A long stay in the hospital can get boring even for an adult. For a child, it might seem unbearable. In Child Life Services, one of our most cherished challenges is to come up with fun activities for our patients. Here are 5 things you might see at Children’s:
1. Body Outlines
Your child lies on a long piece of paper, and someone traces their outline. We cut out your child’s shape, and she can draw:
- Accessories she likes to wear (such as a chain or bracelet)
- Medical equipment, like an IV tube or a port
This activity can encourage your child to talk about sensitive subjects, such as how she feels about possibly losing her hair or being hooked up to a medical device.
On the other side of the paper, we talk about what a child might be experiencing and feeling on the inside. We might write out words like “sad” or “angry,” or even “silly.” Usually, the kids love to decorate their paper “avatars” in creative ways.
It’s fun to hang these up on the wall or on the child’s door for people to see. To us, it’s some of the most important art in the world.
2. Take Up Your Shield
How fun would it be to make a warrior shield for a dramatic play while in the hospital? Your child can be given cardboard and foil to create a shield with a handle. Then, we ask him what makes him feel strong and protected. It could be:
- Sports figure or fictional superhero
- Stuffed animal
Kids can also be encouraged to verbalize ways they can help themselves feel stronger—for example, by getting enough sleep.
3. Treasure Hunt, Anyone?
An Eye Spy game is always a kick. This activity would entail filling a clean water bottle with uncooked rice or birdseed, then “hiding” a small object in each one. It could be a button, a bandage, a paper clip, a bead, any small toy, or a household item. Kids tumble and twirl the bottles until they spot the hidden object.
Fun without smartphones—who knew?
4. Arts And Crafts
In the treatment areas, staff are encouraged to provide something fun and child friendly, such as art supplies. Kids who are waiting to have a test can decorate a Valentine heart, shamrocks, 4th of July flags, or other seasonal art.
Instead of thinking about the “poke” or an unknown that might be ahead, they’re letting their creative ideas flow. This also creates a distraction.
Usually, they’re pretty proud of what they’ve made. And rightfully so!
5. Fun With Other Kids
Our activity room is full of games, toys, craft supplies, and other things kids can do together. Immuno-compromised patients can play and chat in a special setting just for them. It’s usually not something they can do all day, but they enjoy time together each day.
Who doesn’t like a good “water-squirt” battle with syringes?
Adding Giggles And Grins To Their Memories
After treatment, we continue to see our kids on an outpatient basis. Many times, I’ll say, “Remember when we did that big baking activity?” They’ll smile, knowing they got to do something extraordinary.
Hospital treatment isn’t fun. But creative activities give kids something else to remember, something that give them joy and pride in themselves. Those memories can be a source of strength for a lifetime.
If you are looking for ideas for bedside activities for your child, ask your child life specialist for guidance.