“I’m bored!” How many times have you heard those words from your child(ren)? In a world of smartphones, with entertainment options literally at one’s fingertips, how is it possible to ever be bored? However, we hear this from our children all too often. As a parent of a cancer child, we have limited options to reduce boredom in a hospital room, clinic or doctor’s waiting room. Curtailing screen time by sending your child outside to enjoy fresh air and outdoor activities is no longer the “go to” option it once was. Too often, parents of kids with cancer feel their only choice is to depend solely on tablets and phones to entertain their child.
Your kids look to you for answers for creative ways to be entertained. Give your child peace of mind and diversion as they fight through the pain and uncertainty of cancer with fun activities that are easy and affordable.
Broad, Affordable and Creative Activities
Distracting your child while in a hospital, clinic, or doctors waiting room can make difficult times more bearable. Some activities take little effort in planning, but they offer tremendous satisfaction for your child. Depending on the age of your child here are some activities to consider at home, in a hospital room and where appropriate in a waiting room.
Writing – Even at a very young age, giving your child a creative outlet can help them express their feelings about everything they are going through. If they can write, having a writing journal can articulate their hopes, fears, and frustrations. If they cannot put these feelings into words, they can also use a journal to draw or doodle their emotions.
Creating – Making crafts is not limited to only paper and a few markers. A child’s canvas can be on numerous mediums. A t-shirt, hat, or canvas bag and some puffy paints can be a creative outlet that a child can wear or give as a gift to a family member or even another child going through treatment. Sticker art and other craft kits can even be used on days when your child is tired and does not want to get out of bed.
Playing – Physical activity might be limited during treatment, but if your child can and their caregivers approve, you can introduce some simple stretching or yoga into their activities. These low-impact exercises can improve strength and flexibility in your child’s physical well-being. And as a parent, getting on the ground exercising along with your child might even spark some comic relief in your child’s day.
Specific Activities for Cancer Kids
Toddler and Pre-School:
- Stickers and sticker books
- Practice letters and fine motor skills with dot stickers on pre-written names
- Watch movies or cartoons
- Paper, crayons and/or markers to draw, or coloring books
- Sculpt with Play Dough
- Finger paint on paper plates adding glued sequins, construction paper, eyes, etc.
- Stamp painting
- Watercolor Rigatoni pasta and string it on yarn to make jewelry
- Blocks and puzzles
- Use popsicle sticks and make snowflakes, ornaments, sun catchers with glitter and sequins
- Read books together
- Pre-School: Board games such as Candyland, Chutes and Ladders and Memory
- Pre-School: Cutting and gluing with scissors and paper
- Creating scrap books
- Writing a journal
- Playing board games
- Playing card games
- Arts and craft kits appropriate to age and interests
- Sculpting with clay
- Write and illustrate their own story book
- Sticky mosaics
- Origami kits
- 3D wood craft kits
- At Home: Cooking
On days when there is not even time or energy to help your child spark their creative drive, there are resources available to help. Find craft ideas for toddlers and preschool children here. Also, the National Children’s Cancer Society has created a colorful 24-page activity book titled, I Can Move Mountains. This downloadable PDF file includes games, a journal, and even a hospital scavenger hunt. Pediatric cancer survivors created many of the activities found in the book.
Meaningful Screen Time
As parents, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s easy and convenient to let your children play on their smart device or computer. If given a chance, they can spend hours racking up a million points in the latest video game. It’s okay to let your child have screen time. On challenging days it can be a welcome relief.
There are video games and apps available that have a deeper purpose, offering children and teens the opportunity to work out their feelings through the use of a mobile device or computer. The nonprofit organization Digging Deep has created a free self-help, mobile game called Shadow’s Edge for young people fighting all types of illnesses. The organization’s mission is to “activate the healing power of self-expression through fun and accessible digital self-help tools that deliver psychosocial interventions right where kids are: on their devices, playing games.”
Another game developed by the nonprofit organization Hopelab specifically for young cancer patients is Re-Mission 2. The game incorporates actual cancer-fighting scientific research and gives the player the power and control of the human body to help battle cancer via superpowers such as chemotherapy and the body’s natural defense mechanisms. The free online game and mobile app are entertaining, all while encouraging and teaching the player about the importance of cancer treatment.
Fun and Healing Road Trip
Taking a family vacation may not be a realistic option during cancer treatment. The high cost of travel, Covid-19 restrictions, and your child’s current health may all be factors preventing a pleasant and relaxing holiday. Just as cancer has caused you and your child to adapt to new realities, so too must parents adapt to ways of creating fun activities. A family trip does not require plane tickets or hotel reservations; a surprise local road trip may be what the doctor ordered. Depending on where you live, a “staycation” can be a day at the beach, park, or even the big city. Make it a unique adventure. Researching the location beforehand can help you come up with a creative scavenger hunt. Making fun family memories for your child to look back on and cherish is the goal.
Here to Serve, Here to Assist
As your child looks to you for guidance and support, all of us at Here to Serve want to be there for you. Our team can provide helpful resources to assist you through the uncertainty of pediatric cancer treatment. As your oncologists provide a sound treatment plan, we can be there to assist with the parts of life that sometimes get forgotten during treatment, from child care to household chores. We can help, so your focus can be 100% on your child’s needs. If you know a family who needs our help, let us know.
By Chris Smith