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For children in the hospital at Christmas, gifts can aid recovery

  • December 15, 2011

Careful selection can encourage and aid healing activities.

Making the season magical for kids stuck in the hospital during the holidays is easier said than done, and knowing the type of Christmas present to give them would even challenge St. Nick.

University of Alabama at Birmingham pediatric experts say some gifts that can brighten a child’s holiday hospital stay and help put them on the road to recovery.

kids-hospital_story“A carefully selected gift could actually benefit a child during a hospitalization,” says UAB Child Life Specialist Jane Love.

Love suggests checking your list twice before you buy and ask the child’s care team if there are any special directives or instructions for gifts.

Some dos:

  • Consider gifts that get kids up and walking for kids who have had surgery
  • Pinwheels, bubbles or other gifts can help kids who need to do deep-breathing exercise to loosen fluids and alleviate soreness
  • Video games that encourage physical participation or remote control cars or animals can also get kids active

Some don’ts:

  • Skip food gifts; many patients have dietary restrictions and the usual holiday fare isn’t an option
  • If you give a stuffed animal or plush toy make sure it’s brand new; used toys can harbor germs.
  • Don’t frustrate a 5-year-old with a 100 piece puzzle; gifts should be age appropriate.

Finally, your gift to a child in the hospital could be free – in the form of a visit. But, Love says, even this type of gift has its limit.

“A good rule of thumb is to always call before and keep your visit short,” she says. “And if you’ve been sick don’t visit, especially children just out of surgery or those who may have weakened immune systems, including transplant patients. It could set back their recovery.”