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.

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