The waiting room can be a tough place for anyone, but for our littlest patients, it can represent a huge challenge. A visit to the doctor can be boring for children at the best of times, stressful and scary at the worst. Finding creative ways to keep kids entertained in waiting and exam rooms may seem like a small detail in the overall picture of medical practice management, but it can make a huge difference in how young patients and their parents view your practice. A happy, distracted child is a much easier patient, which improves the experience for everyone and even helps to minimize delays and keep your schedule on track.
Supply coloring books and printables.
Coloring never goes out of fashion, and there’s a huge range of ready-made options and printables designed to keep kids busy while they wait. Choose popular characters and themes for the under-fives, and consider educational coloring and activity books for school-aged children who are establishing life-long healthy habits and are usually fascinated by the workings of the body. Big kids will love puzzle books and fun quiz sheets with a sense of humor. A constant supply of fresh crayons and working pens is a thoughtful touch.
Provide engaging toys for a range of ages.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that all waiting room toys be washable or disposable, and cleaned between uses. The traditional waiting room “rollercoaster” tables have been keeping children entertained for generations, and newer models incorporate multiple “busy” puzzles and activities. Older children may enjoy fidget toys and brain-teaser puzzles. Build a child-friendly library.
Mom’s magazines hold little appeal for little patients. Subscribe to children’s magazines and build up a collection of wipe-clean board books for parents to read aloud. It’s a soothing activity for nervous kids, and encourages a quieter waiting room in general. Teenagers might appreciate a current selection of National Geographic, teen fashion magazines, and special interest magazines on topics like cars or crafts.
Don’t be stingy with stickers.
It’s the simplest thing, but kids of all ages go wild for stickers. Invest in a wide selection so that everyone can choose their favorite, and give them out generously, at each stage of the appointment.
Offer “prizes” to younger patients.
Sugar-free lollipops are a popular choice, but any little gift will do, from bouncy balls to silly novelties. Knowing they have a reward to look forward to at the end of a challenging visit can make all the difference for some kids. It’s important to stay stocked consistently to avoid disappointment, but the return on your investment is huge. Taking the time to provide a variety of entertainment options for kids in your office is more than a courtesy, it’s a smart business decision. We all know that the most effective medical practice marketing strategy is word-of-mouth, especially among the parents of young children. Make visiting your practice a more relaxed and pleasant experience for families. They’ll remember it, and they’ll tell their friends.