If you are a parent living with chronic illness, disability, or chronic pain, you know all too well how hard it can be to find ways to spend time with your kids. Some days it’s all I can do to sit up, let alone find the energy to play with them! And then, inevitably, I feel consumed by guilt, or feel like I’m missing out on precious family time.
Here are a few ideas for activities that won’t take much out of you, but will mean the world to your children. Like my list of winter, fall, summer activities, many of them can be done from the comfort of your couch or bed (so you may even find some options for flare days)!
1. Blow bubbles.
Regardless of your child’s age, there’s something relaxing about blowing bubbles. For an easy, peaceful activity, there’s nothing better. You can blow the bubbles yourself from the comfort of a chair, ask your child to blow them, or pick up an inexpensive battery-powered bubble machine. If you’re really feeling brave (and willing to deal with a little mess), you can even blow them indoors.
2. Enjoy bird watching.
I live for the first sounds of birds calling to one another in the treetops in spring! It feels like the official announcement that winter is finally behind us. The beauty of birds is that they can be found just about anywhere, from rural to urban settings. Spend a little time watching for the birds that are native to your area. If you have a place for it, hang a birdhouse, or a window-mounted bird feeder to enjoy a closer view.
There are some great apps that help you identify the species of bird you’re seeing (or hearing). Merlin Bird ID is a free app my husband loves to use with our kids. It allows you to search by appearance (size, color, and the bird’s activity/location), or by sound (a short audio recording of the sound identifies the bird, or you can listen to pre-recorded audio snippets to compare to what you’re hearing).
If your area has a lot of birds, you could create a “Bird Bingo” card for each family member. The first person to spot all the birds on their card wins a prize!
3. Plant a garden.
There’s just something about gardening that makes you feel more alive. For kids, there’s the added sense of wonder and discovery as they watch tiny seeds grow into mature plants. It’s just an amazing process!
Full-on gardening with chronic illness can be challenging. I’ve written some tips for making gardening accessible in general. But if a full garden isn’t an option for you because of space or ability, it’s still possible to experience the joy of watching plants grow!
For an incredibly simple way to start growing plants, simply place dry lentils or beans in a shallow cup amid dampened cotton balls, and place them in a sunny spot. Within days, tiny shoots will grow from the “seeds!” This is an especially great option for young kids who lack the patience to wait for seeds to germinate normally. It’s also a great way to grow microgreens that can be eaten in salads or other dishes.
Vegetable plants can be started indoors in early spring, and transplanted as they grow. Many vegetables can be grown in pots or containers, and some will even thrive indoors. So you can grow your own food even if outdoor space is limited. For recommendations for best things to grow, planting schedules, and other information, the Farmer’s Almanac is always a great resource.
If vegetables aren’t your thing, there are many flowers that can be grown easily from starts or from seeds. Tulip bulbs are one of my favorites, and as an added bonus they are a perennial (they come back every year) that multiplies over time! You can grow them in pots indoors, then save the bulbs to plant outside in the fall. By next spring, you’ll have beautiful tulips to enjoy in your garden.
4. Go for a drive to enjoy the blossoms.
Everything comes alive in the spring, and I love watching the trees and gardens leaf out and bloom. Even if you are unable to get out and go for a walk, taking a drive to drink in the signs of life after a long winter can be so refreshing. Load everyone up with some snacks and a drink for the ride, and enjoy the beautiful sights of springtime.
5. Watch a movie.
Movies are always an easy, low-energy option. Why not celebrate the arrival of spring with a spring-like movie? For younger kids (or older kids!), movies like Peter Rabbit, The Secret Garden, Bambi, or Winnie the Pooh are great choices. Older kids might enjoy Miss Potter, Sound of Music, or My Girl.
6. Have a (contained) Easter Egg Hunt.
Easter egg hunts are the classic springtime activity, but let’s be honest: they take considerable energy. For a lower-energy version, here are a couple of ideas:
- Confine the hunt to just one room of the house. Take a few moments to hide eggs in that space, and then allow your child to search for them while you sit by and watch.
- Play “Hot or Cold” with Easter eggs. Take turns hiding an egg somewhere in the same room. The person hiding the egg can indicate whether the seeker is “hot” (getting closer to the egg) or “cold” (farther away). The beauty of this is that the person hiding the egg can mostly stay stationary on a couch or in bed.
- Make “activity eggs:” rather than filling the eggs with candy or trinkets, add a little slip of paper with an activity that the seeker has to do. It could be hopping on one foot, flapping their wings like a bird, singing a song, etc. For older children, the papers could have questions instead, either about themselves or to test their knowledge of other family members. For example, “What is Dad’s favorite color?” or “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Either way, you will need to expend just a little energy to create the activities, but you can simply watch after that. And there will be plenty to keep your children occupied!
7. Create an indoor petting zoo.
My children love their stuffed animals, and if your house is anything like mine, it’s likely overflowing with them. For a fun indoor activity, invite your kids to create a small petting zoo. They can arrange their stuffed animals any way they like: by species, by size, etc. Have them set up exhibits with all of their favorite animals, and then give you a tour. Ask them to tell you a little bit about each animal: what they eat, where they can be found, any particular personality quirks… Chances are they have a backstory for every stuffed animal in their collection!
If mobility is an issue, you can have them set up the zoo on the end of your bed or in your room. If that’s not possible, invite them to create a “documentary” and shoot a video tour of their zoo on a phone or camera to share with you.
8. Put together a puzzle.
Rain is an inevitable part of springtime, so why not take advantage of a day indoors to work on a puzzle together? If you don’t have one on hand, they can be purchased inexpensively from many stores. Some libraries also have puzzles (and board games) that can be checked out and returned. Or hold a “puzzle swap” with friends or family members.
If you are limited to your bed, smaller puzzles can be put together on a tray or a piece of wood that can easily be moved when you are finished.
9. Have a paper airplane contest.
For some reason, springtime always makes me think of the sky. It could be the clear blue skies with fluffy clouds, or the birds flying overhead, or the colorful kites that suddenly pop up here and there on a sunny day. Whatever the reason, why not translate this love of skies to a fun family activity?
Paper airplanes come in all shapes and sizes, and can be made by young children up through adults. Spend a little time making your own creations, and then have a contest! Prop a hula hoop up and see who can fly their plane through the center. Line up on the edge of the bed and measure to see whose airplane flies farthest. Mark targets on the wall or floor, and see how close you can come to landing on them. There are countless ways to compete with paper airplanes, and most of them can be done from the couch or bed.
10. Make a special spring snack.
Whether you’re going for a ride to scout spring blossoms, curling up with a movie, or just enjoying a rainy day indoors, why not make snack time something special? An easy snack that’s sure to please is a spring-themed “Rabbit Trail Mix.”
Let each person create their own custom mix using simple ingredients: fish crackers, jelly beans, pretzels, mini marshmallows, raisins, dried fruit, nuts, etc. Your child will love having the freedom to pick and choose what goes into their snack, and they can easily prepare it themselves by scooping a spoonful of each ingredient from a bowl, or pouring from a package. For added fun, you could serve the snacks in orange paper “carrot cones.”
What are your favorite low-energy spring activities? Feel free to share in the comments below!