Comfort Your Child: Sick Day TLC

Help make your little one’s sick day a little better with some creative touches you can both feel good about.

Feed a Cold

Sick kids don’t always want to eat, but it’s important to make sure they get enough nutrients. Make a game of it by playing restaurant: Give your child a menu of healthy choices, write his “order” down on a notepad, then deliver the meal on a tray. Keep it fun with foods like “orange smiles” (oranges sliced into smiles); toast cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters; or chicken soup served in a thermos. To soothe a sore throat, Amy Clark, founder of, suggests fruit-juice popsicles or a fruit smoothie (a mix of ice, yogurt and fruit in a blender). For a fun, fizzy drink, mix a colorful electrolyte juice with ginger ale and serve in a fancy glass – don’t forget the silly straw!

Make a Sick Day Special

Keep a few special items on hand that you only pull out for sick days. Clark suggests hitting a thrift store to buy a small, inexpensive suitcase. Decorate it with brightly colored buttons and bows, and fill it with some special items: pajamas with your kid’s favorite cartoon character on them, a mug with a family photo on it, and a few toys, games, coloring books, puzzles and art supplies reserved just for sick days.

Try a Spoonful of Sugar

Get little ones to take their medicine by mixing liquids or crushed pills with something sweet, like a smoothie, pudding, applesauce or fruit-flavored yogurt. (Just be sure to ask your pediatrician or pharmacist if it’s OK first, and make sure your child takes the entire dose.) You can also make liquid meds fun by using a medicine dropper instead of a spoon — let your child squirt it into his own mouth one drop at a time.

Soothe Aches and Pains

For a fever, congestion, or aches and pains associated with the flu, a little TLC can go a long way. Try massaging your little one’s aching neck and shoulders. Clark also suggests filling a tube sock with rice and freezing it to use as a cold pack. Help to clear a stuffy head by enclosing yourselves in the bathroom with a steamy shower: Clark recommends letting your child wear his bathing suit for a “day on a tropical island,” and for a special touch, adding bubbles and tub toys.

Create a Comfort Zone

Kids need to get a lot of quiet rest when they’re sick. Create a space where they’ll actually want to relax by pitching a tent in the living room and filling it with a sleeping bag, pillows and a flashlight, as well as some favorite books, stuffed animals and quiet activities like puzzles and board games.

Play Doctor

Keep a toy doctor’s kit on hand, and with your kid, practice looking into each other’s ears, giving pretend shots and listening to each other’s coughs. Be the nurse and come in to check on your “patient” often. Fluff the pillows, take his temperature and listen to his heartbeat.

Go Old-school

Skip the TV, video games and movies, and instead take advantage of some quality quiet time with your child. Play a few rounds of tic-tac-toe, I Spy, Go Fish or charades. Make up stories, cut out paper dolls, sort through old photographs, or pull out some old board games, puzzles and coloring books.

Reach Out

When you’re away from your sick kid, Clark suggests keeping in touch by using a baby monitor – many of the newer models offer two-way communications. You can also give your child a bell, a walkie-talkie or a cell phone to get your attention when you’re needed.

Turn the Lights Out

Help your kid get into “rest mode” by pulling down the shades, turning off the lights and playing some quiet activities together in bed. Carole Kranowitz and Joye Newman, authors of Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn and Grow suggest a game of ceiling flashlight tag or shadow puppets on the wall. Stick some glow-in-the-dark stars on your child’s ceiling and make wishes. Tell ghost stories (not too scary – you want your kid to fall asleep!). Or just lie down, cuddle up and take a nap together.

About the Author

Dana Rousmaniere is a freelance writer who has written for Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, The Atlantic online and more.


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