Preparing a toddler for hospital stays and visits

This is us at the moment we’re preparing a toddler for hospital overnight. A couple of weeks ago T spent 2 nights in hospital where they discovered she has problems with her sleep (more than just the fact that she has never slept longer than 3 hours) and because of this we are off next week to spend some time overnight in hospital having her monitored in a healthy state to find out how serious the problem actually is. So to get ready for that we’re preparing T and myself for at least 1 overnight stay in hospital.

Preparing a toddler for hospitalHere’s some of the things that we are doing as well as some fantastic tips from other bloggers who have been in a similar situation.

Reading together

We’ve popped to the library and got out some books – I didn’t go too early as wanted the experience to be fresh in her mind – 3 in fact about visiting hospitals that we can read together.


First we choose Going to the Hospital (Usborne First Experiences book) – I’m about to purchase it as it as although this time T is unlikely to have an operation it is very much on the cards and covers what will happen to her if that happens.


Second was Peppa Pig: Peppa Goes to Hospital we have a few Peppa Pig Books and although it’s not a programme we watch T is familar with the character and this is good at explaining what happens as Peppa and her friends visit the hospital.


Currently T’s favourite book character Maisy and the book Maisy Goes to Hospital is perfect as it’s got a recognisable character for T that we read a lot of books (or more so the same 2 books over and over again) going through feelings as well as what could/would happen with a hospital visit T although below the recommended age range of 3 – 6 really loves the book.

Role Play


We have a Dr’s set and we’ve been re-enacting taking blood pressure, temperature, putting on a soft peg to take the oxygen stats. T is actually very good in the hospital most of the time – taking medication is the problem but with blood being taking she was more interested in watching it being taken than the book that I was showing her. I’m constantly the patient at the moment and Dr T gives me various tests and makes me say AHHHHH to examine my tonsils.

 Watching and/or Talking together

T is a very big fan of Mr Tumble (if you are in the US I don’t know whether you get Something Special or not – but Mr Tumble is a character in the show which is aimed are young children and those with special needs covering concepts and situations that they will encounter and uses sign language to help communications) and we have saved various episodes of the Something Special show including one on Hospitals. When T and I have been at home with J at Preschool one of the activities we’ve done during quiet time is to sit and watch the episode and talk about hospitals and doctors.

Tips from others

In Lieu of Preschool passes on this advice

Take a big book to read to the child (preferably a new one with something recognizable that they’ll get excited about) to read to them during procedures like IVs to distract them from watching and getting upset. The hospital actually had a big Disney Cars book and we read it to my little one while he was getting an IV. He didn’t even notice the needle at all and there were no tears.

Smiling like Sunshine say

Usbourne has a sticker book about Going to Hospital. We read that book before going (D was 2.5 at that time) and at the hospital we did the stickers so she knew what to expect. We also had other new sticker books,magazines,little toys,doodle pad etc.

KC Edventures has had a few visitors to hospitals and says

Let them bring a lovie object for comfort, a few books to read while we waited and a sippy cup (or what ever they normally use). For Mum, remember that you usually have to have your cell phone turned off in many areas – so email/fb friends & family to let them know you’ll update everyone when you get home or when they allow you to use your phone (then you won’t have a million messages on your phone  ) Also, slippers if they need to walk around on the cold floors.

Red Ted Art has spent time in hospital and her advice is fantastic for Mum’s

One tip is to look after yourself too. Bring water, snacks (for both) and a magazine. Yes hospitals have shops but you may not be able to go to it as it will depend on when your toddler sleeps. Take a packet of dysinfectant wipes and coins for pay phone in case there is no reception for your cell phone.

An Everyday Story spends quite a bit of time in hospital and shares this great advice

My tip for mums is to have another person there to be your ears. Often you are so overwhelmed with emotion that you aren’t thinking straight. Having another person there (besides a spouse) who can listen to the doctors as well and then talk it through with you after has been such a huge help for me. I often miss things or misunderstand things because I am worried about the kids and so it is nice to have someone else there.

Some things only a mum that has been in the situation can say and The Pleasantest Thing says

I would have loved to have read something to be prepared. For my experience, I carried my older son in from the prep room and put him on the bed, and stayed in while they were giving him the general anaesthetic  I wish I had read something about what to expect with general anaesthesia  The scariest thing for me was watching him go under, and how he suddenly became so limp and still. I obviously knew that that would happen, but knowing that your kid will be knocked out, and actually seeing it happen were very different things for me.

Do you have any advice for preparing toddlers for hospital visits or stays or for the Mum please add to the comments below

Author
Cerys Parker

Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, high school teacher and mum. Realising that life doesn't have to be put on hold and you don't just have to survive whilst the kids are young she shares ideas to inspire you to LIVE with the kids, with activities to do together, recipes to cook and enjoy and family travel to make memories to last a lifetime.

11 Comments

  1. We are frequent flyers to our children’s unit, and we are usually taken in with an unconscious child by the paramedics so little time to prepare her or us. We have a bag of things DD doesn’t usually see, we also make the most of the playroom and bring one toy at a time back with us to play with. We break the day down into half an hour slots and take a walk regularly.
    Rope in people to visit YOU as well as T as it can be very isolating on a childrens unit. Several times we have stayed in and ‘help’ has turned up at 2pm when I have been up since 6, not eaten and not showered – even a partner popping in before work can really brighten your day. Make sure you pack light PJs for your and T, wards are often kept hot for obvious reasons, take several small bottles of water, lemonade can also be nice.
    I also recommend taking snacks, but not biscuits or chocolate which melt – a hyperactive child is *not* a good thing with no space to run it off! I like Oranges.
    Items from home, a beaker, absolutely a lovie and sometimes the nurses will bandage teddy/doll in same place as childs IV.
    I always felt I had to give constant reassurance, beeps and buzzers always upset our DD.
    I rarely left DD on the ward, but when reinforcements came in I could grab a shower and try to get a hot meal or just get a breath of fresh air.
    Familiarise yourself (if you want to) with what the nurses are doing and why they are doing it – I find being included in helping to take OBs reassured DD (and myself) as to what was happening.
    Lastly the parents beds do NOT have to be put away as some sisters demand, we took our down during the day and it made a soft relaxing place to play and infinitely more comfortable than those darn chairs.

  2. Lovely suggestions and ideas. I would say that if you can take a drive or walk near the hospital and explain that that is the place that it will happen. Hospitals can be a big busy buzzing noisy place so it may help if they know what it is like before hand. Also even if you just drive pass they will know how long it takes to get there and will recognise the building and possibly will want to go in to find out more …. If your child is going to have loads of needles be honest and tell them what’s coming up ( we demonstrated on favourite lamy ) if they know it will hurt they can get prepared. ( explain its no more than a bite from another child or a pinch etc…) wishing you all good luck xxx

  3. My daughter has had two brain surgeries and multiple hospital stays. We are always ready to go at a moments notice because she has a medical device in her brain keeping her alive. We always make sure that we have her baby, books, our special hospital toys (they stay in our hospital bag and only come out when she is admitted) and lots of arts and crafts stuff that she can do while in bed. We make sure we have some cash that stays in the bag so we always have enough for at least a few meals for me and dad while we are there. We are seasoned hospital patients and have gone as far as to make her special hospital gowns that she loves to wear and it is always the subject of conversation with the nurses, she is always sylin’. lol

  4. When our youngest was 2 she had open heart surgery and we had to stay in the hospital for several days I brought our laptop and having Netflix’s streaming in was a blessing she was very anxious and we kept Dora going around the clock for her….that and the wiggles. we had books for her and comfort toys. The hardest part is that they don’t want you to leave their sight so pack yourself snacks food and water bottles so you don’t have to leave the room. Good Luck!!

  5. oh, thankyou! This could not have come at a better time (thank god for pintrest!). He eldest has sleep apnea and enlarged tosils so will be having his tonsils and adnoids out in a months time. I just ordered the going to hospital book the other day and we’ve started talking to him about what is going to happen,

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