This post has been a very long time coming. I have been asked for it so many times! So many brave Mamas are searching for ‘sitting still’ activities for their children that need to stay still after an illness or surgery. I have tried to write some ideas and share some activities, but everything I tried to write lacked the depth of understanding that was truly needed, as I have never been in this situation.
However, today I am so excited to bring you a post that I hope (and truly believe) will be exactly what you need to read. If you have a child that needs to stay still after a surgery, or for any reason really, we have over 20 tips, tricks, and activities that are going to be perfect. How do I know they will be perfect? I have a friend who says so.
This post today is written by my talented friend Adelaide. I have recently asked Adelaide to help me with some of the work to be done on this blog. She is a teacher, a very talented writer, and a devoted Mama to her two little ones. Adelaide also knows A LOT about sitting still activities. She has the depth of understanding that is needed to adequately write this post. She is a Mama who has been in your shoes. Adelaide is a bright light friends, and I know she will help to guide you through this challenging time.
So without further delay, here is Adelaide’s post: Sitting Still Activities: 20 Tips, tricks, and activities to keep you little one engaged after surgery…
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I hope you view these links as helpful. There are two links available: one for Amazon.ca (CDN) and one for Amazon.com (US))
At four months of age my son was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, which means that he was born with shallow hip sockets that may or may not result in hip dislocation down the road. This condition is most common in first-borns, girls and breech births. My son was given the short end of the stick as he falls into neither one of those three categories and he was born with both hips dislocated. Not potentially, actually. Since then, our son was placed in a removable harness for 1 month, a full-body cast for 4 months and he finally had hip surgery (pins included) and was cast for another two months all before the age of 2.
You wouldn’t guess that this was the burdensome narrative of my son’s short life when you look at him. We were told by our team of surgeons that kids are more adaptable and resilient to these situations than we think. I have lived to see this truth of resilience after each new phase in my son’s progress, and you will too. The purpose of this post is to give you some ideas and encouragement if you are currently caring for a young child that may be temporarily less mobile due to a surgery, injury or other health concern.
Before we go on to sharing these ideas, I want to be sure to take a pause. I want to take a pause for self-compassion. Whatever your child’s situation, it may be new to you and there may be so many questions and unknowns. It is ok to feel fear, anxiety, anger, worry, depletion and sadness, loneliness, bewilderment, a loss of control and much more. I also want to pause for love. The love you have for your child is what guides you. It guides your care, your gut when something feels off and this is what keeps you there when you have no idea what to do next. It really is ok to just be with them, rest and love them. Remember this on the most difficult days. Don’t worry about how many days of school they’ve missed. Don’t panic that you haven’t done a craft with them or one of those fancy activities on Pinterest (or on this blog, for that matter). Just be with them. That is enough. You are enough. Take it one step at a time.
Now, if today is one of those better days and you are in need of a change of pace, let’s brainstorm some ideas to make the best of this new journey.
Be with Nature –Set up a towel in the shade or go for a walk in a wagon or stroller. Sarah’s Nature Belt is a great alternative to collecting your child’s nature treasures if their current position makes it difficult to hold things.
Run Errands Together – My son and I would often play Sarah’s Math Games at the Mall, whenever we were out. If it was safe to do so, I would often pass him some of my purchases and discuss or describe them to him to keep things interesting and expand his vocabulary.
Balloons – Balloons are a great toy for re-introducing your child to throwing. They are lightweight and fall very slowly giving your child ample time to prepare to catch or hit the balloon. Don’t forget to decorate them with funny faces!
Share Music Together – Sing nursery rhymes (or any song you know) again and again: slowly, quickly, in a high voice, in a low voice, with an English accent or an underwater tone. Add some actions or bring out some bowls and wooden spoons to bang out a rhythm to your new song. Depending on your child’s age, you can even make up new words to songs you already know. Smiles guaranteed.
Fine Motor Magic: Pom-poms, pipe-cleaners and stringing beads (CDN) (US) – All three are great for sensory play and for developing fine motor skills! They can be used for counting, color sorting games, patterning and various crafts. Older children might enjoy these fun weaving or sewing activities as well.
Sensory Bins: I have frequently used sensory bins as a way to keep my little guy occupied during dinner prep or quiet time. We placed our sensory items in a large baking sheet versus bins to ensure items were more accessible. We also avoided sensory bins with tiny fillers like rice to avoid having them get stuck down his cast.
Magnets – Magnets on a small baking sheet can keep your kiddo busy if they have to sit at an awkward angle that causes play things to slide. We regularly used these Melissa and Doug letter (CDN) (US), number (CDN) (US) and animal (CDN) (US) magnets for color and animal sorting, figuring out numerical and alphabetical order or even pretend play. Older children might enjoy playing I Spy where you ask them to name the magnet you are describing.
Building ANYTHING – Building blocks, LEGO, and magnetic building sets provided wonderful opportunities for my son to be creative without assistance. This supported his resilience and self-confidence knowing he could create something without my help or guidance during this highly dependent time.
Modified Toys – We found that various toys that are appropriate for infants to 3 year-olds can be modified for a child lying on the floor for play by removing legs and other parts. We modified these two toys (one and two) and our activity cube (CDN) (US) for more accessible play.
Good Ol’ Classic Fun – The following simple, classic activities were regular go-to’s. They fostered independent play and bonding opportunities while providing my son with rich learning experiences:
- Books / Reading
- Reusable stickers (CDN) (US) and activity books
- Drawing / Outdoor Chalk / Water-painting Books (CDN) (US) / Mess-free Coloring Books (CDN) (US)
- Ball Play
- Toy Cars and Ramps
- Building Forts
- Pretend / Imaginative Play – calling on the phone, doctor kits, cooking sets, doll house
A Few Additional Points to Consider
- Your medical team will mention that it is advisable for your child to change positions frequently to avoid sores and discomfort. A change in position can often mean a change in activity which helps keep your child engaged.
- Encourage siblings to find ways to modify favorite activities so that your recovering child can still experience fun and connection with them. This also gives your child a sense of “normal” during this challenging time.
- My son was extremely active prior to each casting and I was concerned that being confined would literally drive him bananas. On the contrary – whenever he sat on my lap or at his high chair with only one toy or activity, he would remain engaged without my input for a minimum of 15 mins.
- If and when it is safe, include your child in household routines that they were previously a part of. Young children love to feel helpful, needed and competent. This “I can” feeling can really boost morale at this time. My son enjoyed brushing his own teeth, tidying his eating area, putting some of his books and toys away and sorting utensils out of the dishwasher caddy.
I hope this post has provided you with an encouraging perspective and put you at ease that you too can get through this new phase one day at a time. If you ever feel discouraged or overwhelmed, please feel free to reach out to Sarah or myself (firstname.lastname@example.org); we are always here to help and listen. If anything feels wrong from a medical perspective, we strongly encourage you to reach out to your child’s medical team.
My warmest wishes,
Thank you so much Adelaide for sharing all your wisdom, advice, encouragement, and all of these fabulous sitting still activities. You are an inspiration!
And thank YOU for reading friends. I am sending you love and strength on this journey.
If you are looking for more Quiet Time Activities, I have an eBook for that! Grab a whole year of Quiet Time ideas in my eBook, A Year of Educational Quiet Bins.