Flu season is in full swing. Schools are being canceled left and right for disinfecting and I feel like I read some terrifying statistic on cases reported every day. We all know that taking steps for prevention is critical, but at the same time, it isn’t unusual this time of year to know a family whose child has been hospitalized with flu, pneumonia or RSV. These illnesses hit the littlest ones so hard and it is understandably terrifying for parents. Though it’s natural to feel helpless in the face of a serious illness, offering support to families with a hospitalized child is always appreciated. Support can come in many forms, including meal deliveries, childcare offers for other children, yard or home maintenance help, or monetary contributions.
Care packages can also be a thoughtful way to offer encouragement and to remind families they don’t have to go through a hospital stay alone.
Some time ago a family we know found their little boy hospitalized with puzzling symptoms. It took several days for them to receive a diagnosis and then additional time after that for him to receive care. My heart went out to them, especially considering my son is close in age to theirs, and I wondered how I could offer some relief or even distraction from the stress they were experiencing. I searched for care package ideas on Pinterest and had difficulty finding many that dealt with hospitalizations of small children specifically. After some thought and piecing different ideas together, I came up with several items for both the little boy and his older sister, who was also young and dealing with the worry of her brother being ill, disruption to her routine, and her parents’ need to split time between the hospital and home.
There are a few things to consider before gathering items for a care package:
The child’s illness
- What is the child hospitalized for?
- How much mobility will he/she have?
- Is he/she able to eat regular foods?
- Does he/she have energy to play?
- Should the items center more on comfort or entertainment?
The child’s age
- What types of toys are age appropriate?
- Can the child read?
- Is he/she able to do fine motor tasks like coloring or holding a writing tool?
Preferences or Special Circumstances
- Is there a particular character the child loves?
- Are there any food allergies to think of when considering snacks?
- Are there siblings who are visiting at the hospital?
When I stopped to think about when I’d visited kids or even adults in the hospital in the past, I started remembering all the time spent waiting. Waiting on doctors to come by with an update, waiting to be moved to a different room, waiting for meals to be delivered or medicines to be administered. All that waiting is particularly hard on kids of course, so I wanted to come up with an activity that could be done to pass some time at the hospital. After not finding what I was looking for online, I created a hospital scavenger hunt that the kids could do with an adult during some hospital down time.
I was thinking of this particular little boy’s older sister when I made it, but also included pictures and eliminated the need for reading or writing in case he felt up to participating as well. I purchased some hospital themed stickers at Hobby Lobby for the kids to place on each item once they’d found it and also included a clipboard I personalized with the girl’s name for her to carry it around on. If you’d like to include the scavenger hunt in your care package, the pdf can be downloaded here.
I used these canvas bins from Pillowfort to hold the items. I liked them for their size and durability and the likelihood that they could be repurposed in the kids’ rooms at home later. I was able to find all the items I needed at Target but the Dollar Tree is also a great place for finding inexpensive, travel-friendly toys.
The packages we delivered to the hospital included:
- cozy blankets
- stuffed animals
- a nightlight that projected stars on the ceiling
- a board book with various latches to practice on
- a police car vehicle toy
- a pencil pouch with colored pencils
- a hidden picture activity book
- a personalized clipboard with scavenger hunt printable
- hospital themed stickers
- fruit snacks
Putting these packages together didn’t take more than an hour or so, but it was a small gesture to let another family know we were thinking of them and were available for more substantial support if they needed it. I hope that others in similar situations might find this blog helpful as a jumping off point for creating their own care packages!