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