If you are reading this right now, you are probably covered in boogers and lying under a pile of used tissue. You are afraid of moving, lest you wake the not-so-giant sleeping toddler. I understand you have only a short time before you have to get back to it, so I will make this quick. You want to know how to keep a sick toddler entertained? Don’t worry, I have some tips!
I have become quite the expert at the entertaining of the sick toddler. A little over a month ago, my daughter had the stomach flu. After contracting it myself, I took some precautions to prevent this particular virus from returning. We came down with the stomach flu on my birthday. I had taken my first day off of work in over a year and boom! Instead of celebrating, or even better – relaxing, my little tyke and I were laying on the bathroom floor. It kind of reminded me of college, but without the previous night of fun.
So, I should have known that on the very first day of Spring Break, sickness would strike and foil my best-laid plans for a week of fun, relaxation, and art and crafts. The first day of Spring Break, my daughter was a bit subdued. “Toddler” and “subdued” do not normally go together, so I knew something was awry. She had a bit of a runny nose and I thought it was allergies. Then, her fever spiked.
The Problem with Sick Toddlers
My daughter was diagnosed with a double ear infection and the beginnings of strep throat. Here is the problem with sick toddlers. When the sickness is at its peak, your toddler is down for the count and miserable in every way. However, when those antibiotics kick in, your toddler begins to believe that he or she is feeling better and wants to par-tay.
This is actually two problems rolled up into one sick toddler. One, how do you comfort your sweet darling when they are so under the weather? Two, how do you ensure your little monkey actually rests when they suddenly feel less miserable? Move over, Jason Aldean, it is time to become Entertainer of the Year.
How to Entertain a Sick Toddler
Get ready for the performance of a lifetime, moms and dads. You are going to be facing a tough crowd. Just keep that end goal in mind. Proper rest means your toddler will be up to their old tricks in no time.
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Put on Your Dancing Shoes
Okay, maybe you do not need to dig for your old tap shoes, a good pair of socks will do. Under normal circumstances, toddlers do not want to be held because they are too busy moving and shaking. But when they are sick, there is no place they would rather be than in your arms.
I have mentioned that babywearing is not just for babies and this is the perfect time to test my theory. Grab your Ergo Baby Carrier and strap your little one in! Your baby is not so much of a baby anymore and if you try to carry them around all day, your arms may just fall off. Okay, not really, but a baby carrier really will make a huge difference.
Once you have your toddler snuggled comfortably in your arms, turn on some music. This is not the time for the Trolls soundtrack. I know, I love it, too. But you want to keep your toddler calm. The Trolls dance party will have to wait. Try classical music instead. It is both soothing and good for the brain. Instead of getting down and boogying, gently rock and sway. This is how I managed to prepare a nice hearty bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup for my ailing little one!
Have a Movie Marathon
Normally, you might try to limit the television consumption by your little tyke. However, when your toddler is sick, go ahead and throw this idea out of the window. In our house, Disney Princesses reign supreme. I put those tiara-clad ladies on a loop and settled in for snuggle time.
I joined the Disney Movie Club as soon as I noticed my daughter’s obsession with all things Disney begin to ruminate. You get four movies for $1 when you join and then you have to buy a certain number of movies over the next two years to complete your membership. You also receive access to discounts and preorders. This has pretty much saved my life. I grab a stack of these movies for times like these, when my daughter is sick, or for long car rides or trips to the doctor’s office. Lifesaver, I’m telling you.
Read a Book
When I was a little girl, I came down with a bad case of pneumonia that I could not shake. Funnily enough, I really do not recall the feeling of being sick. Rather I remember my mom reading to me. She read me the entire book of Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in the Little House on the Prairie series. The sound of her voice lulled me to sleep and calmed and comforted me.
I knew the same idea would be soothing for my daughter, so I gathered up some of my favorite picture books to read aloud. My daughter has never had a cough before and never had to take medicine daily, so I chose books that would explain what it feels like to be sick and the importance of resting and taking your medicine.
Bear Feels Sick
In Bear Feels Sick, Bear is miserable. He is sneezing and coughing and has no interest in going outside to play. All of the other forest animals take care of him by covering him with blankets and bringing him soup. Soon, Bear feels much better, but all of his friends are now sick! So, Bear returns the favor by taking care of them.
I love this book because it describes those typical ailments that make your toddler feel icky, but it also refers to how contagious colds can be. We talked about the importance of washing our hands while sick and not sharing the same cup. This is also a great book for discussing compassion and how it is so kind to take care of others when they are not feeling well.
How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?
I love the “How Do Dinosaurs” series by Janet Yolen. The stories are always humorous, but there is a lesson to be learned. Mark Teague does the illustrations and they are fantastic. In How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? the author questions if dinosaurs throw their used tissues on the floor, refuse their medicine, and hide from the doctor when they are sick. My daughter actually mustered up some giggles at these scenarios!
Of course, good dinosaurs put their tissues in the waste basket, take their medicine, and open up wide for the doctor. This book was so helpful because my daughter did not want to take her medicine. She is not used to it and according to her, it did not taste very pleasant. However, after reading about the good dinosaurs, she took her medicine without a single whimper…or roar.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
This is the sweetest story and does a wonderful job of not only teaching about being sick but the power of kindness. Amos McGee is a zookeeper and he is very conscientious about taking care of his animal friends at the zoo. One day, he comes down with a cold, so the zoo animals leave the zoo and go to his house to care for him, for a change.
This book shows what it means to do good deeds and how to be a good friend. You can discuss what it means to have empathy for someone and how they are feeling. The book is comprised mostly of beautiful illustrations and very little text. These types of books are great to teach the beginning skills of making inferences and building comprehension.
You can ask your child how they think Amos or the animals are feeling on each page. And when your child feels better, you can talk about the ways in which they might “pay it forward” and take care of someone else, whether it is a stuffed animal or a pet.
Make Chicken Soup
Normally, I include my miniature sous chef in all of my kitchen adventures. However, I did not want her to get overexcited while she was sick. Furthermore, I did not want those germy little fingers touching food! Truth be told, my daughter did not have much of an appetite, but chicken soup is a tried and true remedy for restoring good health.
I bundled my daughter up in blankets in the living room while I prepared the soup. By talking through each step, I kept my daughter involved, but she was also soothed just by the sound of my voice chattering away. Even better, she sipped quite a few bites when it was all ready!
The key to feeling better is getting proper rest, however, this is the most difficult lesson for your toddler to learn when they are feeling poorly. If they feel even a tiny bit better, they will try to run amok. You also cannot plan when they will actually rest. As I learned, it might not always be at night.
You know how people always say to “sleep when the baby sleeps” when you first have a child? Well, that did not exactly work out so well for me when my daughter was an infant. However, I tried implementing this advice while my toddler was sick and it worked much more effectively.
I spent a great deal of time laying down with toddler whenever possible. It encouraged her to actually try to sleep and it gave me the much needed down time so that I could catch my breath and hopefully not get sick myself. Besides, I know the day will come much too soon where she no longer wants to cuddle with mama. Sick or not, I am stockpiling the snuggles while I can!