8 creative sick-day activities for kids

© iStockphoto.com / Ian Hamilton © iStockphoto.com / Ian Hamilton

By Dr. Jenn Berman
From Sniffle Solutions

Sick days are rough for a parent, especially if you have to miss work to take care of a sniffling kid.

But they're also a bonding opportunity -- if you're prepared. Any time you and your kid can squeeze in together is precious, especially minus the usual distractions (e.g., TV, video games).

That's because the more one-on-one attention a kid gets, the more she feels appreciated -- and that boosts her self-esteem. And face-to-face time is essential for your child's emotional development: Her relationship with her parents is the template for her future friendships and romantic relationships.

What's more, sick days are particularly memorable because your child feels vulnerable. So it's great for a parent to be there, because it helps your kid feel confident that the people she loves will be there for her in a time of need. Here, a few creative and simple sick-day activities to make the most of your day together:

If your kid is bedridden:

Create a beach escape.

Make bath time a splash: Dress your kid in swim trunks and take out his favorite floaties, fins, goggles and bath toys. To open up your kid's clogged sinuses, make it a "tropical" (i.e., steamy) bath. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the water; according to the National Institutes of Health, developing research shows it may help break up mucus and loosen coughs.

Go camping.

Drape a few blankets over your living room chairs to create a makeshift tent. Then throw in a couple of sleeping bags, flashlights and books and camp out with your kid. Tell ghost stories, sing songs or read a book if she's feeling really under the weather. Bonus: Being under a dark canopy of blankets helps a kid fall asleep faster.

Bake your child's favorite cookies.

There's something memorable about being in the kitchen together. If your child's up for it, let him mix in the chocolate chips or spread dough on the cookie sheet. (His germs will get fried in the heat of the oven, protecting the rest of the family.) If your kid's not too stuffed up to breathe, the memorable scent and taste of a favorite treat is sure to brighten up his day. Either way, you'll be creating an extra-sweet memory together.

Make a book.

I'm a huge fan of anything involving letters. It's essential for cognitive development! If your kid's feeling especially sick, read to him to help him doze off. Otherwise, write a book together (e.g., ABC's for younger kids, or a family story for older kids). Cut out pictures and make a collage from magazines. It's fun and doesn't require much energy, making it an ideal sick-day activity.

Play the drawing game.

Boost your kid's creative juices: Fill a bowl with slips of paper with things to draw, a la Pictionary. If your kid's up for it, this game will keep you both occupied for hours.

If your kid is on the mend (or suffers from allergies):

Play doctor.

Grab a robe and your home first-aid kit (e.g., thermometer, bandages, gauze and gloves -- minus scissors or any other sharp tools) and let your kid play physician. Encouraging him to be the doctor puts him on the power end, providing a gentle way to play out his fears -- so his next visit to the pediatrician won't seem so scary.

Dress up.

When your child has regained some energy, pull your funkiest costume clothing and jewelry from the back of the closet. Dress up together and take pictures of your new look. (You can add these to the family book you made together!)

Picnic inside.

If your kid's allergies make spending time outside uncomfortable, make a portable feast inside. Pack a basket of picnic-day fare by cutting bread into small squares and filling a container with a variety of sandwich toppings.

Spread a blanket on your living room floor and let your kid choose the ingredients to make his own mini-sandwiches. Make a power-fruit salad for dessert with allergy-fighting berries (which contain quercetin, a compound believed to have antiallergy and anti-inflammatory properties) and oranges (experts say the vitamin C in oranges can reduce the histamine release that causes allergy symptoms).

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