Ten Things for Kids to do While Waiting.

Since The Father Figure became unwell we’ve had many trips to hospitals and doctors and there has been a lot of waiting around for the kids. And it’s not just that waiting around is boring, but at hospitals and similar places the kids are expected to be reasonably quiet and not run up and down the corridors etc. That’s a big ask for a small body who instinctively wants to be moving and talking and doing most of the time.

So I’ve been quietly collecting ideas, and putting together little bags of goodies and coming up with things for the kids to do while waiting…

A long time ago, the girls were given a gorgeous fabric pencil roll each (like this one from Moeder Kip), filled with coloured pencils. Those pencil rolls have been worth their weight in gold. They are light and easy to transport and they keep the pencils easily contained as well as easily accessible. I keep a little bag with a pencil roll and some small notebooks (one per child) in my car all the time for those unexpected waiting moments (see the image above). As much as I don’t much like colouring in books, in situations like this they are perfect.

Eye Spy and Other Games
The girls LOVE a good game of eye spy now that they are reading and can spell most simple words. We modify it for the three year old by spying colours, or giving hints to things. Eg. “I spy something that has wheels, a motor and drives on the road.”
Shoe Spot – You need to be somewhere where there is lots of people for this one. Suggest a type of shoe to look for, red high heels, purple sneakers etc and then wait till you can spot someone wearing them.
Or how about a quick game of rhyming words… someone says a word and you take turns in saying other words that rhyme with it. Beware, this came always ends up with silly words and lots of giggles, or someone saying a slightly rude word and even more giggles.

People Watching
I love to people watching and so do my kids. The foyer of the Royal Melbourne Hospital is a fabulous place to people watch, so many different people coming and going and waiting! My kids love to hear me tell the story of how my grandmother used to make up stories about the people we saw as we waited in the car for my Mother on shopping day, and they love it even more when I continue the tradition and make up crazy stories about the people we see while waiting.

travel felt board

Felt Play
We have lots of ‘fuzzy felt’ sets with various felt characters and pieces. While the felt boards can be a little difficult to carry around, it is easy to cut a large piece of felt to use instead. Just roll of the felt background and tie with a ribbon and pop your felt pieces in a small bag.

Card Games
A pack of cards is easy to pop in the bottom of your bag and even if you don’t play a proper card game, little kids like sorting cards and reading numbers and we’ve even made card houses on hospital tables. We’ve recently started teaching the big kids (including the 3 year old) how to play Uno which is nice and portable as are our various games of snap.

Pipe Cleaners and Post It Notes
My kids love crafty stuff, but it’s not really practical to be cutting and pasting while in a waiting room. But you’ll be surprised at what kids can create with pipe cleaners or post it notes. They are cheap, easy to carry, quiet and easy to clean up. I’m also quite keen to get my girls involved in Project Beautiful now that they can write – what better way to practice writing, develop positive self esteem and share positive messages?

activities for kids to do while waiting

Small Treasures
A bag full of small treasures catered for individual children is easy to carry around doesn’t take up much space while playing either. I like to choose items that encourage imaginative play, but try not to pick things that have lots of teeny tiny bits that are easy to loose. A hand full of small plastic animals, some matchbox cars, ponyville ponies, fairy figurines, or a handful of duplo.

Music and Spoken Stories
Our big kids all have cheap mp3 players that we bought of ebay initially for long car trips (to stop the arguments over who got to choose the CD!) but they are great have for when you have to wait too. Small, light and easy to pop into your handbag! We load ours up with various music and spoken stories from Story Nory and podcasts from The Land of Nod(Barenaked Ladies is our fav – “Is it a guitar????”). Make sure you have charged up the battery and invest in a car charger just in case you run your batteries low while out.

iphone Games
Usually I don’t share my precious iphone with anyone, least of all my children! But sometimes having something small, portable and very engaging is just what I need. I use this as a last resort, when all else has been played with, when we’ve been there way too long, when they are tired, or just over everything, that’s when the phone comes out. Make sure you bring some ear phones for those times when even quiet iphone sound is too loud, or for when you are somewhere noisy and you can’t hear the phone well. Some of the games my kids enjoy – Sea Maths, Doodle Buddy (take a photo of someone then draw on their face, awesome!) ABC for Kids, First Words by Learning Touch (even the baby is distracted by this), Finger Piano and of course Angry Birds.

Food and Drink
Always, always, bring snacks and water bottles. There is nothing worse than having to wait with a hungry or thirsty kid. If yours are anything like mine you’ll hear ‘I’m hungry’ over and over and over until you feed them!

Thankfully my husband is much better (thanks to everyone for your continued care and support), but we have still got a fair few appointments ahead of us. Do you have any great tips or ideas or activities do with kids while waiting?

we play

We are joining in Childhood101’s We Play – lots and lots of awesome ideas for play and learning!

You might also like our five fun family games ! bounce-off-banner

Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:

  1. says

    we used to keep *car bags* and laptrays (made out of lamington trays and felt ) for long trips.
    We also put in
    blank paper …great for games of 0’s and X’s and hangman, use as origami paper,use for writing letters,making paper planes.
    puzzle books
    sudoku books

    I know these are more for older kids.

    • katef says

      ah yes Hang Man! My girls are just starting to be able to play that game and they adore it! I forgot about all the games you can play with a pen and paper! Fab idea!

  2. says

    A cool activity that we [stole] from Planning Queen (one day at yum cha) is letters/cards and envelopes. Not for writing real letters mind you (too much like work), but just for playing and drawing notes and then sealing them up in the envelopes and drawing on stamps and then giving them to each other to open…such fun!

  3. says

    You have some brilliant ideas there. I always aim to have a spare biscuit or container of sultanas in the nappy bag, and I have a miniature magnadoodle and some Grug books that live in my bag. The magnadoodle (remember those?) has it’s little pen attached with string, so it doesn’t go missing, and the Grug books are small and light weight.

    Hope your husband is doing well.

    • katef says

      Oh yes I remember when our girls were small that I looked and looked for a mini magnadoodle before a driving holiday and couldn’t find one. Must have a look now because I don’t think you are ever too old for a magna doodle! Great idea!

  4. says

    I bought a pack of cutout men from Kmart, about 4 bucks, with about 50 men, like a chain, I keep a few in my vpnag and even just one texta or pen can decorate a man, or fold them into a card and decorate it, works for about 15 minutes.

    OK, above is says ypnag it should say bag, but won’t let me change it.

  5. says

    M got one for xmas as well (full of crayons)..

    good to see the girls still have them ;)

    hand made with love from our family*!!..

    *i put them in the mail, the skill/love/ability came from Chrisitine :)

    • katef says

      They are still loved and used heaps… and everyone who sees them asks where we got them from. Has to be one of the best presents my kids have ever been given… beats the giant pack of band aids anyway LOL

  6. says

    Those are all great ideas! I don’t have any others to add but I am glad that your hubby is feeling better and on the road to recovery.

  7. says

    Love these ideas, Kate! I have a suggestion as an add on to small treasures. Keep them in a cloth bag and pop a blindfold in the bag. Play games where the blindfolded person has to feel something pulled from the bag and guess what it is. Or one person takes something from the bag and hides it in their hands while the others ask questions to try to guess what it is. Or use the small treasures to act out a story or tell a story.

  8. says

    When we were visiting Granddad in the hospital back when my girls were 5yo and 3yo I was in a similar jam about what to take.

    Thankfully we had a ‘Mummy’s handbag’ book with lots of pieces to pull out and play with.

    A friend also gave us a little fisher price dolls house which all packed up inside itself and came with a carry handle. That provided hours of entertainment for the girls.

    I like your ideas, post it notes are fantastic :) I remember Annie going around with a pack of post it notes giving parking tickets and other fines to various objects around the house once :)

  9. says

    My sister and cousin were playing that game where you come up with a word whose letter begins with the last letter of the word the other person said. It got grating after a while so I suggested they hold a conversation without using any words that contained the letter “e”.

    It was interesting XD

  10. says

    My DS who’s 2yrs LOVES dice. I carry around a d20 and at least two other types of dice (like a d12, d10 or normal d6 and d3). The number of games you can think up with some dice are amazing! My DS rolls the dice (his fun) and DD thinks up a game to go with the number (jump four times in four different places, spot four green cars, etc.).

  11. says

    Dice are very popular with all my kids. For the older kids they can do quite challenging sums and for the younger kids we can count the dots and work out which number is higher/lower etc.

    Hope the Father Figure is doing better.

  12. says

    I love the links with the stories. Thanks for sharing! I thought of one more idea to add to your list but then realized I may have gotten this idea from you a while back. I’m not sure– but you always have a lot of good tricks. Anyway, the idea is to wear a scarf and then use it for playing games. I make shapes out of mine and my two year old loves to name them and then try to make the shapes himself.

  13. Jen says

    Hi, I saw a brilliant idea a while back to take finger puppets on appointments. I knotted my little boy some farm animal and people ones and we played with them on train trips. They are small and light to tuck into a handbag.