Keeping Sick Kids Comfortable (while keeping your sanity)
When we send our children to school, we know it is inevitable that germs will come home with them. Coughing, sneezing, fevers, and more mucus and boogers than you ever knew a person could make are par for the course. After many days at home, you may start running out of ideas on how to entertain a sick child. Here are a few ideas to add to your arsenal, as well as some things that local parents have found to help their children through illnesses.
The energy levels of sick children can vary tremendously. One minute your kid is tearing through the house coughing on all available surfaces, the next he or she is crying and burrowing into your body, wanting to lie down together and watch TV. When energy is high, a walk outside is generally a great idea if weather allows. The change in environment is helpful physically and mentally, and often going outside can help soothe the child simply by turning his or her attention to something else. It’s easy to forget you feel sick when you are watching squirrels chase each other, or birds hunting for worms!
If outdoor play is not an option, a treasure hunt is a fun way to run off some energy. You can hide a few of your child’s stuffed animals around the house and send him or her to look for them. You could also embark on a project together – one clever parent I know had her sick daughter draw 12 pictures and she turned them into a family calendar. If you need to bring your little one’s energy down a bit, making a fort is a great way to get him or her to stay in one place for a little while. A neighbor of mine plays a game called “world of blankets” with her son – they put all the blankets in the house into one pile and that is their fort. They have picnics there, play with toys, and get under the blankets and pretend they live in a mountain. Or get some other great ideas for activities from Our Daily Craft, Real Simple or Parenting.
If your child doesn’t have enough energy to get out of bed, coloring books, sticker books and magnet boards are great tools – as long as your kiddo is into them. Unfortunately, my own child does not stay entertained by these things for very long, so we often turn to story books, read-and-find books, and word books. My son goes crazy for word books and will look at them for extended periods of time. His favorite is The Sesame Street Word Book, but Richard Scarry made some fantastic ones, and there are many more out there that may be more tailored to your child’s specific interests. Try this reading list for some ideas.
Finally, there is the inevitable: screen time. It is both a crutch and a blessing. When nothing else will do, television, movies and the iPad are there to rescue you both. It is likely that your child already has preferences for television and movies, but if you are looking for educational games that your child can play on the iPad, I cannot recommend the Endless School Bundle enough. Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader, Endless Wordplay, and Endless Numbers. They help your child learn letters, numbers and words in a way that is fun and memorable, touching on aspects of visual, aural and kinetic learning. Math Jr. starts teaching kids the concepts of math without them having to know numbers! Another great series is Little Lit. They take classics of literature like The Jungle Book, A Christmas Carol, and Frankenstein and make them accessible to even the smallest children. And there is always PBS Kids or try out these recommended apps and educational shows. The kids have a great time while learning something, and you feel a little less guilty about reverting to the dreaded screen.
What about if you are the one with low energy, but your child is clamoring for you to play? There are a surprising number of games you can play with your child while lying down. The Baby Center website has some great ideas for kids of all ages, and I have used it many times!
Unfortunately, sometimes your poor kiddo is so sick that playing is just not in the cards. In that case, the best thing you can do is to make them as comfortable as possible. While you certainly have go-to ideas already, here are a few that work for me that I’d like to share.
**** NOTE: I am not a medical professional. Some of these are things my mom did for me when I was sick as a kid, and some were picked off the internet and I found them helpful. They may or may not work for you, but I hope they do!
- Apple cider vinegar: A capful of apple cider vinegar diluted in 8 oz. of water is a good immune booster, and it helps to thin out the mucous that is making your kid’s life so hard.
- You can make homemade cough drops and cough syrup with honey, coconut oil and lemon. There are many recipes available online, but these are the ones I used: Wellness Mama and Coconut Mama.
- Long baths with Epsom salts are great to soothe your child.
- Any vitamin-rich foods you can get into your child will be helpful. I will often give my son chicken bone broth with garlic powder, a little cayenne pepper, and lemon. Sometimes because their taste buds are blunted, you can get them to eat or drink things they wouldn’t normally, like vegetable juices or tinned fish. This is a good website to look at for immune boosters, but you should check with your doctor first if any of these do not feel intuitively correct to you.
What is the greatest comfort you can give as a parent? Cuddles, of course! Cuddles are the best medicine. They are free, they are fun, and they make everyone feel good. You can’t necessarily speed your child along to recovery, but you can be with them every step of the way.