16 Clever Ways to Entertain a Child Who's Home Sick

It’s easy to park kids in front of Sponge Bob Square Pants when they’re sick, but there are plenty of other ways to brighten up down days. The next time your son or daughter is home sick, try these surprising new activities to get over being under the weather.

Photo by John Lee/Getty Images

Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane
Pull out your child’s baby book or family photo albums and leaf through them together. Children rarely tire of remembering vacations or hearing about the day they were born—and thinking about the good times can distract them from their sore throat or crummy tummy.

Create a Secret Hideout
Forts or special nooks are cozy places for kids to pass the time while they’re recovering. Drape blankets over chairs or create a tent in a corner. Fill the space with a sleeping bag, pillows, favorite stuffed animals, a child-safe camping lamp or flashlight, and some books or toys.

Play Hospital
Misery loves company, and so do most sick kids. Set up a doll or animal hospital and let your child play MD, tending to stuffed patients and dispensing Band-Aids with abandon. Just say “ahhhh”!

Hit the “Spa”
Run a hot shower and let your child sit in the bathroom, soaking up the steam, for 15 minutes. The warm, moist air will help alleviate coughs and soothe the nose and lungs. Plus, misty mirrors are great canvases for budding Rembrandts. Warm baths can also help, and bundling up in pajamas and fluffy robes afterwards brings extra comfort.

Close Your Eyes and Listen
If your child isn’t up for much activity, try listening to audio books. Pick a favorite story and hear it in a new way, or find the latest book everyone’s talking about at school and settle in. If stories aren’t your thing, try lullabies.

Stick With Magnets
Pull out a cookie sheet and fill it with magnets, so bedridden kids can play without running around. Younger kids can use letters to make words; older kids can use poetry sets to unleash their inner bards.

Make Ice Pops
For sore throats, nothing says “I love you” like popsicles. Try some of these recipes to soothe swollen tonsils. Or use the Zoku popsicle maker to make frozen treats in minutes.

Pull Out the Play-Doh
Make homemade Play-Doh and let your child create mosaics, mazes, and a mushy multitude of other options. You only need flour, oil, salt, cream of tartar, food coloring, and a stove. Essential oils are great additions (try peppermint, lavender or eucalyptus to help clear the nose and lungs).

Give Presents
Next time you’re at the dollar store, pick up a few toys or games your child might like. When your son or daughter is sick, you can wrap one up and give them a “Get Better” present.

Try Out Tattoos
Face paint might be too much for a sick day, but temporary tattoos (favorite superheroes, dinosaurs…even glitter hearts) are an easy way to make a dull afternoon a little more colorful. And if your kids start looking like Kat Von D, they can wear long sleeves when the fever breaks.

Get Into Graffiti
With Crayola Window Markers, your child can create designs or doodles on any glass surface—from cups and windows to picture frames. She can play graffiti artist to her heart’s content, but her masterpieces will wash off easily with soap and water.

Travel Back in Time
Travel back in time with nostalgic toys and games like Smethport magnetic boards, Shrinky Dinks, Mr. Potato Head, Cooties, Operation, and Silly Putty. They’re all readily available in stores and online, and (a blast from the past) none of them involves staring at a screen.

Tour the Globe
Use a globe or map to pick fantasy trips—from Disneyland to Denmark. Talk about why you want to travel there and what you’d do, even if you’re just making it all up. Check out National Geographic’s website for stories and stunning pictures of destinations both far-flung and domestic.

Make Astronaut Tea
Mix equal parts (roughly 20 ounces each) powdered Tang and powdered sweetened lemon ice tea in an airtight container. For an extra kick, add one teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground cloves. Shake well. Add 2-3 heaping teaspoons to hot water and enjoy. It’s full of sugar, but your little astronaut will probably be over the moon.

Create a Scavenger Hunt
If your kid is up to it, ask him find 10 things that are blue or 20 things that start with the letter S—or hide his favorite stuffed animals around the house and give him 20 minutes to find them. Reward him with Popsicles or tomato soup with goldfish crackers.

Take a Short Walk
Sure, it’s tempting to stay in bed all day, but so long as your child is comfortable and not running a fever, a short walk can do wonders to clear out a cough and get the blood flowing.

If all else fails, go ahead and pull out the movies or turn on the TV. Sometimes, mindless entertainment is truly the best medicine.