Activities for Children Sick at Home

While the winter months are times of celebration and holidays, they also bring with them an increase in sickness. Going to school and doing more inside activities often means heightened exposure to viruses such as influenza and common bacterial infections such as strep throat.  Missing school (and work) due to sickness is never fun, but it is a fact of life.  So what can you do to ensure your preschooler is still learning while they are recuperating at home? Here are a few tips and ideas to help you make the most of a dreadful time:

  • It is important to remember that your child’s attention span will be shorter when he or she is sick.  It may be necessary to plan activities that are more quickly completed than normal.
  • Small children find comfort in playing or using familiar toys when they are sick. If you opt to purchase them a new toy, it might be a good idea to get one that is designed for a slightly younger child. 
  • You might need to help your child get started on an activity and assist with the clean up.  Checking on the progress throughout will encourage independent play and provide you time to do other needed tasks.
  • Try not to worry about neatness. Take the usual precautions to protect furniture, but insisting on neatness with a sick child will likely lead to more unhappiness. 

Activity Suggestions:

Under 3 years old:

  • Cuddling while reading or looking at a book. (Don’t forget to ask questions like “What do you think will happen next?” or point out the different colors or shapes in the story.)
  • Coloring or drawing (Remember to say things like “What a great picture. Tell me about it.” and “I really like all the colors you used. Can you name them all?”)
  • Sorting or matching toys (Once the toys are sorted, you can extend the activity by counting how many of each one you have, creating a simple pattern, or stacking them.)
  • Play-dough (Remember to talk about how it feels, the shapes you make, the people the figures represent, etc.)
  • Music (While dancing may not be a great idea, singing along or focusing on the rhyming words or discussing the instruments used can be fun.)
  • Dolls/Stuffed toys (Maybe the doll is sick too. How should you take care of the doll? What hurts? Does it need medicine?)

3 to 5 Years Old:

  • All of the activities listed above 
  • Puzzles (5-25 large pieces)
  • Simple matching games like Memory, Lotto, Picture Dominos
  • Puppets (Making puppets out of brown paper bags is always fun. If they feel up to it, they can put on a simple show for you–maybe about what happens when you’re sick?)
  • Painting 
  • Cutting and pasting
  • Dramatic play (Let’s pretend…)
  • Bubbles (Because bubbles are always fun!)


Times of sickness can be trying for the whole family but they don’t have to be endless hours of television or video games.  Hopefully these ideas will inspire you to make the most of the time you’re off work and your child is out of school. 


This article was adapted from