9 Tips for Surviving Your Toddler's Hospital Stay

Surviving your toddler’s hospital stay is a two-part process that involves prepping both yourself and your child for what’s to come. From ensuring that your little one has plenty of toys to keep him occupied, to remembering the importance of fresh air and sunshine, these pointers will not only help your toddler stay sane but will help you as well! Find out how to stay one step ahead of the game with these tips to help your toddler on the way to a speedy recovery, after the jump!


  • Keep snacks on hand 1 of 9
    Keep snacks on hand
    Even if your toddler usually noshes on edamame at home, illness can reduce appetite and make them maddeningly selective. There may be a free snack room at the hospital, or you can pack healthy snacks from home. If your toddler insists on a teddy graham-only diet, don't despair. Toddlers will usually opt for small snacks, and as long as they're eating and getting enough fluids, they're on the road to recovery. Some hospitals may have children's menus that double as coloring books, with fun options like chicken nuggets, applesauce, and other kid-friendly favorites, so be sure to ask.
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  • Watch movies 2 of 9
    Watch movies
    While you can usually find me on the Limit Kids' Television Watching bandwagon, a hospital is one place you might want to bend the rules. Movies can make the time pass quicker, catch your toddler's attention so they'll eat dinner, and may be the only thing that will keep them in bed long enough to fall asleep. Larger children's hospitals may have extensive children's DVD collections to rent from. The DVD players may be portable or just plain wacky to work, so don't be shy to ask for help!
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  • Get friendly with the nurses 3 of 9
    Get friendly with the nurses
    It's a never-ending riddle why patients and nurses are always at odds. It may be difficult to get your thoughts across to the nurses at times, but the better you communicate with them, the better off your child will be. Nurses are there to help, so ask questions about whatever you don't understand. If they can't help, ask for someone who can. Try to cooperate, be patient, and remember that they, too, are human. If all else fails, not even a nurse having a terrible day can withstand the power of a batch of delicious cookies sent to the nurses' break room!
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  • Bring some electronic toys 4 of 9
    Bring some electronic toys
    Yet another item on the list that I normally shy away from, any toy that blinks, beeps, or blips is no longer the toy from hell that you step on in the middle of the night. In the hospital, battery-operated toys offer big rewards for little movement, which is great for kids who are bed-ridden and bored. Toddlers benefit from toys that put action in the palm of their hand, like pretend "cell phones" or "laptops".
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  • … And also pack “quiet entertainment” 5 of 9
    … And also pack "quiet entertainment"
    There comes a moment when the out-of-tune, automated warble of Old McDonald reaches a hair-pulling level of atrocity. At that point, books, bubbles, stickers (which go great all over the crib if they're easily removable, but are a nightmare to remove from hair), soft stacking blocks, and soft balls come to the rescue. Safe, economical and, of course, less noisy, these hospital-safe playthings can be lifesavers if electronic toys have overstayed their welcome.
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  • Use the Child Life department 6 of 9
    Use the Child Life department
    For those of you fortunate enough to have a Child Life department at your hospital, you're in for a treat. Child Life specialists are experts at helping children and families cope with hospital stays. They use role play, imagination, and simple explanations to reassure children through painful procedures. Ask a nurse if a Child Life specialist is available, and if they are, be sure to take advantage of all they have to offer (which may also include toys, arts and crafts, games, and a break for you).
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  • Use the windows! 7 of 9
    Use the windows!
    Your room's window probably won't open, but that shouldn't prevent you from letting the sunshine in. Throw back the drapes or open the verticals from time to time and let your tot watch the passing cars, the trees, and the sun or stars. Keep active yourself, even if it means stepping outside for a minute. You'd be amazed what good a little sunlight can do after a long stay in a cold, sterile hospital environment.
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  • Safety first 8 of 9
    Safety first
    Accidents and secondary infection often cause parents to wind up in the ER during their child's hospital stay. Although you might be in a sleepless daze (and, let's face it: after a few nights with a toddler in a hospital, you will be), be extra vigilant about staying healthy. Wash hands frequently, use the hospital's sanitizer, and ask guests to do the same. If your toddler has cabin fever and extra energy, it's important to keep a watchful eye on him, too.
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  • Go with the flow 9 of 9
    Go with the flow
    Toddlers need boundaries, but rules that are ultra-rigid will break you in the hospital. Let your tot have the fifth "just one more" gummy. Reach out to loved ones. Shelve the diet for a day, and treat yourself to ice cream. Take a deep breath and know that this, too, shall pass. Not only will being flexible and calm help you stay sane, but it'll also allow you to be there for your baby when he needs you most.
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About the author: Brittany Perry is an aspiring medical student and freelance writer. She currently writes a recipe column for teen girls and enjoys volunteering at a large metropolitan children’s hospital.

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