sick day parenting hacks

11 Sick Day Hacks for Parents

As a stay-at-home mom, I know all too well how miserable days are when you’re sick and your kids are full of energy. They want you to play hide-and-seek but hiding under the covers doesn’t count. You turn on the television or offer a tablet to get some much needed rest only to wonder how an hour went by so quickly. You’re out of milk and have spent two days eating delivery because the thought of dragging your toddler through the grocery store is exhausting enough without having to actually do it AND prepare dinner.

Regardless of whether you are sick, exhausted, or having one of those days, here are some parenting hacks to help you get more rest and take care of yourself.

1. Paper Plates

Providing three meals each day as well as snacks means that I am forever washing dirty dishes. For me, using disposable plates helps keep the dirty dishes from piling up (along with my anxiety about cleaning dishes or emptying the dishwasher). This simple parenting hack saves me time and energy when I need it!

2. Grocery Delivery or Pick-Up

Recently, I was under-the-weather for a couple of weeks and took the opportunity to sign up for a free trial with Instacart. It was great! I didn’t have to worry about dragging my toddler through the grocery store, pushing a heavy cart, or loading the car. Instead, I simply clicked on the groceries we needed and selected a time (same day) for some wonderful person to deliver them to my house. Overall, Instacart was a huge time and energy saver!

While I don’t use the service when I’m feeling fine, I will certainly use them again when I need the extra help. Some stores that use Instacart include Aldi’s, Shope ‘n Save, and Fresh Thyme. Other stores like Walmart or Giant Eagle offer a grocery pick-up service, which can also save time and energy on the days you need it.

3. Make an Essential Laundry Pile

Forget sorting and running multiple loads of laundry throughout the day. Carrying heavy baskets and putting away clothes can be draining. When I’m sick, I put everything that NEEDS to be washed in one pile. Think underwear, toddler pajamas, and a few key pieces of your wardrobe. I try to separate it into two loads – hot water and cold water. Pairing down to the necessitates when it comes to laundry will help conserve your energy. You can wash sheets, towels, and other clothes when you’re feeling better. Until then, let laundry pile up.

4. Cleaning Wipes

In the spirit of letting things pile up, focus cleaning efforts on disinfecting with cleaning wipes. If you’re contagious, you want to minimize the risk of getting the rest of the household sick. Cleaning wipes are quick, easy, and disposable. Wipe down the bathroom, kitchen, and other important areas such as remotes, doorknobs, and light switches. As with everything else, pair down your house cleaning to the necessities for the time being. That means, that this isn’t the time to weed the garden, deep clean the kitchen, or finally file all those loose papers in the office.

5. Overnight Diapers

For babies and young toddlers, consider using overnight diapers so that you don’t have to change wet diapers as frequently. Also, throw the wipes, extra diapers, diaper cream, and a trash bag in a basket and keep it with you, so you aren’t wasting energy picking up your little one and or coaxing them to the changing pad.

6. Pause Potty Training

Put potty training on pause or relax your potty training standards. For me, that means letting my kid run around without pants so that she can get on the potty by herself, and I just have to get up to empty the contents and help her wash her hands. For others, relaxing potty training may mean only spending an hour or so out of the diaper during the daytime or putting the diaper back on at night. Do what you have to do to get more rest. You can circle back to where you were in the potty training process once you are feeling well.

7. Managing the Doctor’s Office with Kids

Going to the doctor, dentist, or really anywhere in which you can’t devote your full focus to your child is challenging, but sometimes it has to be done. Before going to the doctor’s office, pack some extra activities and snacks for your tot. I use my printable busy books (available on here on Etsy) because they are engaging, quiet, and keep her contained. Other ideas include pre-made busy bags (here’s a link to some easy activities you can make with felt and a hot glue gun), books, or small toys.

My game plan is usually to distract my child with these activities while waiting for the doctor and only giving her my phone or her tablet when I’m finally face-to-face with the doctor. That way, she’ll be completely engaged in the screen I just gave her, so the doctor and I can focus on me.

If I give her the device too early, she’ll loose interest, and I’ll struggle to entertain her while getting checked out by the doctor, which is distracting during the main purpose of our outing. So, I give her the screen the moment I need her distracted and not before.

8. Relax the Screen Time Rules

Normally, I’m a stickler for screen time rules. I feel guilty putting my toddler in front of the television, and I even have her Amazon Fire Tablet set up to automatically shut off after an hour. However, screen time really helps me get the rest I need when I’m sick. Not only is it nice to cuddle up on the couch with my tot, but she’ll get more out of educational shows if I’m actively engaged in watching them with her. I make comments to reinforce the educational content, ask her what she thinks will happen next, and laugh with her during the silly parts.

9. Offer a “New” Toy/Book

Getting a young child to play independently can be a big struggle, especially if you’ve been sick for more than a day or two. To keep kids engaged longer, consider offering them a new toy or activity. Some parents have a couple of toys stashed in a closet that they bring out for just this occasion. Personally, I rotate toys, and I rotate in toys my little one hasn’t seen in a while more frequently when I’m sick.

Another option I utilize a lot is our local library. Our library lends a variety of learning toys, puppets, LeapPads, and movies in addition to their numerous books. (Look and Find books are a great way to keep kids busy without having to read to them all day!) It’s a great way to offer new toys without having to buy or store more toys.

10. Take the Kids Out (if you are not contagious)

I’m not talking about a trip to the zoo or even the playground. If you feel up to it, take the kids somewhere that they can play and release energy while you can sit and supervise. Here’s where your local library comes in handy again because a lot of libraries have a great play area for kids as well as story times and other short events.

Other options include toddler time at community recreational centers or the play area at the mall (or Chick-fil-a). If you have a gym membership, you can always drop your kids off at the childcare area and go hang out at the smoothie bar.

Generally, I stay away from the playground when I’m sick because I don’t feel like chasing behind a curious two-year-old. My theory is that if I can get my toddler out in the morning, we both may have a good nap in the afternoon.

11. Engage Kids with a New Activity

When I’m not feeling well, I struggle to give my toddler activities to keep her occupied. Whether it’s a new activity or simply one that they don’t get to do often, getting kids to engage in anything independently can be a big help when you’re sick. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Busy books, file folder games, and other printable activities provide an easy way to offer a new activity without much preparation. In fact, I have a board of printable activities for both toddlers and preschoolers on my Pinterest page for just such an “emergency.” Also, you can check out my Etsy shop, which sells printable busy books here.
Click here to see one of my popular, free printable kids activities.
  • Bean Sensory Bin – My tot likes to pour, scoop, and generally play in a bin of beans. It’s one of the few sensory bins that actually holds her attention and doesn’t make a huge mess. I set up the bin on a blanket for easier clean up.
  • Toy Washing Station – If the weather is nice, I can occupy my tot by giving her a bin of soapy water, a few toys, a scrub brush, and a dish towel. Between the water play, bubbles, and outdoors, I can usually get about 20 minutes to sit in peace.
  • Play Doctor – When I don’t feel well, my kid likes to pretend to give me a check up. While I do have to participate a little, I can generally guide her to give her stuffed animals and dolls a check up too while I rest.
  • Play Dough – This is one of my go-to activities when I need something quick to entertain my tot while I drink my (still warm) tea. I let my tot pick out one color of play dough, offer her some cookie cutters, popsicle sticks, and toy animals. If your kids like them, you can also try some printable play dough mats, which may further peak their interest!
  • Stickers – Simply giving my toddler a few sheets of stickers and some construction paper (or one of the free, printable sticker scenes on my blog) can keep her occupied for a while! She makes a collage while I lay on the couch, and I don’t have to clean up markers, glue, or paint. I have a couple of free sticker scenes on my blog. Check them out below.
Free printable camping play mat
Free printable play scene
Free printable farm play mat
Free printable play scene.
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