Lately we’ve had a nasty cold doing the rounds in our home and there have been a few go-to activities that have saved the day on more than one occasion. During this cold and flu season it’s handy to have some  fun, restful and easy to  facilitate ideas up your sleeve, as well as inspiration to draw upon when children and carers may be a little under the weather, but still well enough to play and create on a small scale.

These activities have been compiled here because they tick the following boxes: they are fairly easy to set up; involve little (if any) mess; they can be easily altered to suit children of different ages and they can be modified to cater to children’s different interests.

Matching activities.

This involves gathering pairs of items and putting them together in a bag. These bags are great for a host of reasons – you can create bags which reflect children’s interests as well as use them to reinforce concepts and ideas (such as colours , letters, or mathematical concepts such as length).

Matching bags:

Picture 007 matching

Some examples of the contents from two different bags  are featured in the photo below. The items on the left are for a child who is familiar with shapes, patterns and length. The task involves the child being able to match the correct patterns on the green foam sticks (which I drew on with a biro) as well as sort the ribbon pieces from the bag and find the matching one according to the length of the ribbon. On the right there are matching activities for a younger child – matching stickers on bottle tops as well as different coloured ribbons.

Picture 010 matching

Water and foam activities

Sometimes a warm bath can provide some relief for a child who is not feeling one hundred per cent. While in the bath, a child might enjoy creating some art with foam pieces. Cut out various coloured foam shapes  for your child to stick to the side of the wet bath tub to create a colourful foam masterpiece. You might choose to cut pieces so that they can be used to create a scene for story telling. This experience can also be enjoyed with a little water and some paintbrushes (or sponge brushes) on a glass window or door. “Paint” a small amount of water onto a foam piece and then stick it onto the glass window or door.

A selection of foam pieces:

Picture 031 foam felt pieces

Creating pictures from foam shapes. All that is needed is a little water on the back of each foam shape and it will stick to glass (or the bath tub).

Picture 047 foam and water creations

Yarn creations

Cut some pieces of wool and invite your child to use it to “draw” a picture.

Picture 033 Yarn creations

To mix it up, combine a household item with the yarn to inspire a creation, for example my son and I used a calculator as part of a  robot. I wrote a blog post earlier in the year, titled “Yarn Creations“. In this post there are more examples of common household items that have been incorporated into a yarn ‘drawing”. This blog post can be seen here.

Picture 075 yarn robot


Drawing is a restful activity that allows children to express themselves and develop their imagination. If you are looking for some inspiration for some new drawing experiences check out the following blog posts I have written:

Creative Drawing Prompts – Part 1

Ten ideas (with examples)  in this blog post include:

1. An invitation to draw: what’s behind the door?
2. What lies behind the base of a tree?
3. Cloud drawings
4. Count and Create
5. Silhouette drawings
6. Shapes to inspire a drawing
7. Cut and create
8. Fairy Tale inspiration
9. Experiment with different drawing materials
10. Cave drawings

10 More Creative Drawing Prompts – Part 2

Ten more ideas and examples from this blog post include:

1. Scribble drawings
2. Puppet show
3. Recycle gift wrap to inspire drawings
4. Sticker drawings
5. Shadow drawings
6. Self portraits
7. Pop up play scenes
8. Drawing on blackboard
9. Vary the look of the paper supply
10. Photo inspired drawings


One resource that I think is a must have is contact. Love that stuff because it is versatile. It is easy to use and younger, as well as older children can enjoy it.

To create a mess free collage, cut out a piece of contact, remove the backing and tape the contact (sticky side facing out) to a wall or window. Provide some basic craft supplies and have children use these to create a collage.

Some possible craft supplies that could be used to create a picture on contact include:  patty pans, coloured foam popsicle sticks, honeycomb mesh, pipe cleaners, pom poms, foil bows, textured card cut into different shapes, feathers, ribbon and lace.

Picture 001 collage materials

If you would prefer not use craft supplies, older children could cut out a collection of pictures from magazines and combine these to create a scene. Secure a piece of white paper under the contact and children could add to the scene by drawing some illustrations.

Imaginary play

The current favourites in our home are playing flower shop and vets.

We have a collection of fake flowers on hand (which come in handy for all sorts of creative play and art experiences) and my children enjoy creating  bouquets and gift baskets with them. Often the set up for our flower shop involves flowers, containers, small pots, some tissue paper, sticky tape, coloured card, some stickers, pens and a cash register.

Picture 040 Flower shop

Providing pens and note cards mean that older children can write out orders as well as gift cards. Pre-writers can focus their attention on creating bouquets.

Picture 048 flower shop

Picture 064 flower shop

Making props for imaginary play is a fun and creative activity. For our Vet Surgery we made a X-Ray machine (boxes covered in foil) and set up a X-Ray corner. I googled “animal xrays” to add some visual information.

Picture 077 xray area for vet play

SparkleBox is a great online resource chock full of printables, including a section for role play resources which can be found here. In the photo below you can see some of the printable resources we have used from Sparklebox for our vet surgery .

Picture 069 vet reception desk

Fine Motor Activities

Some of our favourites include:

Threading fake flowers (to make necklaces and crowns for toys)

Picture 013 threading flowers

Threading felt pieces to make flowers may be just the ticket to add some cheer if a child is feeling unwell. I wrote a blog post about how to make rainbow felt flowers and it can be seen here.

Picture 245 bouquet of felt flowers

Bath suction mats, pom poms, tweezers and tongs combined make for a fine motor skill workout. I wrote more about this and how to adapt it to suit children of different ages in this blog post.

Picture 001 fine motor skills with bath suction shapes

Picture 066 Tweezers with pom poms on bath suction shapes

For younger children, make a threading box. Secure gutter mesh to an open end of a box. Younger children can poke straws or pipe cleaners through the holes (while being closely supervised).

Picture 127 threading box

Felt Puzzles or Felt Scenes

Both of my girls liked clowns around the age of three. While Miss Three has been sick over the last few weeks she has been enjoying the same clown felt set I made for her older sister three years ago.

Felt sets (featuring your child’s favourite characters, animals, nursery rhymes or whatever they are interested in) are easy to make and they are durable.

Picture 475 Felt clown pieces

Picture 474 Felt clown

Picture 594 One of Savvy's felt clowns

Blanket cubbies

The all time favourite and most requested thing to do when my cherubs are sick is to build blanket cubbies – which are cosy and perfect for snuggling while reading lots of stories.

Picture 291 reading in cubby

That’s  a wrap! I would love to hear what your children enjoy doing if they are a tad unwell. Please leave a comment so we can add to the list.