In a perfect world, children are always at school when their parents need to be at work. But as every parent knows, the schedule almost never works out perfectly. On top of the long weekends and numerous national holiday breaks, there are also the days home with your kids that can't be predicted, sick days.
You never know when your child will wake up with a fever or other flu-like symptoms and need to stay home from school. But with no stay-at-home parent in your household to handle the situation, it turns out you and the little one will unexpectedly be spending the day together. As a good parent, you know it's your job to feed your child soup and keep them entertained during this potentially miserable time. But you also know that a day in front of the television is not-so-great. So how can you keep your child entertained for hours without resorting to daytime programming? Here are five fun suggestions to help you fill the empty hours in a way both of you will enjoy.
DIY Coloring Pages
Coloring is an activity that can entertain children of all ages (even teens), but only if you have enough pages of interesting images. What many parents don't realize is that you don't need cartoon-branded coloring books to spend the day with markers and colored pencils. You can make your own!
Go on the internet with your child (or surprise them) to find pictures of things your child will enjoy coloring. If you can find outline images, great! If not, you just need an additional step. Start by printing your child’s favorite images, placing a piece of printer paper over it, and tracing with a felt-tipped pen. If your child likes tracing, you can create the pages and then color them together.
Read Aloud to Each Other
Another great shared activity is reading. You don't have to stop reading to your child once they are old enough to read for themselves. In fact, reading children chapter books that are a little too advanced for them is one of the best ways to encourage them to read more difficult books. They will appreciate the more complex stories and, of course, the way you do the voices will matter.
If your child's throat isn't sore, you can take turns reading, encouraging your child to practice their reading and orations skills, then taking over as they get tired. This is a wonderful way to share good chapter books. Depending on the age, Harry Potter, Belgariad, and The Secret Garden are all great choices.
Beading and Building
Crafting is another great thing you can do with your child when they are charged with resting and recovering from their illness. Weaving string or yarn and beading friendship bracelets are something that you can easily do on the bed together. If you have a little boy who thinks friendship bracelets aren't for him, make early Valentine’s, Easter, or Memorial Day decorations instead.
Building with things like Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, and Legos are also a great way to sit together and create something interesting and quiet. You can build anything from villages to space stations, especially if the two of you exercise a little imagination in what the pieces can represent.
Board Games and Trivia Cards
When it comes to sick days, board games are a tried-and-true way to enjoyably spend a few hours. Different games are appropriate for different age ranges, from Shoots and Ladders to Parcheesi to The Game of Life. There's something soothing about sorting the pieces, shuffling the cards, and moving the little pieces around the board. This is a great time to have some conversations with your child as well.
Trivia cards can also be pulled out of trivia board games or bought separately to simply pull and answer with your child. Any questions that are too dated for them are an opportunity for you to tell a story about the world before they were alive. And any questions they quickly know the answers to can be congratulated with a high-five.
Make a Sick Day Picnic Together
Finally, eating with your child is an important part of spending a sick day together. This is your best excuse to enjoy some delicious nostalgic sick-day foods together like chicken noodle soup, tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, or a lovely living room picnic. You can also give your child an excuse to make a blanket-camp in the living room and eat your picnic meal on the floor or delight in the novelty of lunch in bed.
Talk about what you are making with your child and, if they are well enough, enlist their help in preparing your shared afternoon meal. Even if it's just stirring the soup or buttering the bread, most kids enjoy helping out in the kitchen while you talk. Here’s hoping for a healthy new year!