Play With Me

7 Gentle Ways to Play When Your Little Sunshine is Under the Weather

‘Tis the season for sniffles, stomach bugs, and sicknesses of all kinds. But as the fevers subside and they’ve napped all the naps they can possibly nap, what to do when the boredom sets in? Here are 7 gentle ways to play when your little sunshine is under the weather.

  1. Art Gallery Opening. Invite your little love to their very own art gallery opening! Provide paper, crayons, markers and/or watercolors, and encourage them to create artistic masterpieces. Add in some molding clay if you’ve got an aspiring sculptor. Let them go until they’re tired, and, after they’ve finished their pieces, display them gallery-style in a hallway or other area of your home. Invite family members to walk through the “gallery” to show off these inspired works of art.
  2. I Spy. Still feeling too crummy to get out of bed? How about a game of I Spy! This one is easy. Take turns with your little one by choosing an object in the room. Tell them, “I spy with my little eye, something that is brown and rectangular,” for instance. Then, give them 5 chances to figure it out. Is it a shoe box? No. Is it block? Nope. Is it the door? YES! Now it’s the kiddo’s turn to spy something, and you try to figure out the object.
  3. Cuddle Fort. Maybe it’s the tail end of the illness and their energy is back. Here’s a livelier activity that they can come back to throughout the day. You do the heavy lifting using couch cushions, blankets, and chairs to build a fort in one room of the house. Let your little interior designer furnish the inside of the fort with books, stuffed animals, pillows, and other favorite things. Crawl in and join them for a story, snack time, or an imaginative game of make-believe. 
  4. Spa Day. A little pampering when you’re sick comforts the soul, and the same holds true for toddlers and little ones. Try an impromptu spa day! Run a bath with bubbles, rose petals, or bath bombs, and tell Alexa to play some relaxing spa music in the background. Cut up cucumber slices for the eyes if you want to get extra fancy. After bath time, wrap them in an oversized robe and have kid-friendly crudites like cut-up fruit, tea sandwiches, and crackers to top off the sick-day spa day. More spa day ideas: face masks, DIY mani/pedis, hand, foot, and head massages
  5. Action Figure Dance Party. Your little dude might not feel like dancing, but they can help their dolls and action figures take a twirl around the floor. Set up a small “dance floor” on a tabletop, floor, or other flat surface. Get your little one involved by telling them to invite their action figures, dolls, and stuffed animals to a dance party and bring them to the designated area. Find some fresh tunes, grab a few action figures, and let the dance battles begin! Toddlers will have fun playing puppeteer by dancing their dolls across surfaces, but they won’t expend too much precious energy in the process.
  6. Stuffie M.D. No one likes to be sick. Help teach your little patient empathy and health care with a little make-believe game of Stuffie M.D. Tell your little one to pick out a few stuffed animal “patients.” Use a long-sleeve white shirt to serve as a doctor’s coat, and throw in a clip board and crayon, if you have access to one. A good doctor takes notes! Find an object to use as a stethoscope (like a jump rope) or make one out of a headband, felt, and ribbon, like the one shown in this blog. Encourage your little one to visit each patient and treat them, as needed.
  7. Interactive Storytelling. Engaging stories have a way of taking your mind off what ails you. Put on an age-appropriate audiobook to keep your little one entertained. Or, read them an interactive picture book like Play With Me (A Playdate Book, Coming April 2024) and Play with Me Outside(A Playdate Book, Coming July 2024) by me, Kat Chen, and delightful illustrations by Lorraine Nam. This board book series invites young readers to take part in a playdate activity of their choice, thereby empowering them with autonomy and validation.

Hopefully your little one will be on the mend in no time. Until then, try a few of the activities from this list to make those gloomy sick days a little bit brighter and a whole lot more playful.

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