14 Things to Pack for Your Child's Hospital Stay


Our son, Ben, has been in the hospital many times. Usually I forget things, but this go-round, I didn’t miss a thing. This was a planned surgery, so I had time in advance to consider what to bring to make this hospitalization comfortable for both of us, and I pulled it off seamlessly.

Here are my suggestions for hospital stays with your child. Obviously you would need advance notice to work this out, but we also found when Ben has gone through periods when hospitalizations were frequent, we kept a bag packed. I’ve also included a separate list of suggestions for supporting a family with a hospitalized child and making a rough situation a little more bearable.

The author's son sitting under blanket

Packing for the hospital stay with your child:

1. Extra clothes. Bring more than you plan to need in case of mishaps or stress sweat.

2. A bag of healthy snacks in case you end up stuck in the room longer than anticipated.

3. A few indulgent treats for those rough moments.

4. A pair of old slippers or comfortable shoes.

5. Light reading. With frequent interruptions, you want something to read that won’t fall apart if you can’t dig in and concentrate.

6. A stress ball or stress putty.

7. A head lamp or flashlight in case you need to get up in the night.

8. A sweater or sweatshirt.

9. Easy snacks or favorite drinks for your child. Just in case the cafeteria food is disappointing or you need to pull out a favorite to entice them.

10. Load a grab bag with small, wrapped gifts. Use them for prizes for enduring pokes and procedures or for distractions when the child is tired or has pain.

11. Medical toys. We have a special stuffed animal that Ben does medical procedures on. A child life specialist can get you tubes, bandages and catheters that resemble those your child has so they can make their special stuffed animal look like they do.

12. Electronics and chargers.

13. A new water bottle. If you have to entice your child to drink something, sometimes a fun vessel helps a bit.

14. A pillowcase, stuffed animal or blanket from home.

What to include in a survival kit for a friend whose child is hospitalized (some of these will be repeats from above):

  • Treats and healthy snacks for the parents. It’s OK to ask their favorites.
  • Light reading material according to their interests.
  • A travel-size toiletry kit.
  • A stress ball or putty.
  • If they’re there for several days, a home-cooked meal would hit the spot.
  • Their favorite coffee or soft drink.
  • A hospital cafeteria voucher, VISA gift card or gas card.
  • If you’re familiar and comfortable, offer to sit with the child so the parent gets a brief break.
  • Ask if you could bring anything they forgot.
  • A distracting toy or game for the child.
  • Offer to help with babysitting other children or driving them to school or extracurricular activities.
  • Offer to help with laundry or housekeeping.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Other

When My Sister Communicated Without Saying a Word

My sister Joyce never developed spoken language. She communicated simple needs through a combination of gestures and vowel sounds, tempered with a sweetly crooked smile and a playful giggle. Family members helped her with difficult tasks, such as opening buttons or pouring from containers.  One evening, our family was huddled around the TV in the [...]

To the Woman at the Pharmacy Who Said My Son Was 'Not Special Needs'

Today, while out running errands, I overheard a mom at the pharmacy counter talking to the pharmacist about a group of moms who have children with special needs who meet once a month to relax and unwind. She was asking the pharmacist if she would be allowed to place flyers at the counter. In the [...]

Why I'm Thanking the Teacher Who Yelled at Me for Missing Class Due to My Illness

Panicked, I quickly exited the girls’ locker room and ran up the stairs to the deck with my tennis uniform on and my bag that was twice the size of me. My heart began to pound louder and louder as I grew more still looking to find my bus. The sun was weighing down on [...]

To the Special Needs Parents Trying to Figure Out Their Guilt

Our kids can take a lot of management, for a lack of a better term. We have to manage their schedules, their food, their environment. There are doctor’s appointments, case managers, therapy appointments, pharmacies, teachers, insurance companies, almost an endless list of people we need to call or email each day. In my experience so far, one parent (or [...]