Rainy/Sick Day Activities: Water Cups


SplashingThe easiest thing to do with a sick, fussy toddler, of course, is to pop him on the couch and let him veg out in front of the TV.  That's what I feel like doing when I've been barfing my brains out.  But when my two-year-old, who never saw an operational television until he was over a year old, started talking about the Wonder Pets like they were friends of his a couple of weeks ago, I realized it was [way past] time to put the breaks on the boob tube consumption.

This winter has been brutal.  With two kiddos, our sick days have doubled and it seems like one virus just snowballs into another.  In the past six weeks, we've had a crazy stomach flu, a cough & cold and now another cough & cold and each bug takes 7-10 days to work its way through the entire family. We're perennially tired, head-achey, generally achey and snotty.  So. . . our normally active lifestyle of play dates, playground outings, walks, music class, museums and running errands, has ground to a halt and we're all going bonkers with cabin fever.  

What to do with a tiny, sick little guy who can't go anywhere or do anything we usually do?  Well, in our case, water always does the trick, but we can't spend half of every day in the bath and the wood floors in my kitchen are going to warp from the time we spend at the sink filled up with water, boats and cups with Huck on his stepladder.            

Maybe you already do some version of this, but here's a stupidly easy, cheap and fun activity that keeps my little man happily engaged for 20 minutes or more.  It's great fine motor practice and is about a thousand times more water-wise than filling a bath or sink. We call it Water Cups.

Here's what you need:

– A cookie/jellyroll pan 
– Two shatterproof cups, different sizes, one filled with warm water
– A silicone potholder (optional, prevents slipping)

If your kid is anywhere near as obsessed with water and pouring as mine is, she'll love this activity, and so will you.  Strap him in his booster or high chair at the table while you check email or empty the dishwasher and let her have at it.  I put a silicone potholder on the table to prevent the cookie sheet, which keeps at least some of the water from slopping all over the table, from slipping and fill one of the cups with warm water.  Occasionally I pour the water from the cookie sheet back into one of the cups. 

Water Cups 1 Water Cups 2 Water Cups 3

Do you have some fun, cheap and easy activities to keep your tykes from going bonkers on sick or rainy days?  Email us your ideas and pics and we may feature them on our blog.

Happy cold & flu season, Mamas!  Spring is just around the corner.

– M


  1. Love this idea, M! I have others I employ…but they all involve a lot more mess than this (like, for example, body painting). I’ve noticed that most moms I chat with recoil in horror when they hear how we pass the time….next time, I’ll just try water cups.

  2. I have done the rice/dried bean thing with my kids – I use a large tub and dump rice and/or dried beans put in measuring cups and spoons and let them play. Yes it makes a mess after awhile but it can easily be swept up with a broom and then vacuum the rest.

  3. Love that idea!! I use small painting rollers and fill a tupperware container with water and let the kids “paint” the walls with water. Amuses them for hours.

  4. When my boys were younger I once bought a roll of contact paper, I then taped a 4-5 foot piece to the wall, sticky side out, and let them stick magazine cut outs all over it like a collage. They absolutely loved it and it kept them busy for awhile! 😉 It takes some preparation to cut out random pictures out of magazines, but definetly worth it! Another fun one for sandbox lovers in the winter, buy a large box of rice or two, and put it in a disposable turkey roaster. I then buried little cars and random things under the rice and they had to find them! ONE MORE!!! Take two pieces of aluminum foil, tape together and cover table. Spray some shaving cream on it and let kids play with cars and make tracks, or just get messy with heir hands. Easy clean-up, just roll the aluminum foil up and toss, wash hands, and your done!!

  5. OMG Shannon – LOVE the contact paper and and shaving cream ideas! On this list for this week!
    Kelly – my son is also addicted to water…”painting” the walls would be right up his alley. I’ve tried a version of this on our balcony using paper towels – he “paints” the paper towels with water + jello powder. It’s a fun summer thing, but insanely messy.
    Tegan – Raines and I are also addicted to the cornstarch + water combo. It’s seriously crazy stuff. Have you read First Art Experiences? That’s where I first heard of it. I need to do a review on that book – it’s fantastic. (BTW – Love your blog)

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