Hospital Gifts for Children

by SusanM

Great gift ideas for children in hospital

It's hard to pick a gift for a child in hospital. When a child is in hospital they often can't play like they do at home because of their sickness or its treatment.

Children in hospital also have new emotional needs because being sick and in hospital can be scary. So if you are not sure what to buy you are not alone.

How to Choose the Best Gift

Being in hospital can be boring. So even though many hospitals have special play programs for children a good idea for kids to have a few special toys when they are in hospital. 

There are a few important things to remember when deciding what gift to buy a child in hospital. 

> Look for toys to keep children busy that don’t need a lot of energy. It is best if it is a toy or activity they can play with in bed for days they don’t want to (or aren’t able to) be up and moving around.

> Ask questions! It can help to find out a few things from the child's parents. How much energy does the child have? Are they able to write or draw? Are they able to get out of bed and move around? Do they have a bedside table that lets them to draw or play on a flat surface whilst staying in bed? 

> For younger children comfort as well as entertainment is also important. This means soft, cuddly toys are a good choice.

Understanding Children in Hospital

Giving the right gift to a child in hospital can bring some brightness into a time that is often full of scary experiences.

Even simple things like having an x-ray or needle can be scary for a child.

Life also changes during a hospital stay. Their routines are different.

Children miss out on their normal activities like going to school or seeing their friends. They also may miss out on seeing family members, like younger siblings.

The child may not want to play with many types of toys because they feel tired or sick. They may have to stay in bed which further limits their activities. This means some gifts will be more helpful than others. 

Being in hospital can frustrate a toddler who is use to being busy. Toys and activities are important at this time to stop them from being bored. This means the right gift can make all the difference.

The right gift can also help a toddler develop normally while in hospital because children this age learn from playing. Gifts for toddlers in hospital fit into the groups of: 

1. "Cause and Effect" (toys that do something) 
2. Soft Toys
3. Building Toys
4. Toys for Easy Play
5. First Puzzles
6. Art Supplies
7. Books

Toddler Cause and Effect Toys

Cause and effect toys are toys that do something when a child plays with them.

The Tonka Track Tower is a cause and effect toy for boys (cause and effect toys for girls are also available.)

The Plan Punch and Drop is another. The Punch and Drop is a good choice because it can help children direct their feelings about being in hospital, such as anger or frustration, into hitting a toy that is meant to be hit. This can be very therapeutic.

The Little People Animal Sounds Farm is also in this category, because it is a toy that makes a sound, as well as being a wonderful pretend play toy.

Soft Toys for Toddlers

Hospital can be scary for toddlers. But they have big imaginations they can use to cope with scary experiences. So when buying a soft toy for a toddler in hospital think about what new animal friend might help them feel safer.

One brave friend to give a toddler is the Gund Lion. BUT when you give a toy like this to a toddler in hospital it is best to say it is a new friend to stay with them - NOT to protect them or keep them safe because this may make a toddler more afraid. 

Toddler Building Toys

First blocks like the My First Duplo Set are a wonderful way to keep toddlers entertained. Playing with blocks also helps young children learn important math concepts. So this toy lets toddlers learn while they are in hospital.

Toys for Easy Play

Toys like Mr Potato Head are fun and need very little energy to play with. This means they are a great way to distract a younger child who feels too sick to play with other toys. 

Duplo Sets at Ebay


Mr Potato Head at Ebay


Toddler Puzzle Gift Ideas

Puzzles are an easy toy to play with when you are feeling sick. They are also very good for the development of children's thinking and problem solving skills. But when buying a puzzle for a toddler make sure it only has a few pieces (3 to 8 big pieces). These pieces also need to be easy to hold and place in the puzzle. Puzzles with knobs on each puzzle piece (so they can be held easily) are great for toddlers. 

Toddler Puzzles at Ebay


6. Best Toddler Art Gift

Art supplies are a great idea for kids of any age. Not only are they fun and educational but they only need a tiny bit of energy. They also give toddlers a way to express their emotions. This is very good because toddlers can have lots of feelings about being in hospital they can't explain because they don't have the words. Art gives them a way to get their feelings out. 

7. Toddler Book Ideas

Books designed for toddlers are a good idea because they are for exploring rather than just reading. This gives them a quiet way to explore when they are sick. Books designed for toddlers include Touch and Feel books, Lift the Flap books and Sound-Making books. Toddlers love these playful books so they are great to distract them from being in hospital.

First books about hospital that have lots of photos can be helpful. Toddlers might like to see pictures of other children in hospital. It can also help a parent explain and talk about being in hospital to their toddler. BUT if the toddler does not want to look at the book it is best not to push them. They may have had more "hospital" than they want at that moment. When the toddler is ready to think about hospital they will look at it - sometimes this is even when they go home.

Kids in Hospital Need to Play

Play is important during all stages and times of childhood, including when children are sick in hospital. During times of sickness play lets children:

> Explore and express their feelings about feeling sick and being in hospital.

> Understand and cope with their hospital experience.

> Succeed at and have pride in their play at a time when they are probably restricted in other areas of their life. This is wonderful to help maintain their self-esteem.

> Create an imaginative escape from being sick and in hospital.

Play is vital when children are sick, which is why most hospitals treating children have play areas and programs to ensure hospital care meets children's needs.

Preschool children in hospital have many similar needs as toddlers in hospital. This means many of the suggestions given about toddlers will help if you are buying a gift for a preschool child.

Children this age miss out on going to preschool when they are in hospital. So gifts for learning through play are wonderful. This will make sure they are still developing normally while they are in hospital.

Gifts for preschool children in hospital fit into the groups of: 

1. Toys
2. Soft Toys
3. Puzzles
4. Art and Craft
5. Books

Preschool Toy Gift Ideas

Toys such as matching games or building toys like Duplo are a great way to keep preschool children happy, busy and learning when they are hospital. They are also toys that do not need a lot of energy to play with. They can even be played when they are sitting in bed.

The Felt Picture Set is a great toy choice for a child who is too sick to enjoy the matching or construction toys. Felt sets can help imagination and need almost no energy to play with. A child can even play with a felt set while lying in bed if the board is propped up so they can reach it easily. 

Soft Toys for Preschool Kids

A soft, cuddly toy is also a good gift for a preschooler. It can be comforting to cuddle with they are feeling sick and most children of this age still love soft toys - either rag dolls of soft animal toys.

Preschool Puzzle Gift Ideas

Puzzles are a great learning toy for preschool children. They are also a good for a child in hospital because they don’t need much energy and can be done while in bed.

Although preschool children have better coordination than toddlers easy to use puzzles are best for a child who is not feeling well. So it's a good idea to make sure the puzzle pieces are easy to hold, move about and put into place.

24 Piece Puzzles at Ebay


48 Piece Puzzles at Ebay


Preschool Art & Craft Gift Ideas

Craft activities are a good choice for preschool children in hospital. This is because they take time to complete so they keep a child busy and happy. They are also a restful activity. But most important they make a preschool child feel proud when they see what they have made. This feeling is important when they are in hospital to help their self esteem at a time when they may not be able to succeed at other things because of feeling sick.

My First Sticky Mosaics at Ebay


Art activities are a great gift choice for the same reason they are wonderful for toddlers in hospital. 

Books for Preschool Children

Activity books are an excellent choice as a gift because they help distract children from being in hospital. Preschool children are too young for puzzle books but sticker and coloring books are fine. Although coloring books are not a good choice for creativity they can be perfect for a child in hospital if they don't feel well enough to make decisions about what they will draw. Just being able to color in a picture can be good at these times.

Children in Hospital and Pretend Play

Children have big imaginations. So it is through play they find out  about and understand their world. Pretend play is a good way to distract children from being sick because they can pretend to “be” someone or somewhere else. But pretend play can also help them cope with being in hospital.

Professionals who work with children in hospital know a type of pretend play called medical play is a great help to kids. By playing doctors with a toy doctor's kit or hospital with other toys they can better understand and overcome their scary hospital experiences. This is because when pretending children take the role of “director”, “doctor” or “nurse” rather than the patient. This gives them a new view of their experience and a sense of control over it. This can help a child feel less upset.


Being in hospital is still a big thing for a school aged child.

Feeling sick and having to have things like needles or surgery. Being in hospital and missing out on their normal life. These things still worry and upset older children.

Being sick and not able to do their normal activities like school or sport can be an important issue for older children. This means that games and activities that can give them a sense of pride when they are finished are a good gift choice.

And don’t forget art supplies. These are still needed because school age children need a way to explore their feelings without having to always talk about them.

Gifts for older children, 6 to 10 years, in hospital fit into the groups of: 

1. Toys
2. Soft Toys
3. Puzzles
4. Creative Gifts
5. Books

Toy Ideas for Older Children

Learning while in hospital is usually organized through the child’s school (or hospital teacher). This is because children start learning less through play and more through school work as they get older.

Instead toys for children (6 to 10 years) need to be entertaining and give them a sense of pride. This helps their self esteem when they can’t do their usual activities like sport.

These toys all have a goal and need some skill to do. Perfection needs the most amount of energy because it is a fast game, but it can be done while sitting in bed. The Labyrinth game needs less energy then Perfection so is probably the safest choice out of the two games if you do not know how much energy the child has. The Etch-a-Sketch is also a good choice for a school child in hospital who is feeling tired. 

Soft Toys and Older Children?

Many school age children love soft toys. This is especially true if they are 6 to 8 years of age. A school age child is still comforting and relaxing for a school age child to cuddle. Younger school age children also have lots of imagination so still use soft toys for pretend play.

When choosing a soft toy for an older child it's very important to keep the interests and personality of the child in mind to find the right one.

Puzzle Gift Ideas

Puzzles are a perfect idea for this age group as well. Not only do they help keep kids busy, they are still good for building problem solving skills at this age and can help give a feeling of success when finished.

Kids 100 Piece Puzzles at Ebay


Creative Gift Ideas

The value of art materials and craft kits is much the same for school age children as younger kids. It is an opportunity for relaxation as well as emotional and creative expression.

Yes emotional expression through art is still important for school kids. Don't be tricked by their ability to talk and talk and talk. Being in hospital can still be overwhelming and hard for school children to talk about. Art supplies give them another way to express themselves without having to put their feelings into words - something which may be very hard when they feel sick or tired. It is also not uncommon for children to regress to earlier stages of development when they are in hospital. Art supplies will also help a child express themselves when this has happened.

Sticky Mosaics at Ebay


Books for Older Children

Puzzle books are probably the best choice for any school age child in hospital. They provide hours of fun and help maintain learning by helping their problem solving skills. There are lots of different puzzle books available from word puzzles to picture puzzles. All types make a good gift.

What About Brothers and Sisters?

When a child is in hospital a gift can brighten their day. But what do you do when there are other young children in the family?

Brothers and sisters of a sick child miss out on a lot when their sibling is in hospital. This is especially true when the child’s illness is severe or long. Family outings usually have to be cancelled because the sick child’s health has to come first. They also miss time with their sibling and parent caring for the sick child. This is because the parent needs to spend time in the hospital with the sick child. Brothers and sisters can also feel sad and worried that their sibling is sick.

Younger children who are not old enough to understand sickness can feel left out when they think their sibling is getting all the parents' time and wonderful presents.

A small gift for the younger brothers and sisters if they are 6 years or under can make a big difference to their lives. It can make them feel that they are also special and have not been forgotten. The gift does not need to be expensive or big. Something small that will bring some happiness to the child is enough. 

How to find books for your child and use them to help explain a trip to hospital.
Which art and craft activities are good gifts for children in hospital?
Updated: 09/11/2012, SusanM
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