Things to do in the Hospital
By Zack Skrip
At the FPIES foundation, we know that hospital visits can be an unfortunate part of our lives. Many of us have hospital bags packed so that we can trundle our little ones off to the hospital as quickly as possible at any time of the day.
When we are fortunate, it’s a quick visit and we are released the same day. But some visits require more time. In fact, sometimes you’ll be in the hospital, and your child will be well enough to want to do things but due to IVs or maybe hospital policy, you’ll be unable to give them the freedom they’d have at home.
My family spent about 5mos in the hospital last year. When it comes to hospital living, sadly, we know what we are talking about. Also, our hospitalizations were spent across the country from where we live, so we didn’t have the freedom to run home and change out books or toys.
These are the tricks we learned last year.
This is where you’ll start. If your child is quite ill, then this is where you’ll stay, too. Kids are naturally attracted to TV and in your frazzled state you’ll appreciate the distraction also.
Try not to let this get out of hand though. As the hours turn into days, TV has a way of making you (and your child) anxious or “antzy.”
Consider making TV a prize that you get to watch, maybe at a certain time of day (“It has to be after 3pm…”), after they finish their food trial, or maybe after a certain amount of time spent doing a different activity.
I’m going to be honest with you. You are going to watch a lot of television. I know you don’t let your kids watch that much at home. You aren’t a bad parent. Hospitals suck. This is what it is.
Reading can be tough when you just get to the hospital, especially depending on how sick everyone is, but over time, it’ll provide a very pleasant distraction from the environment and a reason to stop watching TV.
The tough thing about books can be having them with you. Books take up a lot of space, and kid’s books are by nature short--so you need a lot of them. “Kindle!” you all say. Well, yes. There are Kindle versions of kids books, but unless you are really committed to the platform, I’m assuming most of your kids book will be the old fashioned paper kind.
So, unless you want to keep a stack separate, ready to grab on your way out the door, it’s more than likely that you won’t bring very many books with you (if any).
Here’s what you can do:
Buy a few children’s book compendiums. These large, convenient volumes have many children’s books published together. This way you can grab one or two and be set for a short stay. The only downfall, is that they are heavy, and therefore hard to read lying down. Here are our favorites:
- The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury: Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud
- A First Book of Fairy Tales
- HarperCollins Treasury of Picture Book Classics: A Child’s First Collection
- The Tall Book of Nursery Tales
You can buy most of these used, and that could save you a little bit of money. Hospital stays aside, these volumes contain many of the best stories, so they’re good to have anyway.
You would think this would be in the same category as TV, but I’ve learned how to convince myself that it isn’t, if only because of the educational value we’ve gotten from it.
As you read through stories or go about your day, think of things that your child might not have ever been exposed to, and then use YouTube to show them what it’s like.
For instance, we were working on a sticker sheet that had dinosaurs and volcano's. I realized my son had never seen real lava before so we spent ten minutes looking at lava flows on YouTube. Many of the YouTubers helpfully put things like pop-cans and iPhones in the way of the lava so we could see them explode into flames.
You have to take your education where you can get it.
Aside from nature, there are all sorts of other fun things to use YouTube for. For instance, my son learned all of the instruments in the orchestra over one hospital stay. We’d search for classical music concerts and then name the instruments. (If you’d like to introduce your child to classical music, I’d suggest you start here. These guys are hilarious.)
Crafts can provide a fun way to spend some time. They allow your child to use their fine motor skills, get creative, and still stay in bed (if that’s required).
Coloring is the easiest thing to do, and most nursing stations have crayons and coloring sheets available, just ask for them.
My son and I had fun making different paper airplanes (again, ask for some blank copy paper from the nursing station). We’d watch the instructions (thank you, YouTube) and then try it out on our own. You can see which plane goes the fastest, farthest, loops the best, etc.
Another option is to make finger puppets and then play out your child’s favorite fairy tales or stories. Don’t overthink this. One time I took a couple of non-latex gloves, cut off the fingertips, drew different smiles on them and then acted out Hansel and Gretel.
Of course, Pinterest would have a large offering of more creative options, but in the moment, the glove people worked out just fine (but make sure they don’t get swallowed).
Toys from home can bring a lot of comfort to your child, as it will bring some continuity to what can be a very scary experience. Whether it’s a few favorite stuffed animals or games, bring a couple of toys with you.
If your child is older, or going to be in-patient for a longer period of time, consider some sort of building toy, like Duplos or Magna Tiles. We love the latter because they pack flat and can be wiped down with disinfectant when they take a tumble to the floor. These tiles can be a bit expensive, but if you watch for deals, you can get them discounted.
Remember that most hospitals have a play room that you can usually borrow toys from. So don’t feel like you have to pack something from home. The best part is that once your child is tired of that toy, the staff will pick it up and drop off a different one.
Ask your nurse or the floor social worker what other resources are available. Depending on the hospital, you may find any number of the below are offered:
- Music Therapy
- Therapy Dogs
- Hospital Library
- Children’s toy room
Children’s hospitals especially will have other resources to make your stay as positive as it can be.
These were our favorite ways to spend time in the hospital. What have you found to be the most helpful or comforting while spending time in-patient? Let us know in the comments.
This post written by and contributed to The FPIES Foundation by Zack Skrip. Between working for three different major pharmaceutical companies and being a parent of a child with a chronic illness, Zack knows that accurate healthcare information is vital. He’s a freelance medical copy and business writer, and you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.