Pediatric Nursing Tips: 5 Ways to Keep Kids Happily Distracted

Pediatric Nursing Tips to Keep Kids Happily Distracted

Try these pediatric nursing tips to keep kids calm and distracted during a healthcare visit

By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor

Oftentimes, children and doctor’s offices can be a tricky combination. From wait times and strange exam rooms to general fear and anxiety, there are many reasons why kids can have a tough time at a healthcare visit. 

Regular pediatric office visits are a part of every child’s healthy development and there are certain things that can be done to help keep kids distracted and stress-free for their next visit. 

Pediatric nurses care for children of all ages in a variety of healthcare settings. Whether you are already a pediatric nurse, you're thinking about becoming one, or you're a parent looking for ways to communicate that will keep your child calm during appointments, the following tips can help.

5 tips for keeping kids happy at a pediatric appointment

Regardless of whether it is a routine check-up with vaccines or a more intense procedure such as an MRI, it is important to remember that kids are generally resilient; they will get through it! Incorporating these five pediatric nursing tips can help young patients, parents and healthcare providers. 

    1.  Bring a favorite toy or “lovie”

From dump trucks and dolls to a soft blanket or stuffed animal that smells of home, allowing a child to bring a security item will undoubtedly help them feel more comfortable.

Chelsea Kunde, founder of Building Blocks Family, an organization that creates individually tailored solutions for families, recommends bringing something for kids to hold onto.

“Whether this is a small toy, book, etc.—something to hold in their hands. Kids tend to want to touch everything. This can lead to unwanted stress for us as adults. I find it helpful when my kids are holding a small toy or book to keep them distracted and away from touching everything around them,” Kunde said. 

    2.  Incorporate technology 

Screen time can get a bad rap, with kids being glued to their tablets for hours at a time. But for children in high-stress medical situations, utilizing technology can help improve patient outcomes. A 2018 study published in NeuroImage found that movie watching during MRI scans reduced head motion in young children.

Many children’s hospitals are now leveraging movies and television shows to help keep kids calm and distracted during MRIs and other procedures, and treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. 

    3.  Encourage mess-free art 

No one wants to make a mess while waiting in a doctor’s office, and Kunde has a few suggestions for parents looking to keep kids busy and clean.

“I love bringing an ‘art-like’ toy that is zero mess. An Etch-a-Sketch or a magnetic doodle pad is easy for kids to be entertained with no mess. These items are often inexpensive and perfect for waiting rooms,” Kunde explained. “Lastly, I have made sensory bags for my kids. These are easy to make in a zip lock bag, and fun. You can also purchase them on Etsy. They are a fun way to look for items in the sensory bag and pass time with entertainment.”

    4.  Communicate in an age-appropriate manner

Talking directly to a child on their level is one of the best ways to communicate, especially if they are anxious about a pediatric appointment. This is particularly helpful with older kids who are eager to understand what is going on around them. During the appointment, doctors and nurses can help explain what is going on. For younger kids, it may help to talk about what is going on around the healthcare facility, point out the people on the phones, patients coming in and out and whatever else you see, in sort of an “I Spy” activity.

The more a child understands about why they are at the doctor’s office or hospital will help to make the experience that much better. 

    5.  Bring a healthy snack 

Hangry (hungry + angry) kids are a recipe for disaster in any situation. Parents can come prepared to a pediatric appointment with a few snacks that are easy to eat with minimal mess and trash. “When in doubt, a snack,” Kunde concluded. “I love the ‘snacker’ jars to help keep the mess under control and easy for the kids to hold on their own.”

String cheese, small tangerines, almonds and yogurt pouches are all great options to keep kids satiated and happy. 

Learn more about pediatric travel nursing jobs. currently has a variety of opportunities available for pediatric nurse jobs. If you want to use your skills and experience to impact children across the U.S., apply today to connect with a travel nurse recruiter. 


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