Visiting the doctor’s office can be stressful for young patients. Even when they aren’t worried, children can find waiting for their appointment interminably boring. Starting the visit anxious and cranky can make things more difficult for everyone. We’ve put together a list of the best ways you can make visiting your practice a positive experience for children.
Find some great waiting room toys and books for kids
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, all toys should be washable or disposable to help prevent the spread of infection, so choose toys with hard surfaces and steer clear of cuddly teddy bears and stuffed animals. Rotate items often to keep things fresh and interesting.
- Trains and toy cars are always a big hit and go especially well with a bright, fun play carpet.
- Offer a “treasure chest” of inexpensive take-home toys. Many doctors offer kids a prize after the appointment, but letting them choose something as soon as they arrive puts them in a good mood right off the bat. Better yet, individually wrapped trinkets mean less chance of contamination.
- Consider putting together a child-sized “exam room” in one corner, complete with stethoscope, reflex hammer, and a bottomless box of Band-Aids. Not only will it entertain the children, it can make them more enthusiastic when it’s time for the real thing.
- Large toys (such as activity tables) provide an attractive focal point for your waiting room and are easy to wipe down at the end of each day.
- Puzzles are great for keeping kids distracted. Stock a variety to suit a range of ages and skill levels, and check often to make sure no pieces are missing.
- Coloring books and printables are eternally popular, cheap, and make good “busy work” for waiting children. Provide fresh crayons on a regular basis: it’s a small detail but people notice and appreciate it.
- Build up your library with books about going to the doctor. Many famous characters such as Elmo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and even Winnie the Pooh are now featured in their own picture books about medical visits. The familiarity of known fictional “friends” is comforting to children and can ease fears.
Don’t forget the exam room
Once they’ve made the move out of the waiting room, kids tend to get a bit more anxious. Looking at medical supplies and equipment in the exam room can be intimidating and trigger unhappy associations of painful experiences. If you can keep them happily occupied in those crucial minutes, you’ll improve the visit for the child, the parents, and yourself.
- Place a small selection of picture books in a wall rack in the exam room itself so that the parent can read to the child.
- Little “fidget toys” such as squeezy balls, finger puppets, and wind-up gadgets are great, quick distractions.
- While not strictly toys, stickers remain the unassailable currency of the exam room. Don’t be stingy! Sticker early and often.
The more you can do to put children at ease, the smoother the visit. A bit of extra thought and effort here can pay dividends. If the kids are happy, the parents are happy, and if the parents are happy, they will refer their friends!