger children, stick to just two – too many options can be paralyzing, especially for a kid that is sick. Older children can listen to and choose from a longer list.
Your kid may surprise you with a great idea of their own. Perhaps all they really want to do is listen to music, or curl up by the window to watch the birds. Or maybe they feel good enough to do a small craft project. Whatever they decide, be sure that you are keeping an eye on their care and comfort.
Follow the doctor’s orders, and ensure that they have ample opportunity to get rest if they need it. Set up “rest spots” around the house so that they can easily be ushered towards a nap if need be, and don’t be surprised if they change activities several times throughout the day. With their mind occupied on a fun activity, and your careful attention towards their health, your child will be back to school in no time at all.