Toddlers (1 - 3 Years) 

Helping Your Toddler Cope With Hospitalization

Toddlers begin to actively explore their surroundings. They seek adult company and begin to learn the results of their actions. Toddlers assert their independence; recognize ownership ("mine"); and protest and say "no" even if they are compliant and cheerful. Toddlers learn about things by doing and will express their frustration if routines are not followed.

Common hospital issues for toddlers can include separation from parents; fear of bodily injury and pain scary fantasies; restricted activity; and change in routine. The following ideas can help parents and caregivers during their toddler's hospital stay.


  • Provide familiar toys and objects such as stuffed animals and blankets.
  • Listen to favorite music.
  • Watch favorite movies or cartoons.
  • Scribble with crayons and paper.
  • Stack blocks.
  • Read books with adults.
  • Sculpt with play dough.
  • Paint.
  • Play peek-a-boo.

Medical play:

  • Provide toy doctor's kits.
  • Play doctor with dolls.
  • Play peek-a-boo with doctor hats and masks.
  • Create art with bandages and other medical supplies.
  • Let your child explore and play with medical equipment.
  • Read books about healthcare experiences.


  • Talk with your toddler one to two days before his or her health care experience.
  • Use simple words that your child will understand.
  • Reassure your child that you will be with him or her
  • whenever possible.
  • Allow your child to choose his or her favorite things to bring to the hospital.
    Read books about going to the hospital.
  • Encourage your child to use play medical kits and dolls to act out his or her understanding of the experience.

Coping ideas:

  • Hold your toddler.
  • Play music, sing or recite nursery rhymes.
  • Read pop-up and sound books.
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Spin pinwheels.
  • Keep home routines for sleep, meals, naps and bathing as much as possible.
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