Entertaining The Hospital Child–5 Cheap and Easy Ways!

We are in the middle of round two for Tessa.  Her counts have just started to decline today.  She is also in isolation due to virus precautions as of yesterday.  She is also neutropenic.  We are confined to her room only…which means no walking the halls, no play room and no visiting.  This basically strips away everything that Tessa loves about the hospital.  We know it is for the best, but it still stinks.

Being in isolation forced some serious creativity to emerge in order to entertain my busy toddler.  Once I looked around our room, I noticed how many appropriate resources there were available to us.  With staff permission, Tessa and I had a solid three hours worth of play time using some hospital supplies.  When you are in isolation, three hours of entertainment is impressive!  The best part was that there was zero cost!  We had many items on hand.  What we did not have, we simply asked the hospital staff to provide.

Now there are a number of obvious ways to provide cheap entertainment here in the hospital like turning on the TV, giving her our tablet, or reading a book.  But there are times where I feel like all she did during the day was watch movies for a few hours on end, and I end up feeling guilty.  And well, movies certainly are not doing her any favors.  As for the tablet…too much time on that makes her super unfocused.  And she apparently needed a break from my story telling.  The good news is that I was able to transition her technology withdrawals into positive and developmental play!  And no, I clearly did not “invent” each of these.  In fact, I would be willing to bet that many people have done these at home.  However when you live in a hospital–and are extended stayers like us–with very few of your belongings from home, you have to adapt and make do with what is available.

Here are five ways to entertain a child in the hospital–isolation or not!

1.  Tent

Good ‘ol reliable “tents”!  You really can’t beat them!  I used three chairs in our room and an oversized blanket from our closet.  We already had a play mat available for her (from the hospital) so it worked perfectly as the tent floor!  Her reaction to the tent was priceless, and she played in it forever!

Items needed:  chairs, large blanket

Benefits:  Encourages large motor skills (walking, crawling, squatting, bending over, standing) as well as encouraging creative and imaginative play.


2.  Makeshift Easel

Tessa is really starting to enjoy coloring, but let’s be honest–a toddler with crayons and markers can get a little wild…in no time!  That is usually the case with Tessa as her attention shifts quickly.  My makeshift easel works great because the tote lid cleans easily, and it catches the excess scribbles from busy toddler hands without worrying about coloring on the surface below the paper.   I also hung up her work on the board just as I would do at home on the fridge!

Items needed:  tote lid (any size), paper, tape (we used medical tape from a our drawer), crayons, markers or colored pencils.

Benefits:  Encourages small motor skills and language skills.


3.  Play Doctor

I really cannot believe I never thought of this one until today.  It is not like we have been living in a hospital or anything!  Every time Tessa has to get vitals checked, she likes to help put the blood pressure cuff on as well as the heart rate monitor.  When the nurses want to listen to her lungs, she even gets a shot at listening to the nurse’s arms, or shoulders or fingers…wherever she places the stethoscope.  This is huge for a child in the hospital.  Times like checking vitals and listening to the lungs and heart can be frightening and intimidating for children.  Tessa has learned to trust the medical personnel because they let her play and experiment with their equipment.  Today I encouraged her to do so on her own with her baby.  She wore a mask, listened to the baby with a stethoscope and wrapped the baby’s leg up for her “ow-ees.” And I hate to tell you Doc McStuffins, but she didn’t get that from you.

Items needed:  medical tape or wrap, stethoscope, face masks, gloves, etc.  Toy medical kits are also great!  *Supervision is especially important while playing with medical devices in case any items propose hazards to the child. 

Benefits:  Encourages creative and imaginative play.  Helps build trust in doctors and nurses.


4. Play music

Turn the music on!  It sounds silly, but this is an easy way to get Tessa up and moving!  I also feel like music does not get enough credit and is easily forgotten.  This is the easiest way to entertain Tessa!  We use Pandora on our tablet or borrow the CD player and cd’s from the nurses station.  She tends to be slightly partial to toddler tunes versus Bieber, but I have noticed her new budding love for Katy Perry over the last two days.

Check out some of her moves from yesterday:  http://instagram.com/p/hcZA2-E-SY/

Items needed:  Music!

Benefits:  Encourages large motor skills and mobility, language skills, creative play…and a lot of fun!

5.  Bowling

If only it were as easy as actually going to the bowling alley.  Unfortunately Tessa will not be going to one of those for quite some time, but this won’t stop her bowling in the hospital!


Items needed:  disposable cups or empty pop or water bottles, foam or rubber ball.

Benefits:  Encourages large motor skills and mobility

Please enjoy these inexpensive, yet super fun ways to entertain your child at home as well!  We would love to hear from you!  What are some of your favorite and creative activities to do with your littles?

***I would also like to wish my favorite 9 year old a BIG Happy Birthday today!  We love Tessa’s big brother Casin so much, and we are so lucky to have a great kid like him in our lives!  We hope he had the best birthday!***

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