Unfortunately, some of our kids end up stuck at home for long periods of time during the winter. Some of them may be recovering from surgery or an illness, while others may be avoiding crowds to keep colds and flus at bay. Some may not do well out in the cold and snow, while still others may be too sick to get out of bed. Whatever the reason, it can be incredibly boring.
So, how can you spice things up for your child? Here are 10 ideas.
1. Bring in some guests. Anything that changes up the pace is delightful. College students can be particularly great to invite over. Often, if you feed them a meal, they will happily display their talents for your child. You can usually find musicians, jugglers, dancers, and sometimes even magicians. Schools that offer arts therapy programs can be particularly helpful. Their students get hands-on experience, and your child gets a new interesting artistic friend. Your local palliative care organization may even be able to bring in some holiday or festive characters, such as Santa or a princess.
2. Invite over some furry, spiny, or scaly critters. In most cities, you can find at least one exotic animal company that will bring a wide variety of critters to your home for your child to see (and possibly even pet)! Many will even give you a discount or free show if you explain the situation. If this is not an option, see if there are any therapy dogs (or ponies or llamas!) in your area. They may also be able to visit your child.
3. Television or Netflix. Yes, doctors recommend limiting screen time for kids, and rightfully so. But children who are stuck at home in bed get a rare dispensation. If they can’t get out into the world, bring the world to them! Hook up a TV in your child’s room or the living room and bring on the quality entertainment. These days, many TVs, tablets, or laptops can be mounted on arms to position them up close to your child. If your child is expected to be in bed long-term, consider asking Make-a-Wish or a similar organization to install a hospital grade TV on an arm that can be positioned anywhere above the bed. Or get a projector and project a huge screen right onto the wall. Then get watching! Some favorite treasures include nature series that explore different places in the world, movie versions of classic books, and, of course, movies and shows for kids.
4. Books on “tape.” Though they are no longer on tape, recorded books can be fabulous for children stuck at home. Whether they are on CD, an e-book reader, or online, recorded books can bring amazing stories to your child, and let him travel the world in his mind.
5. School at home. While many schools are reluctant to provide it, even children who cannot get out of bed have the right to get an education. The goal is not necessarily mastery of IEP goals (though that may be the official goal), but just the ability to break up the monotony of the everyday. Kids actually like to learn, and even if they aren’t up to doing much learning, they can do art projects about history or simple science experiments. You may even be able to have your child use video conferencing to “join” the classroom itself and interact with the other students.
6. Add some sensory bling. When your child is stuck at home, especially if she spends much of her time in bed, often the view is the same four boring walls. But those walls don’t have to be boring! Change out some light bulbs for colored ones, add a disco ball or black light, buy a combination white noise/projector machine, or even cover the walls with brightly colored paper. Simple wind chimes and a fan can create beautiful and ever-changing sounds.
7. Pamper them with massage. Massage is a fabulous way to make your child feel better, while also giving her attention. You can learn simple massage from online videos or books, or see if your local palliative care provider offers massage as a service. Parents who are not comfortable with hands-on massage can purchase a vibrating mat or a massage mat to place under their child.
8. Let the siblings’ creativity shine! Children are always creative, so let the siblings come up with some entertainment. They can put on a puppet show, sing songs, throw a dance party, or just sit and cuddle while watching some television.
9. Art projects. Nothing is more fun than an art project with kids. Even if your child needs hand-over-hand assistance, he will be delighted to create something colorful and fun. There are hundreds of options out there using regular materials already found in your home.
10. Bring in the elements! In the winter, bring some snow or ice in for your child to see and touch. Kinetic sand with seashells is fun to mimic the beach. Bubbles are always delightful, and even a box full of worm-filled dirt can be exciting.
But most importantly, make some wonderful memories. Enjoy your child, and let her know that life can be amazing, even if she is stuck at home.