15 Awesome Sick Day Activities for Toddlers to Keep Them Smiling

We detail what to do with a sick toddler, besides TV, that can keep them distracted and comfortable. These ideas help parents and kids get through it.

Published November 21, 2023
Sick toddlers on couch

Having a sick toddler is challenging, to say the least. I say this having one sitting next to me right now. One of the hardest parts of this seemingly endless time is finding ways to keep them entertained and happy.

While television is an easy choice. it becomes unamusing fast. For parents wondering what to do with a sick toddler besides TV, we have some fun activities to keep them occupied throughout all stages of their recovery!

Fun Activities to Entertain Sick Toddlers

When your baby is sick or on the mend, but not ready to get back to their normal schedule, it can be tricky. You need activities that will keep them entertained but not exert the limited energy they have, which should be focused on healing. All of these sick day activities for toddlers are a good mix of amusement and low movement to ensure that they get better quickly!

1. Pasta Play

Three weeks after having my second son, the whole family got COVID-19. It was not how I pictured my postpartum period. Tethered to the house, I had to get very creative with our sick day activities. Ironically, pasta play became a weekly occurrence after introducing it to my oldest son during this time.

To play this game, all you need is:

  • A large metal, plastic, or wooden mixing bowl
  • A large wooden or plastic spoon for stirring
  • A ladle
  • Tongs
  • Small plastic bowls for serving
  • Clear solo cups or plastic cups
  • An array of different pasta types
Helpful Hack

To make this extra engaging, I use bow tie, penne, fusilli, and shell pasta shapes in a selection of colors. This makes the mixture more fun.

Once you have all your supplies gathered, simply pour your different pasta types into individual solo cups and have your toddler play pretend chef! They can mix the different pastas by pouring, scooping, and pinching them from their individual containers into the mixing bowl and then they can transfer them into their serving bowls. This is a great activity for practicing fine motor skills. 

Need to Know

While dried beans may seem like a fun addition to this game, if your toddler were to eat them, they would cause stomach upset and potentially be a choking hazard, so it's best to avoid them. 

2. Sensory Bottles

I Spy sensory bottles are the perfect way to keep your bedridden toddler amused when recovering from an illness! Not only are they easy to make with supplies around the house, but you turn them into a stationary treasure hunt when made with rice. Simply list out the items that your toddler needs to find and send them searching!

3. Sticker Crafts

Sisters playing with crafts book with sticker at home

I cannot say enough good things about Hobby Lobby's sticker crafts! My son is obsessed on a regular day, so on a sick day, these are a lifesaver. This is why I keep a stockpile handy for when he is sick, for busy work days, and even for long doctor's visits.

These are typically in the seasonal sections of the store — they offer turkeys, scarecrows, and pumpkins to assemble at Thanksgiving, elves, reindeer, Santa, and gingerbread houses at Christmas, and so forth. I love that these packages are almost always on sale, they come with more than one version of the craft in each pack, and when you choose the larger options, your toddler can complete them all on their own. 

4. Color Sorting

This is another great game that is not only good for sick days but also for teaching your toddler their colors and expanding their language skills. All you need is colored pom poms and either colored gift bags or clear solo cups. The intent is simple —they must sort the colors!

To upgrade this game, add a pair of tongs that they can use to transfer each colored pom pom into the containers. You'll be surprised to find that younger kids are typically eager to do this over and over, making it an easy and fun activity for sick toddlers.  

5. Clothespin Games

Clothespin games are another fantastic fine motor activity that can keep your kids busy when they are sick. The easiest way to play this game is to grab 15 clothespins and five paper plates. On each paper plate, write a number between one and five.

Then, have your toddler attach the correct number of clothespins to the corresponding number on the plate. If you want the activity to last longer, you will just need more clothespins and more plates!

6. Masking Tape Speedway

This is another fan favorite in my house. Using a roll of masking tape, create a mini speedway on your floor — the more twists and turns the better! Then, grab all your kid's little cars and let the races begin. 

7. Castle Building 

girl crouching on the floor playing with wooden building blocks at home

No matter if you have blocks, Legos, Lincoln Logs, or Magna Tiles, castle building is always a hit with kids. This can be a simple sick day activity for toddlers that you likely already have lying around the house. 

8. Popsicle Making

Hydration is key when your kids are sick. This makes popsicle creation a fantastic activity for sick toddlers! If you have popsicle molds, this is a super easy way to make a tasty treat for later. Have your toddler help to wash and chop the fruit (with a toddler-safe knife and your supervision). Next, have them fill the molds halfway full with Greek yogurt or juice and top them off with the fruit. Then, freeze and enjoy!

9. Coloring

Coloring is another go-to activity in our house, but we don't just implement markers and crayons. We also add stamps, stencils, and stickers. When it comes to the canvas, I invest in butcher paper and use masking tape to adhere it to the surface they want to color on.

This is great for sick days because sometimes sitting in a chair is unappealing and lying on the floor is a more comfortable choice. The large canvas also ensures my floors and other surfaces stay clean.

10. Play-Doh

Play-Doh is the perfect activity for sick toddlers because it is not only engaging but is also a form of sensory play, which can help calm them during this stressful time. Just like with the coloring, if you want to extend the length of this activity, you need to give them fun tools to enhance the fun. Cookie cutters, stamps, rolling pins, and pasta cutters are all great choices!

Quick Tip

I also like to do this activity on butcher paper to make cleanup a breeze!

11. Reading Time

In our house, we rotate what books are available each week. This ensures that there is always something new to read. If you have some books that your toddler hasn't looked at in a while, this can be an easy quiet time activity that is perfect for a sick toddler. 

12. Build an Indoor Fort

Playful child sitting in a fort at home

What better place to read than in a cozy fort? When your toddler is trapped inside the house, a pillow or blanket fort can be a fantastic retreat where they can read, color, or even watch TV when the day is winding down. Best of all, the actual act of building the fort can keep them occupied for a while. Have them hunt for pillows and blankets, stuffed animals, decorations, and even chairs to make their cushioned castle extra roomy.

13. Sensory Bin Play

If you don't mind the possibility of a mess and your toddler is at the end of their sick window, a sensory bin can be another calming activity that keeps them engaged for hours! This is also an activity that you likely have all the supplies for at home, making it super simple to throw together.

14. Tub Time

If you need to keep your toddler's temperature down, make the process exciting with a lukewarm bath filled with fun. My sons love playing with their styrofoam letters and numbers in the tub, along with all of their typical bath toys. You can turn this playtime into an I Spy game and another opportunity to facilitate speech. And, it's one more sensory activity that can be soothing during this time of sickness. 

15. Play Doctor

My oldest son had four surgeries in less than three years, so the doctor was not our favorite person to visit. That is, until we played doctor! Since you likely have a few pediatrician visits in your current sick schedule, this can be a great sick day activity for toddlers that can help lessen the stress of seeing the doctor.

We bought a basic doctor kit on Amazon, but you can pick one up at Walmart or Target as well. When we feel under the weather, we have him give me, his brother, and all his babies (stuffed animals) checkups.

During these checkups, we talk about how the doctor isn't scary and that they just want to make sure everyone feels good. It is also a great opportunity to talk about medicine and how it is only okay to take it when mommy or daddy gives it to us.

Quick Tip

We recommend preparing a few of these games and having them in a "sick day bin." This can limit the spread of germs and make cleaning what they use much simpler for you!

Sick Day Activities for Toddlers Can Help Everyone

Toddlers seem to get sick at least once a month, especially if they are in daycare or school. The Mayo Clinic notes that the average child will get up to 12 colds a year. That doesn't include the dreaded tummy bugs, the flu, and the many other germs that our kids seem to attract. This makes having a stockpile of activities for sick toddlers helpful for kids and parents. A few fun ideas can help the whole family get to the other side. 

15 Awesome Sick Day Activities for Toddlers to Keep Them Smiling