Are you at home with a sick child? What your child probably needs most is rest. But it's hard to get cranky, sick kids the rest they need without leaving the TV on all day. Try these quiet activities instead. You'll help your child heal, and spend some quality time together.
- Games and puzzles. It's time to get out some card games, flash cards, board games, and puzzles. Just keep in mind that sick kids have a low threshold for frustration, says Lisa M. Asta, MD, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Choose collaborative games rather than competitive ones. (If losing at Candyland or trying to assemble a 500-piece puzzle may cause a tantrum, keep the games in the closet.)
- Crafts. Model with clay or Play-Doh. Or, do some simple crafts with whatever you have around the house -- decorate an empty tissue box or paper towel roll. "Don't worry if you're not super-crafty," says Asta. The point is the process, not the end product. If your sick child can't come to the table, set up a folding tray on the bed or couch.
- Pretend play. Start a stuffed-animal hospital. Pretend your child's stuffed animals are sick and help your child take care of them, Asta says. Take the bunny's temperature. Ask how it's feeling. "Through play, your child may indirectly express how he or she feels, giving you a better sense of how to help," says Asta.
- Drawing. Unwrap a fresh box of crayons or markers, if you have them. Suggest that your sick child draw some pictures of things you can do together when your child feels better.
- Coloring books, sticker books, and activity books. Look for reusable sticker books -- they're more like the Color Forms that we had when we were kids.
- Books. Divide up the day with reading breaks for your sick children.
- Photos. Look at baby pictures together. Scroll through them on your phone, computer, or digital camera -- or if you're old school, flip through an album or scrapbook.
- Audio books. You don't have to buy them. Lots of sites offer free podcasts of children's stories that you can play on your computer, smart phone, or MP3 player. You can also check out audio books at your local library.
- Video chats. Use your computer or smart phone to call up a grandparent or other relative using Skype or another service. Seeing a friendly but faraway face could cheer up your child -- and give you a few minutes to yourself.
5 Tips for Parents at Home With Sick Kids
As much as you love your children, when they get a cold or flu it can be as hard on you as it is on them. Asta offers these 5 pointers to take some of the frustration out of your day.
- Change it up. Children get tired of activities quickly. "Be ready to shift gears a lot," says Asta. To make these transitions easier on yourself, write a list of your options at the beginning of the day.
- Set up different rest stations. Don't keep your sick children on the same couch all day -- they'll go stir-crazy. Instead, set up a few different cozy spots for them -- their bed, the couch in the living room, and the recliner in the family room.
- Limit TV and video games. Some TV is fine when kids are sick. But Asta warns that watching TV or playing video games may not give your child the healing rest she needs. "When kids are involved in the TV show, they may fight against sleep so they can keep watching it," says Asta. "They're driven to keep playing the videogame so they can get to the next level." When children are doing something calmer -- like reading or coloring, they're more likely to put down the book or the crayon when they get tired and go to sleep.
- Be prepared. Try to keep a secret stash of coloring books, stickers, and small toys in a closet somewhere. Break them out when your children get sick. Just having something new to look at will help distract your sick kids.
- Set your own work aside. If you're a working parent who unexpectedly had to stay home to take care of your sick child, resist the urge to multi-task too much. "You really can't take care of your kid and work at home all day," says Asta. Trying to do both will just leave you tense and frazzled.