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How Do You Entertain a Sick Toddler?

Lovely spring rain we're having these days, huh?  While we seem to be mostly over the hump of flu season, the cold weather doesn't give the little ones or their mamas a break.  Ximena recently wrote us to commiserate with those that have been dealing with toddler ailments.  She emails:

My 21 month old baby has been sick with a super nasty flu these past days. This mama is tired, very tired and baby is in no condition to be outside playing so, we have done the unthinkable - watch movies on the TV.  I never planned for this, but here I am with few nights of no sleep, a sick sweet toddler who didn't have TV viewing time at all...ZAZ...I got a video! and all he has wanted to do is nurse nonstop and lay in bed watching the same movie over and over. I must be over the scare of his sickness since I am preoccupied with the TV viewing habits we are having these days (3days).

Please tell me what else do you mamas do when your toddler is sick, you are tired to death and going outside to play is not an option? We have a very tiny patio and yes we've been playing there when we can.  We read books but I am a zombie-mama. I am  also worried that I have encouraged something I didn't want (TV/video time) and now I won't be able to "wean" him out of it. Yes, I am greatful we are over the worst part of the flu (thank heaven - I have been sick myselfl thinking it was something else) and now want some few ideas of some easy to do activities for a zombie mama with a toddler while we are getting better and can't be outside.


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My son is sick too! It is the worst.
Now that he is 25 months - I think it is okay to let him watch a little TV - OPB - Sesame Street, etc. He us by no means hooked on it & never asks to watch it. Don't guilt your self!

I agree, don't stress yourself out. You sound like a kind and loving mama and that's what matters most. When you and your children are sick and there's no one else to take care of them (or you), a little age appropriate TV isn't going to kill anyone. I find the Little Bear series to be a good choice. Also, you could try books on tape (or CD) from the library. You still have to turn the pages for the little ones, but at least you can give your voice a break. As soon as you're all better and your child asks to watch T.V. just redirect them into a different activity that they enjoyed prior to being sick.

i just had exactly this scenario with my 2-year-old. she'd never watched a lick of TV until the flu hit our whole household 2 weeks ago. honestly, i thanked our lucky stars that we had a TV and DVD player. she watched the same oswald video (loaned to us by a friend) at least a half a dozen times a day. as much as i wouldn't have chosen to spend time lying in bed with her watching TV, we actually had some fun in the midst of a horrible flu. in the first couple of days when we were all up and around again, she asked for the oswald video. i just explained that videos are a special treat for when we're sick or have to sit still for a long time and can't do anything else. she accepted that answer and didn't ask again after a few days. i also found the oswald book at the library which helped. and, to be clear, i don't mean to make a sweeping judgement about TV in general. i watched it as a kid and i expect my daughter will, too. i just wasn't planning to get her into any kind of screen time at the age of 2.

Don't worry about it -- once your kiddo feels better, he won't want to just sit. And TV when they're sick is no big deal - you're not turning it into a lifestyle, after all. I remember when my kiddo was a sick toddler, we had a Winnie the Pooh video on a lot...

We allow lots of tv when we or the kids are sick, and we dont feel guilty about it. Our son is very active, and when he's sick, his body needs to rest and watching a show on tv keeps his body still and gives me some time to rest as well. Lots of cuddling on the couch, tea with a little honey and diluted apple juice, reading books, a walk in the stroller if you're up for it is good for some fresh air. When you all feel better, hopefully the weather will be better and you can get out and play and you'll both be happy for the change of scenery, he probably wont obsess over the tv as much as you might fear. We normally allow a 20-30 minute show 4-5 times per week, when he's sick it's not uncommon for him to watch a whole movie in one sitting, and maybe even an episode or two of something else later in the day...it's a lot of tv in a short amount of time, but luckily he's usually only sick for a day or two. Good luck and dont beat yourself up, it's most important that you both rest and get better/stay healthy.

We went through the exact scenario this winter. We don't watch TV ourselves, hardly ever even watch a movie, so our little one had never been exposed. Then she got sick, and some sign language videos from the library got us through the long, hard week of recovery. While it has not by any means become a habit, and she has yet to ask to watch a show, I did pick up a couple dvd's to have on hand for when nothing else is working at the end of a long day and dinner needs to be on the table, and I have whipped them out a couple times a month. With a twinge of guilt, but really, in the scheme of things, I have to agree with all of the above that we need to do what we need to do, and this parenting thing has been a constant lesson in adaptation for me. I have had to tweak and adjust just about everything I do, and will continue to do so from here on out. So being gentle with myself is vital. Especially when everyone is sick.

As for alternatives that may keep your child from trying to be too active while recuperating: puzzles, coloring, a 'quiet' book (fabric book with different hands-on activities), play-doh or flubber (OMSI has recipes online and maybe you could bring a big tray or baking sheet surface into the bed or on the floor to contain the mess). A long soak in the tub or shower together? If he wants to nurse a lot and you are tired, why not take advantage and take lots of naps together! Hope he gets well soon and you get caught up on your z's too!

Ditto to all the comments here. We don't routinely watch tv (just educational videos like science videos, etc. + family movie 1x/week), except for when we're sick. I always think of it as an anesthetic. :) I think it really works like that too. :)

more dittos from me. i don't even own a TV, but when my son is sick, i pull out my extra laptop and a stack of DVDs and let him watch as many as he needs to until he's better. usually, by the time he feels better, he's so excited that he can play again, he's not too concerned about staying in front of the videos.

Also, this will allow time for you to go on with managing other aspects of your life, so that then environment (and your sanity) can be mellow and maintained.

I often ask myself....what did they do before TV? I also use the TV very sparingly...my husband is a TV/movie kind of person and I've had to recognize it as just another medium...after he showed my 4 year old the Pirates of the Carribean Part III I realized that there are some positive aspects: she was explaining to him the finer points of motivation and plot construction. This is why I prefer actual movies that a grown up can enjoy too--even OPB has commercialism and kid movies are just dumbed down & cloying.
Back to sick 1-2 year olds....I find that getting out a grown up board game is fascinating: they like to shuffle through the cards, etc. If you don't use play-dough much this might be a good time. On rainy days my 2 love to dance & just putting on some good music can buy me some relax time (but again, this is only because they have seen good dancing on TV and at parties/mom & dad dancing). And if you can handle the mess...our "office" is the most fascinating room of the house--they know not to touch the computer or my desk, but they have a warren of crayons, pens, paper & knick-knacks that they love to ponder, shuffle through and re-arrange. Sure, I can't see the floor but they are entertained.

You can buy enough beans from the bulk bin to fill a large container and hide toys inside. Kids love the beans and the search for toys - add some cups and funnels, too.

You can also keep a bucket of toy that are just for sick days - use things that are easy to clean. Getting the toys very rarely makes them more interesting, but still comforting and familiar.

You can also bring in the car activities or the things you usually take to the restaurant - like coloring books and crayons, puzzles, story books, stickers - lots and lots of stickers. (You can make your own stickers with cut-out pictures or chipboard pictures from the scrapbook isle and packing tape. Heck, my kid's happy with a roll of Scotch tape or a stack of Post-It notes.

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