When Mom’s Sick… Survival tips for Moms!

Because moms don't get sick days. 23 toddler activities to help you make it through the day when you're sick and a free printable download

What do we do when we can’t bring our A, B, or C game?


There are NO sick days for moms, so how do we survive without sitting the kids in front of the TV all day or handing them tablets when we’re just not feeling our best and not able to be our best? While this might sound like the easiest thing to do, it often ends in them whining, fighting, and climbing all over us, which doesn’t help us one little iota. So, since moms don’t get days off, what can we do? How do we “mom” and be sick at the same time? 



We’ve never been a media/screen time family. I saw as a teacher how attention problems affected kids and I didn’t want that for my kids. So, we’ve always muddled through, and that’s not for everyone, but we’ve gotten fairly good at basically BSing our way through those tough days and making stuff up to make it nap time or bedtime. Sometimes, that’s all we can do, right? Make it until the next time the kids are sleeping…?

The end of a camping trip and I was just plain TIRED. After bathing 4 dogs and unloading the essentials in 90-degree heat, I was ready to sit Sweet Pea down in front of the TV. Instead, we read and played catch inside.

A little insight into some of my toughest moments…

First-trimester exhaustion and nausea were super real for me.  Forget morning sickness, I had all day sickness! And, it didn’t go away at that magical end of the first-trimester mark either. It was there the whole time. Cravings? Never had any. Food aversions? Oh yes! To the point of having only the foods I could stomach to eat out on the counter or put on one side of the refrigerator.  The sight of everything else made me want to hurl. Fortunately, Sweet Pea was only about a year old at that time, so she didn’t know how much I had limited her food options.

Unfortunately, my husband was essentially away on business for my whole first trimester of being pregnant with Buddy Boy. We didn’t want to tell people too early that we were pregnant, so I sucked it up and dealt with it on my own for a few weeks. I sat on the couch and let Sweet Pea play with whatever. I asked her questions, interacted with her when she showed me something or asked me something. I did my best to not look miserable and to stay awake until it seemed like I might be able to convince her to try to take a nap (she never was a nap taker, not unless you count 20 minutes as a good nap for a baby).  

I was as involved as I could be from the couch or lying on the floor. This worked because we had a “yes” space for her. Our kitchen opens to our living room and both were childproofed for her, so I didn’t have to worry too much about what she was doing. The other stuff (bathroom, stairs, front door, etc) was gated off. I stayed involved in what she was doing by asking her questions, offering suggestions, commenting on how fun it looked or how happy the dog was that she was playing with her, etc.

Was it my best parenting? Of course not. But, I put my phone or book down every time she came over, looked her in the eye and gave her my full attention. Of course, just having turned 1, she wasn’t very verbal, so I was doing most of the talking, but we made it work. Later in my pregnancy, when I was just tired, I’d set out snacks and a child-sized water pitcher for her so she could do things for herself. She loved it. I didn’t love all the extra towels to wash, but she learned to clean up her spills, and it was just water on a tile floor, so no big deal. 


But, how long can we really feign interest and let our kids do their own thing while we supervise from as comfortable of a position as we can manage? This strategy didn’t work as well at the end of my pregnancy when my nerve pain was bad and moving made it worse. So, while that worked well for an 11-13 month old, and for a 15 month old when we had the flu (so bad I was hospitalized!), it didn’t work well for an 17-19 month old, and I’m not so sure that I’d test it for too long with more than one child. Two little ones can cause a lot of ruckus fairly quickly!

A sick day for mom? Mom's sick day? That usually doesn't happen, so try these easy toddler activities. They're also great activities for preschoolers during pregnancy or when Mom is sick but still has to manage her little ones.

So, when you can’t bring your A, B, or even your C game and you don’t want to use electronics, try some of these:

  1. Go for a walk. Strap the baby in the stroller if needed. Add some snacks if your kids are older. 
    1. Let the little ones walk if you can so they get out energy
    2. Or, make it a scavenger hunt to see if they can find…
    3. Play, “I spy..”
    4. Make it time to listen to music (so you can get some “peace and quiet”)
    5. Play the silent game (as many restarts as needed!)
  2. Toy cars. Use the pull-back kind or a ramp and let the kids chase them and bring them back to you to start the “game” again. Balls work too. So, basically, play fetch with your child. (My husband and my dad are great at this! It was not originally my idea, but it works and the kids love it). 
  3. Create an indoor obstacle course using whatever you have. Run through it once with them, then they do it. Have them jump over lines (string or masking tape), run around a box, crawl under a chair, climb over a mound of pillows or bedding… Whatever you have and whatever works for your child’s abilities. 
  4. Dance party inside. Use a variety of music and dance accordingly. 
  5. Bust out the building blocks and keep changing what they need to build. Towers, bridges, cities… Have your child sort them by color, size, or shape and tell you how many they have of each. 
  6. Puzzles
  7. Books
  8. Put random powders (spices, flour, sugar, etc.) from your kitchen in small bowls. Give your little one water to dissolve it and see what happens. Add vinegar. Put down a table cloth first so the mess is minimized and use small containers. Make it a rule that your kids need to be seated to do this activity and need to help with the cleanup. 
  9. Water play.
    1. In the kitchen with a towel and bowels and random stuff from the kitchen drawers.
    2. Bathtub
      1. Add in some bubbles and scoops
      2. Maybe use those bath crayons
      3. Whatever sounds fun and will keep them in there a while
      4. Add hot water to extend the fun!!
      5. See what sinks and what floats (have them grab toys that are ok to go in the tub)
    3. Sprinkler outside
    4. Water table
    5. Let them squirt the plants and “water them”
    6. Paint with water
      1. Black paper
      2. Sidewalk outside
  10. Go outside.
    1. Our back patio was my savior in the afternoons the previous two summers. Some things that really helped before my kids were at the “able to play safely and independently in the backyard age”
      1. Water table
      2. Sandbox
      3. Popsicles (or Fruitsicles)
      4. Tub or large plastic storage bin with water
      5. Slide
      6. Their own dirt to play with
      7. Chalk
  11. Art (I know you don’t want a big ‘ol mess, but art is a great way to feel like we’re doing something “with” our kids and usually doesn’t take too much energy)
    1. Paint in the bath tub.
    2. Paint outside
    3. Window markers/dry erase markers on the sliding glass door
    4. Ask them to make cards or draw pictures for friends/distant relatives and mail them later.
    5. Color wonder stuff so it’s less messy
    6. Take turns giving directions on what to draw
      1. Magna doodles work well!
    7. Good old fashioned crayons and markers. Read more about how to jazz them up here.
  12. Read
  13. Play dough
  14. Do some SIMPLE Science
  15. Shut yourself in a “yes” space with them. Let them do whatever’s safe. Worry about the mess later.
  16. Present it (or, anything, really) as a problem. Ask them what they want to do to solve it. Kids love solving problems and helping. “I’m not feeling well, and you guys have a lot of energy. How can we solve that problem so that we’re all happy?”
  17. Make a couch or kitchen table fort and let them play in there
  18. Ask them to help you take a nap. Read books in bed and let them put you to bed using their bedtime routines. 
  19. Busy boxes/bags if you already have them set up. Use them sparingly and they’re always fun!
  20. Board games. The simple ones like Jenga or Topple. The fishing games…memory games.
  21. Blow up a balloon. Play your own version of volleyball. Try to throw it at a target or in a basket. Tie a string to it and let them run… let them do whatever with it (aside from chewing, of course!)
  22. Go for a drive.
  23. Go to someone else’s house or on a quick errand. Or, invite someone over. A different adult to take the focus off of you for a bit can be amazing!
  24. If all else fails, offer an incentive. “I know you guys are growing bored of being cooped up inside while I’m sick. It’s been a few days now and it’s no fun for any of us. Let’s set a goal. If we…. then, when I’m feeling better, we can all…”

If you’d like a FREE printable version of this list, head over to my Digital Library (click here)!

And, obviously, your sole goal here is to keep the littles alive. Anything else is a bonus. Who cares if the dishes pile up so bad that you can’t use the sink or you’re running a load of laundry because someone’s out of clean underwear? As long as no one got hurt and everyone was fed (forgo worrying about the balanced diets too! Just make sure everyone gets something to eat. We’re in survival mode here, not doing your normal, everyday plan), and had their basic needs met, the day was a success.


One last point…

Now, for whatever reason, you’re not your best. Remember that and don’t be too hard on yourself. Tomorrow’s a new day! Maybe you’re sick or pregnant. Maybe it was a series of unfortunate events and you’re just down on your luck. Maybe you’re sad or stressed about something. So, go easy on yourself and give your kids a little more freedom too. But, remember to just pause and look at them, let them see you are listening, that you care, etc. It will go a LONG way.

Don’t forget to be honest with your littles and say that you’re tired, or you have a deadline and need to get that task done (or whatever it is), but you’d be happy to play with them when you’re done, which should be in about  ___ minutes. Then, set a timer so that you stick to your word and don’t lose track of time. 


What are your tips and tricks for surviving when you’re just not feeling your best, when there’s no break, and no one to come take your kids for you?


Join the discussion!


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A sick day for mom? Mom's sick day? That usually doesn't happen, so try these easy toddler activities. They're also great activities for preschoolers during pregnancy or when Mom is sick but still has to manage her little ones.


If you’d like a FREE printable version of this list, head over to my Digital Library!Click through to find out 23 activities you can do with minimal effort for #sickdays and those days when you're not feeling your best, because moms don't get sick days. #easytoddleractivities #motherhood #parenting


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