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Preparing a toddler for hospital

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 hospital

Here’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.

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


  1. Wish I’d seen this a few weeks ago, we have just recovered from toddler having adenoids and tonsils removed. We were in hospital 2 nights and had to leave her twin sister behind, this was just as hard as the operation itself. Being in hospital is such an emotional roller coaster for a parent when you have a toddler. I found getting her to eat and drink after the operation a struggle and was so glad I’d taken her bowls, cups and spoons from home so she was used to them.
    Post op we struggled to get her to take medicine orally. I used the nurofen and calpol syringes to play colour mixing with food colouring to get her happy to be around them again, as taking medicine in hospital with a sort throat was so traumatic for her she refused to take her medicine.
    I wish I’d done something like this before. Maybe given her some treat drinks via syringe e.g. milkshakes, juices etc.
    I also used her dolls tea sets to play drinking water as a way to get her to drink when it was painful so she drank through play at the teddy bears picnic.

  2. Thank you for sharing this I think its really helpful advice. I’m featuring on Sunday Parenting Party this week (grab a button if you’d like one, on my button page). And pinning to the SPP board.

  3. Great tips, these would even be good for just visiting the doctor’s office or preparing for another family member (like mom) going to the hospital
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Excellent suggestions. Thank you so much! A couple of things I would add would be to ask your primary care doctor to make a note in your little one’s chart if you breastfeed and/or cosleep with your toddler. Otherwise, every change in shift you may have to argue with the new nurses or doctor on call. Expecting a breastfeeding/cosleeping toddler to forgo the very things that bring them the most comfort just when they need them the most is not an option, as far as I’m concerned, so making sure everyone is on the same page ahead of time takes some of the stress out of a super-stressful situation for me.

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