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Tips for Hospitalized Preschoolers

3000 New Bern Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27610 | 919-350-8000 | Map & Directions

Play in the hospital makes the hospital environment less scary and more child-friendly.  It also encourages children and adolescents to focus on activity, rather than on their illness. 

At WakeMed, we know children and adolescents are constantly learning and developing. 

Engaging in activities and socializing with others helps the growth and development process continue while in the hospital. 

Always remember, Child Life Specialists are trained in teaching children and adolescents about medical procedures and helping them cope.  They are a resource for you and your family.

Play for preschoolers:

  • Building structures that represent familiar things
  • Coloring and drawing
  • Show off their creations or accomplishments to others
  • Pretend play.  Preschoolers have great imaginations.

Social interactions:

  • Preschoolers are beginning to understand the concept of rules and boundaries
  • They are not yet able to understand other's points of view
  • They interpret words and phrases literally.  Please use concrete meanings and explanations.
  • Preschoolers' great imaginations can lead to misconceptions about the hospital

Common stressors and fears of preschoolers in the hospital:

  • Misconceptions arising from inability to distinguish reality and fantasy.  For example, a child might fear that hospitalization/illness is a punishment for wrong-doing.
  • Fear of long separation from loved ones
  • Fear of loss of control
  • Fear of bodily injury or harm

What you can do to help while your preschooler is in the hospital:

  • Reassure your child that hospitalization, treatments and procedures are not punishment and that he/she has done nothing wrong.
  • Be honest with your child and tell him/her the truth in clear explanations
  • Continue to set normal limits and provide structure
  • Participate in your child's care and give positive reinforcement
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