Home From School? Quiet Activities for Sick Children

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on May 19, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Are you at home with a sick child? What she probably needs most is rest. And you can help her get the downtime she needs without leaving the TV on all day.

Try these fun, low-key activities. You'll help your child get better while you spend some quality time together.

Games and puzzles. Get out some card games, flash cards, board games, and puzzles. Just keep in mind that kids who aren't feeling good have a low threshold for frustration, says Lisa M. Asta, MD, a pediatrician in Walnut Creek, CA. Choose games that make you work together over ones that pit you against each other.

Crafts. Model with clay. 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," Asta says. 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. Make believe your child's stuffed animals are sick and help her take care of them, Asta says. Take the bunny's temperature. Ask how it's feeling. This could help your child express how she feels, Asta says, and give you a better idea of how to help.

Drawing. Unwrap a fresh box of crayons or markers, if you have them. Ask your child to draw some pictures of things you can do together when she feels better.

Coloring books, sticker books, and activity books. Look for reusable sticker books -- they're not just one and done.

Books. Divide up the day with reading breaks.

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.

Audiobooks. You don't have to buy them. Lots of sites offer free podcasts of children's stories that you can play on your computer, smartphone, or MP3 player. You can also check out audiobooks at your local library.

Video chats. Use your computer or smartphone 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 More Pointers for Parents

Asta offers these tips to take some of the frustration out of your day when you're at home with an under-the-weather child.

1. Change it up. Children get tired of activities quickly. "Be ready to shift gears a lot," Asta says. Come up with a list of your options at the beginning of the day to make the process go more smoothly.

2. Set up rest stations. Don't keep your child on the same couch all day -- she'll go stir-crazy. Set up a few different cozy spots around the house -- her bed, the couch in the living room, and the recliner in the family room, for examples.

3. Limit TV and video games. Some screen time 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 she’s involved in the TV show, she may fight against sleep so she can keep watching, Asta says. Or she may be driven to get to the next level of her game. But when she’s doing something calmer -- like reading or coloring, she’s more likely to put down the book or the crayon when she’s tired and fall asleep.


4. Be prepared. Keep a secret stash of coloring books, stickers, and small toys in a closet somewhere. Break them out when your children get sick. Having something new to look at will help distract them.

5. Set your own work aside. If you're a working parent who had to stay home to care for a sick child, resist the urge to multi-task. "You really can't take care of your kid and work at home all day," Asta says. Trying to do both will just leave you tense and frazzled. It's OK to do a little housework or answer a few emails. But don't try to do too much. Instead, cuddle and nap together, and use this time to connect with your child.

WebMD Feature



Lisa M. Asta, MD, spokeswoman, American Academy of Pediatrics; associate clinical professor of pediatrics, University of California San Francisco; practicing pediatrician, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Seattle Children's: "Activities for Children Sick at Home."

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