30 Ways to Entertain an Active Toddler When You’re (Chronically) Ill

Moms don’t get to be sick. And yet, we’re only human, no matter how much we’re trying to be superwoman.

Unfortunately, resting up in bed when you’ve come down with the flu or having a flare-up day is not really an option when you have a active toddler at home and no last-minute child care options.

Now, I don’t see too much harm in letting your child watch a bit more TV than usual when you’re too ill to lift your head from your pillow. But when your illness lasts longer than a day or two, you probably don’t want your little one constantly glued to a screen.

Luckily, with a little imagination and motherly love, you can still keep your two – or three year old entertained indoors while you’re sick on the couch. What works for you obviously depends on the kind of illness you have, how bad you’re feeling, how long you’ve been sick, your toddler’s personality and your family situation.

But here’s a big list of activities to get you and your toddler through a sick day and be a chronically awesome parent.

This blog post contains some affiliate links to resources you might find helpful, at no extra costs to you. All opinions are my own. 

30 Ways to Entertain an Active Toddler When You're (Chronically) Ill | The Health Sessions

Getting Through A Sick Day

1. How to Keep Your Toddler Entertained While Lying on the Couch or In Bed

  • Set up for the day: have drinks, snacks and tissues within reach so you don’t have to get up all the time.
  • Stimulate independent play. Duplo, building blocks, cars and trains, dolls or a kitchenette are all great toys to encourage playing on their own. Help your toddler get started, then slowly retreat to the couch. 
  • Stuck in bed? Play with a flashlight in the semi-dark or read stories together. The adventures of Peter Rabbit, Guess how much I love you  and the Bear Books are favourite tales at my home. You can also print free I SPY pictures, snuggle up and play.
  • Let your little one’s fantasy run wild with pretend play while you make yourself comfortable on the couch. You could play restaurant and have your child serve you ‘tea and cookies’ – or whatever fancy dishes they pretend to cook up. Having a personal doctor who nurses you “better” can also provide fun interactions without being too taxing. And obviously dressing up as a princess or knight who saves the day is always a good idea.
  • If your head isn’t pounding, listen to traditional kids’ songs – “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” – and sing along.
  • Look through family photo albums together.
  • Play mentally-challenging ‘games’ like naming colors, numbers or shapes. Ask about your child about their favourite animals and what sounds they make, what foods they eat, what they do all day (swim, fly, roll around in mud). 
  • Does your child hate to be stuck indoors all day, but you’re too sick to go out? Prevent boredom by moving to different rooms – from your bedroom to the couch to a rocking chair in their (play) room.

30 Ways to Entertain an Active Toddler When You're (Chronically) Ill | The Health Sessions

2. Doing Quiet Activities Together

  • If you’re able to sit up, try some mess-free craft work, like stickers, colouring, aqua doodle or big lacing beads (under supervision for safety reasons!).
  • Build a tent under the table, with books, toys and a snack. Once you’re little one is settled in, you can take a rest on the couch.
  • Make Lego Duplo Counting Cards – a fun way for your toddler to learn about colours, numbers and identifying patterns.
  • Puzzles, simple board games and dominos also make good low-key activities that you can do sitting down at the table.
  • Blow bubbles!
  • Practice colour sorting by putting coloured pompons or buttons in different cups.
  • Build block towers and watch your toddler knock them down. 
  • Stimulate your child fine motor skills with lacing cards or sticking pipe cleaners through the holes of a colander. 
  • Grab a huge sheet of paper and create a giant “block puzzle” in a few minutes time.

30 Ways to Entertain an Active Toddler When You're (Chronically) Ill | The Health Sessions

3. Letting Your Active Toddler Blow Off Steam – In a Doable Way

  • Set up a soft obstacle course in your living room with pillows and couch cushions. A tunnel definitely adds to the fun. Crawling and climbing not tiring enough? Pretend the floor is hot lava and let your toddler jump from pillow to pillow. 
  • Put on some music and have a living room dance party.
  • Redirect your child’s energy in a useful way and get them to do ‘chores’. Not in a strict way of course, but some kids – my daughter included – really enjoy helping out with folding socks, dusting, setting the table (minus the knives!) or splashing in the sink with harmless/unbreakable dirty dishes.
  • Play with balloons for guaranteed fun.
  • If you don’t mind the potential mess or you have an outdoor area, have your toddler play with a water table. (Just never let little ones around water without supervision!) Alternatively, you could fill a shallow bin with rice, dried beans, shaving cream or ice cubes to engage your child senses and curiosity. 
  • Tape bubble wrap down to the floor for a fun, sensory-stimulating runway.
  • Don’t mind noise? Then grab some pots, pans and wooden spoons for your musical genius to bang on.

30 Ways to Entertain an Active Toddler When You're (Chronically) Ill | The Health SessionsSave these tips for your next sick day.

Being A Chronically Awesome Parent

Long – term strategies for entertaining an active toddler when you’re chronically ill:

  • Rotate toys weekly. Keep things fresh and interesting by pulling out different toys every Sunday evening.
  • On that note: save some things for a rainy day – literally and figuratively. Keep some new stickers, a coloring book or (educational) videos at hand, so you can pull out something exciting for ‘special occasions’ (read: sick days). It also helps to have a list of low-energy activities ready as a backup plan for when your symptoms flare-up.
  • Browse Pinterest for activities that are easy to set-up, require little preparation, are mess-free and doable for you. To get you started, here’s an amazing list with indoor activities from Hands On As We Grow to keep your little one occupied for days. 
  • Manage your energy and your toddler’s wisely. Alternate between doing something active or letting your little one blow off steam and taking it slow. If your child still takes a nap, don’t use that time for chores or mindless online browsing but really rest up instead. 
  • Baby-proof your home, so your toddler can wander around safely when you’re lying on the couch or in bed.
  • Unfamiliar in my home country, but popular in the US: busy bags and quiet bins. Putting a busy box together requires a little time and energy beforehand, but having one handy when you need easy entertainment is worth the small investment. I know one little girl who would love to play with this busy bag felt pizza..!

What’s your best tip for keeping a toddler happily busy when you’re (chronically) ill?

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