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Children who face a hospital stay often have many fears which stem from isolation and unfamiliar surroundings. Gifts help bring a bit of home into the sterile environment of the hospital, making it a less scary place. Gifts may also provide needed distractions from pain or boredom. Be sure to check with parents, caregivers and the hospital to prevent providing a duplicate gift or a restricted item.
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When choosing gifts for kids in the hospital, keep in mind that the hospital or ward may have restrictions concerning the types of items kids may receive. Some intensive care units restrict personal items almost entirely, while some offer a guided list of acceptable items. Restrictions on plants and flowers, the number of items allowed per child and the type of item often exist in the intensive care units (See Reference 1).
On a regular pediatric ward, fewer restrictions exist. Keep in mind the age and abilities of the child when choosing a gift. If you need ideas, some hospitals offer gift list suggestions that might help you in deciding on an appropriate hospital gift (See Reference 2). If no list exists for the hospital the child is in, try searching one of the many children's hospitals online for a gift list to help guide your choices. Also, many children's hospitals have gift shops that can help guide your choice.
Useful or decorative
Give useful or decorative items if the child's condition prohibits any activity. Items such as pajamas, socks, slippers, brushes and toiletries help even if the child remains unable to be active. A funny pair of socks or slippers and some new character pajamas may brighten their day while they are confined to a hospital bed.
Decorative items such as framed pictures or posters the child can look at or musical, moving figurines they can listen to provide some distraction from their environment. Character balloons may brighten their day and some balloons play music as well. Most hospitals prohibit latex balloons so be sure to purchase Mylar balloons if giving a balloon bouquet. A character styled "sippy" cup or sports drink bottle also provides a useful gift for most activity-restricted kids.
If the child can participate in low activity, give gifts to help entertain them while keeping them from becoming too active. Cuddly animals, dolls or stuffed popular characters provide something to play with and rest on. For older kids and teens, search for popular character pillows and throw blankets to brighten their hospital stay.
Books and magazines remain a popular low-activity choice. Puzzle books and colored pencils are another choice. Most hospitals allow movies, music and hand-held video games. A copy of the newest DVD or CD provides a happy boost to most kids. Be sure you provide all the batteries and equipment needed, such as a personal DVD or CD player unless you are sure one exists in their hospital room already. Hand-held games also provide hours of entertainment and come in a variety of styles and age or difficulty levels.
Some kids must stay in the hospital for extended periods but remain quite mobile and active. For these kids, choose gifts that help fight off boredom with versatility and creativity. Shape sorters, blocks, stacking toys, play doctor kits and Legos provide versatile activity for younger children while preteens and teens appreciate journals, jigsaw puzzles, small model sets and miniature craft kits.
For an art-loving child of any age, put together a small, age-appropriate kit containing different writing instruments such as gel pens and markers, different types of paper, fun cutting scissors, shaped hole punches, glue sticks and stickers. Find a plastic tub with a flat lid you can decorate with their name in marker stencils or stickers. The flat lid also provides a useful lap desk surface in a hospital bed.
Elizabeth Stover, an 18 year veteran teacher and author, has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Maryland with a minor in sociology/writing. Stover earned a masters degree in education curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas, Arlington and continues to work on a masters in Educational Leadership from University of North Texas. Stover was published by Creative Teaching Press with the books "Science Tub Topics" and "Math Tub Topics."
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