10 Ideas For Little Ones When Mom Needs a Sick Day

Motherhood Preschool The Early Years

One summer our three kids were up nearly hourly with what my husband calls the “kid parade”—just one kid in our room after another after another! When I am fatigued and stressed, it is the perfect storm for my autoimmune disease to flare up.

That summer I felt sick nearly all summer. Unfortunately when mom is sick she doesn't always get a sick day. My kids were very young and needed me constantly which made it very hard and humbling. 

woman reading to two little girls

Whether you have sickness running through your house and it’s finally landed on you, you have a chronic illness, you’re in a difficult pregnancy or just plain exhausted, here are 10 activities for little ones that you can do laying down:

  • Doctor: being the patient who is “too sick” to talk or stand is the best when you’re actually sick and tired. I let my kids dress up as doctors then prod me, give me shots, wrap my leg with an ace bandage and check my temperature for hours! If they lose interest, we introduce baby dolls or stuffed animals that also need check ups. Bonus if you have extra bandaids (or even stickers) for your kids to use–these are always a hit!

  • Diner Waitress: a few minutes of prep work (tying on an apron, getting together a note pad and pencil) can make for hours of fun! My kids love to play diner and will spend a lot of time running back and forth between the couch and their play-kitchen, taking orders, prepping “food”, and bring out their special creations.

  • Parade: this activity saved me through a tough pregnancy. My two older kids loved putting on a parade by dressing up in crazy outfits one after another. We had marching bands, firemen, doctors, construction crews, raccoons, ballerinas and a whole hosts of other things. The sky’s the limits!
two kids dressing up in costumes
  • Water Play: somewhere along the way someone told me “If you’re having a bad day, just add water”–whether that’s everyone getting a little more hydrated with a tea time, tossing crabby kids into the tub or going to the beach, water can change everyone’s attitudes. While this has been true for us more than a time or two, water usually requires extra supervision that I can’t always muster up when I’m sick.

    So our favorite activity is “bathing” things. We set up in the kitchen a small bowl with water and an old toothbrush and a giant towel. Then my kids bathe their dolls, Little People, plastic animals, etc. and I just get to sit and watch. Adding bubbles is a bonus but can be a little messier. That summer we did this outside a lot on hot days with a tub of ice cubes, measuring cups, and little people toys and it was a blast! 
  • Meal Time Prep: when I’m sick, sometimes I will spread out butcher block paper out on the table with crayons and stickers and let my kids go to town with decorating our “table cloth”. I may also send them on a hunt around the house to find cloth napkins or place mats to lay out, or to find the perfect centerpiece for the evening meal. And, let me tell you, I am ALWAYS surprised by what they find to grace our table.

    kids drawing on a long sheet of paper
  • Playdoh or Kinetic Sand: again, minimal prep, minimal supervision needed, and lots of play time! Introducing an unexpected toy or kitchen utensil, like a potato masher, can extend the play time seven fold!

  • Painters Tape: 3 minutes of prepping a painters tape car track through the kitchen and hallway, or making a bullseye to toss a few soft balls or bean bags at is a great way to get kids playing…and get you resting! Painters tape is great on walls or doors too, if you’re needing to be in bed and want to join them in throwing a ball around.

  • Stacks with Snacks”: popping a bag of popcorn, spreading out blankets and a pile of pillows, and grabbing a whole host of books from the shelves is a perfect, lifesaving activity! And mom can just cozy up with her own blanket and pillow and “read” (ie: doze) with the kids.
little girl looking at books in a fort
  • “Gift Giving”: this is an ultimate favorite activity around our house–gift giving! I will take a large gift bag or play silk and let the kids go all around the house finding gifts to give to each other. Then carefully we will unwrap them and sing this silly song (taken originally from an old Jack Frost Christmas movie) “It’s just what I’ve always wanted, it’s perfectly right. It’s just what I’ve always wanted a _________ delight!” and fill in the blank with whatever the item is. They love finding the perfect gift that we already own and it’s so sweet to see what they pick for one another!

  • Cardboard boxes: We save cardboard boxes in our basement for these kinds of days! We will bring them up and let the kids color on them, crawl through them or set them up like a fort! Add in some tape and it's a lot of fun! 
two kids with a cardboard box they've colored on.

I know it’s not always possible to have help or to have a day “off” when you’re sick, especially if it’s a prolonged season. If you need to buy yourself some time to lay on the couch, hopefully a few of these ideas seem doable and will help facilitate much needed rest. I hope that you feel grace on days that you just have to “get through”. Even Moms need to take sick days!

let them be little preschool graphic.

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