Welp. We’ve had a month. The stomach bug hit our house twice. And while it was mild and only affected two family members, we were all on lockdown in our house. Then we picked up a cold from visiting family members and, once again, each of my children had a mild fever and cough that necessitated us staying home for a few days. I try to not be a total germaphobe, but the flu this year does scare me a bit, and I want to do my part to keep potentially contagious kiddos home instead of out and about licking toys and friends. It’s a small courtesy we can all offer each other during these long, dark, cold, germy months.

But it’s easy for cabin fever to set in on these dark days. Sure, for the first sick day it’s very cozy to stay in pajamas and read books and sip tea. By the second day, you start to feel a little itchy to get outdoors. But by day three, I find we have FULL BLOWN cabin fever, and I wonder why I’ve never noticed before just how loud, how ever-present, how fidgety my children were before. Every little thing sets me off, and we need a reset — STAT.

But when you’re on germ lockdown, it can be hard to get this reset. Here are some things I’ve tried to save our sanity on sick days:

Bundle everyone up and walk to the coffee shop

As long as there is no active vomit, I feel pretty OK about taking sick kids into spaces that are geared to adults. Armed with lots of hand sanitizer, we can take a 15-minute walk to the coffee shop to pick up a croissant or a coffee for mom and sit and enjoy some out-of-the-house time. A bonus is that it’s a fun treat to not just run in and out. Pack your own applesauce pouches, because the ones at Starbucks are $2 each, and that’s basically the price of a four-pack at Trader Joe’s. 

Midday baths

There is something so thrilling about a bath after lunch (or even after breakfast!). It shakes up the routine, and if you throw in lots and lots of bubbles and a colander, you can burn an hour in the bathtub. Bonus if you light a bunch of candles and play music and call it a kids’ spa day. Plus, sibling squabbles seem to never happen in the bath. Is that bath magic?

Bake something that requires a thousand steps

My children LOVE measuring ingredients, chopping veggies, and kneading the dough. While I cook with them almost daily, I will admit to saving complicated recipes for nap time or giving them frozen veggies to snack on/play with during dinner prep when I want to move things along. But when we’re stuck inside, I let them go to town measuring 12-ingredient muffins (sure, let’s add chia and flax and raisins — all measured!) or kneading their own little balls of dough for 20 minutes, even if that dough becomes tough inedible tennis balls that will never rise. I figure we are all sharing germs anyway, so why not let them do every step?

Indoor picnics

Once your meal is finished, serve it on a blanket on the floor instead of the boring old dining room table. If you’re into screen time, make an exception to eating in the living room or in front of the TV and lounge for a bit on the floor with snacks or lunch. For some reason, my children find indoor picnics especially magical if they are on the kitchen floor. Whatever works, right?

My friends who are ambitious, Mary Poppins-esque mothers have reported great success with things like building obstacle courses, forts, and puppet theaters or coloring large, wall-size pieces of paper. I don’t have it in me yet to attempt these things (maybe if we get sick AGAIN this winter?), but I salute their ingenuity.

Do you have any tried-and-true winter sick-day resets?