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Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

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Ways to Pass Time While Waiting

The waiting room is a place where families of childhood cancer patients spend a lot of time.

Finding ways to pass that time is a big part of life during treatment.

The Together staff recently asked parents and patients to share what they do at the hospital when they are hanging around between appointments.

Popular pastimes include:

Play Games

Games may include:

  • Card games
  • Travel versions of board games
  • Puzzles such as crossword, word finds, and Sudoku
  • Video games available on phones, tablets, or laptops

The child life department of many hospitals may have free games that you can borrow.


Visit Playrooms

Most pediatric centers have playrooms for their patients.

Parents suggest visiting different playrooms to see which one your child prefers.

Every center is different, but usually patients are allowed in playrooms throughout the center unless the areas are age-specific.


Connect with Other Families, Children

Look for chances to meet other parents, especially those who have children and teens around your children’s ages.

Some hospitals have areas designated for different age groups such as preteens, teens, and young adults. Encourage your child to hang out in these spaces. He or she might make a new friend. Some treatment centers have rooms designed for toddlers and young children where parents and their children can spend time.

Learning how to get along with others is essential for healthy social and emotional development. If your child is not able to attend school during treatment, engaging with peers is even more important.

Use Your Imagination

You can even make up your own activities.

  • Do a Scavenger Hunt. Your child’s center may already have one put together. Consider asking a child life specialist for assistance.
  • Be the Leader is another game. Take a walk around the hospital. Ask your child “Where should we go next?” Let your child lead the way.
  • Playing dress-up is also a favorite. Children love to pretend and play “make believe.” It does not have to be fancy. Wearing a mask or a cool hat can add fun to the day.

Play with Toys

Small toys that are easily carried from place to place work well. Popular toys mentioned by patients include:

  • Small handheld cars
  • Dolls
  • Animal toys
  • Action figures

Watch Videos

Patients and family members often watch videos while waiting. They view them on cell phones, tablets, and laptops.

Many parents find they are more liberal with screen time at the hospital than they were before their child’s diagnosis. If you have concerns about your child’s screen time, consult care team members. 

Common Sense Media features reviews of videos, movies, and games, along with tips for parents.


Read Books

Options are traditional books, e-books that you can read on your phone, tablet, or laptop, and audiobooks that you can listen to.

Some pediatric centers have libraries where you can check out books. These libraries may also have scheduled activities.

Your library at home may have a program where you can check out e-books for free. Also, if you tell librarians about your child’s diagnosis, they may be willing to extend due dates for books.


Listen to Music

Give your eyes a break and listen to your favorite music. It can be a wonderful way to relax and de-stress.

  • Create different playlists.
  • Explore new musical genres.
  • Make playlists to fit different moods.

Make Arts and Crafts

You can bring your own art supplies or contact the art therapy or child life department.

Consider giving children interactive projects. One idea is to make cards for different people around the hospital. Your child can then deliver them.

Many hospitals have arts and crafts rooms or traveling carts that distribute items.



Some families like to take a break in the hospital cafeteria for a change of scenery.

Many pediatric centers provide free or low-cost food for patients and families.

Sitting around a table enjoying a meal together can provide quality family time and conversation.

Texting and Messaging

Being at the hospital may be an isolating experience. Sometimes you may feel out of touch with family and friends.

While you’re waiting, send a text or message to loved ones.

Keep up with friends with texting and messaging.


Social Media

Social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter provide another way to keep up with loved ones.

Enjoy photos and videos of your family, friends, and co-workers.

If you feel like sharing, post updates, pictures, and videos of your own.


Schoolwork and Homework

Some kids actually look forward to schoolwork while they are in treatment. It provides a sense of routine and normalcy.

Connect with the school program at your pediatric center. Teachers or liaisons there can help work with your child’s teachers at home to coordinate learning activities and instruction.

Keep Up with Work by Telecommuting

Parents who have jobs that allow them to telecommute may be able to keep up with work while their children are having treatment.

The hospital may even have designated areas for parents who are working. These places often have charging stations and desk areas for laptops.

Do Online Research

Have a topic you are interested in? Kind your mind active by doing online research while at the hospital.

  • Free online educational sites are a good way to learn. K-12 Teachers and students often use Khan Academy.
  • Duolingo is a free website that teaches different languages.
  • Coursera provides access to college courses.

Feed Your Spirit

Nurturing your spiritual health can help you relax, recharge, and reflect.

Visit the chapel for meditation and prayer.

Look for outside areas if your child feels OK and the weather is good. Take a walk and get some fresh air. Find a garden area to sit and take in nature. Listen to birds and insects. Gaze at trees, plants and flowers.