Tips for Keeping Your Sick Child Entertained at Home

Filed under: Cabin Fever


The child is grumpy. Way beyond grumpy. Grumpy is a distant planet in another solar system past which she's shot in her misery-fuelled rocket ship. She refuses to eat supper. She's lethargic, moping, upset over nothing. Uh oh. She's fallen asleep on a chair long before bedtime. Quick, take her temperature. Yup. What was your first clue?

She's sick.

After establishing how sick, precisely, the child is -- a delicate task that may require seeking expert medical help: nurse hot-line, or a visit to the doctor's office -- Cabin Fever pauses to reassess the shape of the next several days. Or, heaven preserve us, weeks. We've got four children. These things tend to spread, no matter how carefully we institute family policies on hand-washing and safe tissue disposal. Take one look at the child pitifully attempting to cough into her pajama sleeve and see illustrated before you in wordless brilliance: in the battle of human versus germ, germ uses some seriously sneaky tactics.

We're staying home for the foreseeable future. It's the only real option. And therefore we're entertaining at home, too. Talk about catching cabin fever...
But look on the bright side: having a sick kid can be an excuse to ease the regular rules and restrictions for a few days (and when I say "sick kid," I must stress that I mean a child who, though ill, is not in any danger). It can be an excuse to cater to whims and fancies rather than sticking to schedules and demands.

The child is tucked into her bed, or on the living-room couch, wherever she's most comfortable. Beside her pillow is a bell or similar gentle noise-maker which she can ring to summon help, and a spill-proof bottle of water, tea with honey, or flat ginger ale. She's taken whatever medication the doctor has recommended. She's cozy and she's comforted.

When she's tired of napping, position her in front of an electronic device of your choosing. Yup, this advice is coming to you from Cabin Fever, whose guiding mantra is "Creativity for All!" But there are exceptions to every rule, and exceptional circumstances call for exceptional solutions. Creativity takes energy, and the child is weary and ill, and needs to rest.

Very young children require vigilance when sick. They may want to be held almost non-stop, while waking; order in food and take turns with your spouse, spelling each off. But older children will appreciate being given the freedom to choose a favourite movie or television channel, or to play a video game. Passive entertainment will free you, albeit temporarily, to go about your other tasks.

That said, older children also take comfort from being snuggled when they're feeling yucky. If you have the time to spare, crawl in beside your child and hold her. Read her a book out loud, even if she's old enough to read to herself. Ask her questions, talk to her, tell her stories about when you were a child, and how your parents comforted you. Enjoy the peace and quiet.

Because by day two or three, improving health will send the child spiralling deep into the throes of boredom. Nothing pleases, not even unlimited screen time. It's time to pack up the remote (at least for the morning), and draw her back toward normalcy. There's some pleasure in regression, at this stage. Even older children are quite content to play with blocks or other toys relegated to the rear of the cupboard. Break out the puzzles. Colour together. Rejoice in improving health.

Before you know it, you'll both be released, back to ordinary life. Odd though it may seem, you might look back on these quiet interior days, shared together, with some fondness. Just think of the stories she'll tell her own sick children, some day.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.