How to Make Sick Days Fun for Kids (Yes, Really.)

Dec 2, 2009 at 3:02 p.m. ET

Ah, the dreaded sick day. When you’re an adult, sick days are uncomfortable, but offer a chance to nap, binge Netflix and give yourself a pedicure while bitching to your sister over the phone about how ridiculous your mom is being. When you’re a kid, not so much. And when you’re an adult with a kid that’s home sick, forget it. Grit your teeth and buckle in, because as much as you love and feel bad for them, you can only bear so much snotty, sneezy whining. But thank your lucky stars and put down the Benadryl, because we have the answer. We’ve found ways to make sick days fun (yes, really.) No more terrible daytime kids tv that all too quickly becomes the soundtrack to your nightmares. Here are 12 ideas to make your kids sick day, dare I say, actually enjoyable for (drumroll please…) both you and them.

Two words. Pillow. Fort.

There is something so special about camping out indoors. Take all the blankets and pillows you can find and make Frank Lloyd Wright proud. Comfy and cozy are key when your little one isn’t feeling up to snuff, so empty out the linen closet and go nuts. Might I suggest setting up in front of the television, just as a back up.


No, not the boring kind. Stick a few coloring books away for a rainy (ie, sick) day, or pull out some sudoku, or even some word searches or MadLibs. A good thing to think about is activities you would bring on a long car trip. Just like being confined to a car for a long time, if your kid is confined to their bed (or bathroom, yuck) similar activities will be good for a sick day.

Read some relatable books.

Sherm the Germ Image: Amazon.

If your child is old enough to read, bust out a few picture books to make them smile, like  and if you’re cast as nararrator, enjoy the snuggles. It’s rare they stop moving long enough to give you hugs when they’re feeling well, so breathe it in and give them some extra squeezes. Try the hilarious board book, Sherm the Germwritten by a pediatrician and available on Amazon. 

More: 15 Must-Haves to Keep Kids Healthy During the Back-to-School Germfest

Take a bath.

Here’s the thing. Baths are fun, normally, but when you add bubbles, some colors, or a bath bomb, it becomes an extra special event. Try these shark attack bath bombs, these Crayola color bath dropz, or this Munchkin bath bubble machine. They’ll never want to get out.

Have a spa day.

Let the steam of a shower help out their stuffy sinuses. Let them paint on the walls with shaving cream, wrap up in a robe, put cucumbers on their eyes, give their tootsies a rub with some lavender lotion; being sick is starting to look pretty good! Do something small that seems really fancy and special, like floating lemon slices in the bathtub or using a nice smelling lotion. *Cough cough* we’re sick too. Can we get in on the action?

Make popsicles.

Peach Melba Popsicle Image: Smitten Kitchen.

A nice cold popsicle is sure to soothe their aching throats, but all that sugar can leave them feeling worse than before, so check out these delicious popsicle recipes that are so good, you might want to make an extra batch or two. Or three. Or four. Peach melba popsicles, swirled berry and yogurt popsicles, or banana, Nutella and salted pistachio popsicles, all from Deb Perelman, the genius behind Smitten Kitchen.

A sick day box.

This requires a little planning ahead, but once every few months, it might be a good idea to throw together a ‘sick day box.’ Nothing fancy, just a few items that will make it so much easier to deal when your kid is home sick, and if you make it in advance, you won’t be panicked when you realize you have no tissues in the house but there is not a chance in hell you’re loading up your kid to go to the store. Items for the box can include a small stuffed animal, tissues, a new movie, a puzzle, hand sanitizer, crazy straws, an all in one craft kit, and their favorite soup.

More: The Best All-in-One Craft Kits for Kids

A bird feeder. No, I'm not kidding.

Germs wait for no man, and it is the absolute worst when your littles get sick when it’s nice outside. Get them outside in the fresh air if you can, either by making them a nest of blankets on the porch and doing a puzzle, or if they’re up for it, taking a quick walk. Too sick to go outside? Attach a bird feeder  like this one to their bedroom window, and let them check out some feathered friends up close and personal.

A tea party IRL.

Make sure it’s decaf, (Lawd help you if you have caffeinated child who’s physically and emotionally out of whack stuck at home for the day) but a little tea goes a long way in helping their sore throats. Add a dribble of honey and maybe some cookies, and you’re good to go. Just don’t forget that stuffed animals plus tea and cookies can often lead to a mess, so be sure to give bibs to those guests who need them. Looking at you, Mr. Snuggles.

Window markers.

Prop them up by a window and let them express their inner Picasso. The bright colors will cheer up the room, and their spirits. And if you run out of windows, the shower and car windows are also available creative surfaces. Try these washable, non toxic ones from Amazon.

More: The Questions You Need to Ask at Your Child's Annual Check Up

Shrinky Dinks.

DIY Handprint Shrinky Dink Keychain Image: Grey House Harbor.

Shrinky Dinks are incredible things, and have been around for quite some time. For those of you living under a rock, shrinky dinks are a clear plastic sheet you can draw on with markers, cut out, and pop your creation in the oven. In just a few seconds, your masterpiece will shrink down to miniature. There are so many fun projects you can do, like this DIY handprint keychain from Grey House Harbor. A classic fan favorite, Shrinky Dinks will keep kids of all ages entertained for hours. And you. You too.

Netflix is your best friend.

If all else fails, Netflix is your best friend. Find a show you both can stand, a children’s movie that you loved as a child, or something brand new.