Keeping kids happy, calm and entertained during a doctor’s visit or an outpatient procedure can sometimes be a challenge. The following tips from child life specialist Katie Barber can help you pass the time in a fun way and help your children feel more calm and relaxed. Some of the ideas listed below are geared specifically to enhance your experience at our new Children’s Pavilion but all of these concepts can be used with your child at any medical visit to any facility.
- Pick a beep, buzz or other noise you hear often in a medical setting and give your child a hug or high five every time you hear it.
- Make up a story about the animals or people you see in artwork around the building. (Pavilion hint: There are lots of animals to choose from in the Ground Level mural and interactive displays on Levels 1-4.
- Ask your nurse to grab a few tongue depressors so you can draw funny faces on them and put on a puppet show.
- Try simple games that need only pen and paper: Hangman, Dot-to-Dot, Tic-Tac-Toe, etc.
- Try a word game. See if you and your child can get through the alphabet naming something seen in a medical setting. Come up with a medical term and see how many smaller words you can make out of it (operating room = rate, or, ate, etc.). Or start with “I’m going on a picnic and taking…” and go through the letters of the alphabet, naming what you’d bring and repeating everything that’s been said before.
- Write a poem about your favorite nurse or medical team member while you wait. Read it to them during the appointment.
- Have a bag at home filled with paper, crayons and coloring pages that’s easy to grab when going to an appointment. (Pavilion hint: Make a list of some of the plants or animals you find in the Pavilion’s interactive displays and have your child draw them.)
- If your child is anxious or nervous, try imagining/relaxation/distraction. Talk about a favorite vacation spot and what you’d be doing if you were there at the moment or discuss the rest of your day’s plans – even planning out dinner, lunch or a family outing.
- Draw a heart on your child’s finger so whenever they’re nervous they can look at it and know you’re thinking about them.
- Work with your child on re-framing negative thoughts into positive ones by reminding them how strong they are and what they have overcome in the past. Ask your child to give themselves a “gold star” for a recent achievement (no matter how small!) and talk about the achievement together.
- Encourage your child to take deep, slow calming breaths for relaxation. Have them imagine they’re blowing up a balloon by taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly to fill up the balloon or have them imagine their breath moving up from their toes, to their knees, then to their belly, chest and throat, then finally slowly letting that breath out.
- Visit the Sky Terrace (Level 1) for some fresh air and amazing city views. How many buildings do you see? Can you find the “castle”? Play some tunes on the life-size garden xylophone!
- Check out the interactive floor in the Sky Lobby (Level 1) and the interactive wall displays on Levels 2, 3 and 4. This is a great treat for when your visit is over!
- Grab a new book from the Arthur Ashe Books 4 Kids Program carts. You can even take it home! Also, the carts on Levels 3 and 4 are staffed by Arthur Ashe Books 4Kids volunteers who are available to help select books and read to our guests when possible.
- Try the I-Spy Pavilion Nature Hunt. Elements of nature are incorporated in unique ways throughout the Children’s Pavilion and hunting for these items be a fun activity before or after your next appointment. We’ve put together a special way to keep track of everything you find (download a Nature Hunt PDF). Kids can bring their completed list to the Sky Lobby information desk for a special reward (while supplies last).
Share your ideas
What are your favorite ideas for keeping kids entertained during a doctor’s visit? How do you help your child feel more calm and relaxed before a medical procedure? We’d love to hear what works for you! Share your ideas in the comments.