Let’s be honest, as a parent, when illness strikes your home it can be tough. Not only are you busy caring for your little ones, but many times you are doing so while feeling a little under the weather yourself. And while all may be fine and dandy while everyone’s resting that first day or two, things can get interesting as time goes on and the “stir crazies” set in. That’s why today I’ve rounded up a list of low prep, easy ways to keep kids entertained at home when your family is sick.
FYI: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links. When you purchase via these links, Amazon gives me a little bit of money at no extra cost to you. It’s one little way you can help me keep Happy Healthy Casa up and running! And I appreciate it!
A few weeks back the flu hit our home. The first day my little guy was so wiped he barely left the couch. He was completely content just being held, sleeping and watching an episode or two of Paw Patrol.
But in the days following, as his energy started to come back and mine started to fade, I knew we were going to be in for some rough days ahead. Thus, I decided I needed a plan to keep us both sane as we continued to recoop. I reached out to those of you in my Instagram community for ideas on how you keep your kids entertained when this scenario arises. The following list is a compilation of some of my own ideas combined with those you all shared.
25 Ways to keep kids entertained when Illness Strikes
Note: These activities are not meant to replace rest as needed when children are ill. Rest should be a top priority, and these should only be used if/when kids feel up to it. As their parent, you are the best judge of when these activity options should be presented.
1.Get outside for some fresh air. There is nothing quite like a change of scenery to boost everyone’s spirits. Not to mention getting outdoors gives the whole family a chance to breath in some fresher air than what’s likely circulating in your home. Cold outside? Bundle up! Even a few minutes can be beneficial for everyone.
2. Build a blanket fort. Set out a few chairs, pillows and blankets and let your kids set to constructing their own little refuge within your home.
3. Read a book. Have everyone choose their own or have the family gather round and listen to a read aloud together. Read in bed, on the porch, in a pile of pillows, with a flashlight or even in the blanket fort the kids just built.
4. Set up a sensory bin. Not only are sensory bins a great way to keep kids engaged, but they provide them with an opportunity to work on fine motor, critical thinking, independent play skills and more. Need ideas for simple sensory bin set up? Check out some of my favorite bins for each season: Winter, Fall, or Summer.
5. Send them on a scavenger hunt or play “I Spy” around the house. Hide items or simply send your kids with a list of things to find around your home. Heck, it could even be a list of things you need while you are hanging out on the couch! If they aren’t up for moving much, swap out the hunt for a game of “I Spy” in the room you are located in. Bonus: It’s a great way to get in some additional practice with colors, shapes, sizes, etc.
6. Color or draw a picture. I don’t know about you, but we’ve got a drawer full of coloring books that just seems to call our name when we are looking for a little down time fun. Fun fact: Coloring has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus for kids and adults alike.
7. Play with play dough. Take out your stash or whip up a quick batch of your own (here is my favorite recipe). Have essential oils in your home? Tossing in a soothing scent like lavender can make for an even more relaxing play experience.
8. Decorate something with stickers. My child is usually content just peeling off stickers and re-sticking them to a sheet of paper. But you could change it up by doing something like writing out letters of the alphabet and asking your child to cover them with stickers as you state them out loud. Or you could have them create images with dot stickers like this Dot Sticker Snowflake activity from Happy Toddler Playtime.
9. Take a bubble bath. Not only can a lukewarm bath be a great natural way to bring down a fever, but it can be a wonderfully soothing way to entertain sick kids (and adults) alike.
10. Blow bubbles. Something about bubbles just always lights up my child’s face. If they have enough energy, hand them a bubble wand and let them go to town. If not, this is a nice one you can do from the comfort of the couch or even bring them into the bathtub if you’d like!
11. Set out a box of craft scraps and supplies. Crayons, scissors, glue, scrap paper, you name it. Gather it all together and set it out in front of your child. Then, let their little minds do the magic.
12. Gather up loose parts. This one is similar to the above, but the cool thing about “loose parts” is that you can really present your child with just about anything. Buttons, yarn, rocks, shells, clothespins, beads, pinecones, you name it. Set out a few different items, and again, let their little minds do the rest.
13. Go through photo albums. How often do you get out photo albums of your family? Or even take the time to scroll through old photos and videos together? If the answer is not very often, then take advantage of the down time to take a trip down memory lane.
14. Put together a puzzle. Puzzles can be a great way to entertain kids sick or not. Not only do they build their problem solving skills, hand eye coordination etc., but they often take a bit to put together. Which means more time engaged in the task at hand!
15. Play a board game. This is a great one for involving the whole family in the entertainment. Bored with your options or don’t have any board games on hand? Make your own! We love creating our own game boards by cutting out and drawing them on old cardboard boxes to match any age-level or theme desired.
16. Create a collage with magazines. Have any old magazines lying around? Have you child cut and paste images to create a collage of their favorite things, of items of a particular color, of a theme for the season etc.
17. Make homemade popsicles. We love making a good immune boosting popsicle when our bodies are fighting something. Welcoming your kids into the kitchen to make them alongside you can be a win/win in keeping them entertained and creating something to support your bodies at the same time.
18. Create hand puppets with a flashlight. Turn off the lights, hand your child a flashlight and set to making a variety of hand puppets on your walls. Once you are done, grab a copy of a beloved book and read it together in the dark with your light.
19. Build with magnetic tiles or blocks. Set out a set of these building tools, and let your child loose. Let their imaginations run wild or offer them suggestions such as “can you build a road for your cars?” or “can you make a home for your stuffed animal?”, etc.
20. Thread beads on pipe cleaners, string, etc. We’ve always got a container of beads on hand, as they can be used for so many things. Stick them in a bin with other “loose parts” as shared above, or set them out with a few pipe cleaners or string and encourage your child to create jewelry, keychains, patterns, etc.
21. Listen to a podcast or audio book. If your child wants to rest their eyes, but maybe isn’t quite in the mood to sleep, this may be a good option. It could also be something you sit and listen to and discuss together as a family. Check out this list of The 25 Best Podcasts for Kids from Common Sense Media.
22. Write your own stories. We often buy blank books in the Target Dollar Spot and keep them on hand. If you don’t have any, simply stapling a few sheets of paper together will do. For older kids, encourage them to write about an experience they recently had or invent a story of their own. For younger kids, feel free to do the same, but act as their scribe writing out the story as they share. Then, hand them a few coloring tools or print and glue in some images to illustrate your new piece.
23. Play with magnets on a cookie sheet. Take magnets off of the fridge, bust out the magnetic letters or get your hands on my personal favorite “My Family Builders” magnets and put them on a cookie sheet for your child to explore. The nice part about this one is its portable so it can be taken to wherever they feel most comfortable.
24. Video chat another family member or friend. We don’t live near family, so this is a treat for us any time. But after being cooped up for days, it can feel even more refreshing to talk to other loved ones.
25. Cuddle, chat and soak up the extra time together. While being sick is never fun, there is something to be said for how it forces you to slow down a bit. Take advantage of this slower pace to simply cuddle, catch up and spend some precious time together. As while these few days stuck at home may feel long, we all know this time with our children flies by way too fast.