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Activities for Kids on Bed Rest

Len Wein, the comic-book writer who conjured up Wolverine and Swamp Thing, got a head start on his career when he was hospitalized at the age of 7. To keep him entertained while he was on bed rest, his dad brought him a stack of comic books. Wein was hooked.

So while bed rest isn't a happy circumstance for your child, it needn't be a time of mind-numbing boredom either. Della Connor, Ph.D., RN, a board-certified family nurse practitioner and assistant professor of nursing at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, notes that there are a variety of activities that can keep bedridden children engaged.

Arts and Crafts

Give children "something to do that eats up a lot of their time," advises Connor. She recommends teaching a child to do simple arts-and-crafts activities that require large blocks of time to complete. Give a child a loom to weave a potholder, or teach him how to crochet. Motivation to complete crafts can come from the simple joy of making something or the anticipation of an admiring look from grandma when she receives a handmade scarf as a Christmas gift.

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"Video games are perfect," says Connor. "Almost all of the pediatric units in hospitals have video games for children to play." She notes, however, that the games shouldn't require children to be too active. Hand-held game systems can also be a sanity-saver when your child is bedridden for more than a couple of days.

Television is another option, although you'll want to make sure your child watches it in moderation. "Children move less when they watch television than they do when they're reading or doing an arts-and-crafts activity. You don't want them to get skin breakdown from lying in one spot for a long time," Connor warns. Since skin breakdown begins to occur after only one hour of immobility, don't allow your child to watch television for more than an hour at a time.

Toys and Books

Connor notes that pediatric units typically have toys children can borrow. At home, a child may quickly lose interest in playing with the same doll or toy car. Consider purchasing a few new toys at a resale shop to help your child pass the time.

Make a trip to the library as well. Check out a stack of books on your child's favorite topic, such as horses or space. While you're there, look for DVDs of documentaries your child might enjoy watching. Take advantage of her boredom to steer her away from inane cartoons to something she can learn from. Who knows -- the result might be a future astronaut or veterinarian.

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What to Avoid

Children shouldn't have small toys if they are bedridden with a broken bone and a cast. "Don't give them anything little they can push down into a cast, like crayons or Barbie-doll shoes," Connor cautions. "These items can get pushed down so far we can't get them, and the cast will need to be cut off and reapplied. This can be traumatic for a kid." And for her parents, too.

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