10 Easy Ways to Entertain Your Child During a Hospital Stay

Curious young minds certainly like to be kept busy, which can be tough if you’re in a hospital setting. 

As a parent, you’re likely thinking about how to combat boredom and make the hospital a little more like playtime (all while letting your child rest and get better).

We share 10 fun and easy ways to keep your child entertained during a hospital stay. Check it out:

1. Bring Their Favorite Books

Pack your bag with a few (or a stack) of your child’s favorite reading materials. From comic books to fairy tales, books let your child escape into another world, and may help them forget their surroundings even if it’s only for a few moments.

If friends and family are looking for gifts to give, suggest a book that incorporates your child’s favorite interests like animals, planes or art. Having new books to look forward to can keep your child’s spirits high.

2. Play with Puzzles

Puzzles can be a great source of entertainment for your child, and can keep them engaged for hours at a time. Working through a puzzle can be almost meditative as your child’s mind focuses on solving it, leaving less room for stressful thoughts.

Many types of puzzles exist other than the traditional jigsaw puzzles we often think of. Here are a few great examples:

  • Connect the Dots
  • Rubix Cube
  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Word Search
  • Matching Puzzles
  • Riddles
  • Sudoku

In addition to keeping your child occupied, it can be a fun bonding experience to tackle a word game with your child. They’re easy to pack in a hospital bag and share between children if pages can be removed.

Tip: In general, you’ll want to avoid large, complicated jigsaw puzzles. It can be hard to find the space to do this in a hospital, and all too easy to lose the pieces. If your child particularly loves these, you can have a similar experience – virtually. Just search for “virtual jigsaw puzzles” to play.

3. Break Out the Tablet

It may not seem like the most “creative” suggestion, but your phone or tablet offers endless entertainment possibilities, from movies and TV shows to video games.

If you’re feeling uneasy about the screentime, consider setting a time limit, or using the device exclusively for your child to talk with friends and family. Set up video calls throughout their stay to catch up with their loved ones – this can pass the time and give them something to look forward to. 

Tip: Don’t forget to bring a charger and extension cord if you plan on using electronics.

4. Play Music

Listening to music can be an entertaining and calming activity that’s enjoyable for children and parents. Grab a pair of headphones and a device to play tunes on, and you’re ready to go.

The music selection should be on the relaxing side, as you don’t want them to get worked up. Create a playlist beforehand so you have a good selection ready to go. 

Depending on your child’s age, audiobooks or podcasts are another great option. For more ideas, check out these entertaining podcasts for kids of all ages.

5. Do Mess-Free Art Projects

Arts and crafts are a classic favorite and can keep kids occupied all day. Some relatively un-messy art projects include coloring books, sketching, “invisible” paint, silly putty and playdough. Colored pencils and crayons may be a less messy option compared to markers when using coloring books.

When they’ve completed a creation, see if your hospital allows you to hang up the art around the room. If you have a longer stay, that can make the space feel a bit more homey.

6. Play Board & Card Games

What better way to pass the time than with games? Go classic with Monopoly or Candyland, or challenge your child to a strategy game like chess. 

Card games are always a winner for school-aged children and older. Go Fish, War, King’s Corner, Crazy 8s… the possibilities go on and on.

7. Pack a Journal

Keeping a journal or diary can keep your child entertained, but more importantly it also allows them to express themselves and work through any emotions they may be feeling in a healthy way.

If your child enjoys writing, prompt them to write you a story, poem or riddle. This can help them flex their creativity skills and give them something to show off when they head back home.

8. Bring Their Favorite Toys

Before you head to the hospital, ask your child which toys they’d like to bring along. This could be their favorite Lego set, a stuffed animal or doll, or a toy car. Encourage them to choose just a couple; you don’t want to have too many toys around and run the risk of leaving one behind.

9. Play a Verbal Game

Verbal games (also known as word games or guessing games) are fun, informal games that require no equipment whatsoever to play. These may not keep your child busy for long, but it can be a fun thing to do together and see their creativity in action.

Popular examples of no-equipment games include I Spy, 20 Questions, and charades. Here’s a list of 7 fun family games you can play anywhere

10. Have Snacks Handy

Sometimes hunger can be disguised as boredom. Keep your children from getting squirrely or cranky with some of their favorite snacks. Plus, bringing your own food and drinks can help you eat healthier and save you money.

Please note these guidelines when bringing outside food and drinks into the hospital:

  • Check with your child’s care team if the food is for the patient.
  • Prepare the food safely.
  • Don’t store perishable foods in the room.
  • Label all food items to prevent food from being taken by other patients.

If you decide to eat at the hospital, remember quarters and dollars for the vending machines. You can also turn this into a fun game – all it requires are quarters and 3 dice.

What Are Your Tips?

If you have experience entertaining children in a hospital or another healthcare setting, what are your tips? Please share your thoughts and advice in the comments below! If you are a parent or caregiver to a child with cancer, CaringBridge invites you to join our public community on The Mighty to find support, connection and resources from those on a similar family cancer journey.

Please note: Hospital guidelines may differ regarding what items you can and cannot bring. Please check your hospital’s policy beforehand.

  • Alex Klurfeld

    Thank you for sharing this, it is great and helpful.

  • Anne LLewellyn

    Pediatric Nurses will also come up with additional ideas but these are great. Thanks for sharing this article. I am sharing with my social media connections. Stay well!