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Tips for an inpatient stay at the hospital

If you will stay overnight, have your child help you pack a bag or suitcase with the things you will need in the hospital. Bring any special or familiar objects to the hospital, such as a child’s favorite teddy, blanket or doll, pacifier or sippy cup. Bring a child’s brush, comb, robe, slippers and other comfortable clothing. Often children prefer to wear their own pajamas instead of a hospital gown.

The Child Life Program has many toys, video games and movies to loan. Bring a special toy, handheld game or favorite video if it is particularly soothing to your child. The Child Life Program will invite your child to participate in creative projects and activities as he/she is able. Tell children that someone will be asking them what kinds of things they like to do and helping them to relax with projects, games and toys while they are in the hospital. 

Preparing for a Hospital Stay or Health Care Experience

Hospitalization, doctor appointments and medical surg dollsprocedures can be very stressful for children of all ages. Preparing children ahead of time for the things they may experience in the hospital will reduce much of their anxiety and will help them cope and trust you and the people they meet in the hospital. If your child is under the age of 5, you should talk to him or her one to four days before the experience. Older children should have two to four weeks to get information and ask questions. Play is an excellent way to prepare a child for a health care experience. A play doctor’s kit for younger children can help to introduce the experience. Encourage a child to pretend to be the doctor or nurse for a favorite doll or stuffed animal. Read a good children’s book about going to the hospital or doctor’s office. Check out our bibliography or visit your local library for suggestions. Use simple words your child will understand. Reassure young children that a hospital stay and hospital workers are there to help children. Encourage your child to discuss feelings and ask questions about the upcoming experience. If you know that a surgery or procedure will hurt or be uncomfortable, never lie and say it won’t. For supportive suggestions on how to talk about surgery or lab work in advance, call the Child Life Program. 

Be careful not to force a discussion if your child does not seem ready. If your child is scheduled for surgery, please attend our surgery preparation class, held every other Wednesday at 5:00 pm. You can call the Child Life Program at (631) 376-3717 and ask us to tell you when they next class will be held.

Tips for During a Hospital Stay

Allow your child to have choices and feel in control whenever possible (for example what to wear, what activity to do, a choice of movie or music to listen to). Always ask any question you have of your child’s doctor or medical team. Writing down questions in advance and information as you receive it can help you to remember. Spending time with a hospitalized child comforts him or her, but parents also need to take time out for themselves. The Child Life Program provides structured activities at bedside and in the playroom for every child. Consider taking time for yourself to rest, eat and relax while your child is involved in a special activity or event. If you need to leave the hospital it is important to let your child know when you are leaving and when you will be returning. Inform your nurse and child life specialist so we can provide extra support in your absence. As much as possible, maintain normal family limits and expectations. Your child will appreciate this structure and familiarity of routine. 


If your child will be hospitalized for an extended period of time, is hospitalized often or needs help with homework or exams during a hospitalization, they may be eligible for school services provided by a hospital based teacher. Our school services are coordinated by Creative Tutoring. Your school district and the Child Life Program will work with you and participate in a decision about your child’s educational needs while hospitalized.

 What does a Child Life Specialist Do?

The Child Life Playroom and Garden

Helping Kids Cope

A Visit to the Pediatric Emergency Room

Preparation Tips by Developmental Age

Children with Special Needs

Preparation for Surgery 

Helping During Outpatient Procedures

After a Visit to the Hospital


Books and Websites for Kids and Families

Ways to Give and Volunteer