10 tips for spreading holiday cheer to kids and teens in the hospital

December 11, 2015 | by Denise Heady

Looking for a fun and meaningful way to help someone during the holidays? Collecting gifts for children and young adults who are spending the season in a hospital can make a big difference.

Not only do donated toys and gifts bolster the spirits and improve the lives of people affected by illness, they assist hospitals nationwide, many of which rely on the generosity of the public to help provide their patients with holiday cheer.

“This is a time patients and families should be spending at home with their family and friends and instead, their days are filled with doctor visits, chemotherapy, radiation or big surgeries,” said Renee Ortiz, a licensed clinical social worker at City of Hope's Department of Supportive Care Medicine. “These gifts brighten up their days and can provide comfort during difficult times.”

If you do decide to donate gifts for someone in a hospital this holiday season, Ortiz recommends choosing things that can occupy a patient’s time.

“All of our patients spend lots of hours in clinic or the hospital so keeping them busy and distracted is one of our priorities,” Ortiz said. “A lot of our patients love arts and craft activities, video games and puzzles or games. Books are also a great way that some of our patients keep their minds occupied.”

With that in mind, some ideas to consider while shopping:

Five tips for giving to young patients

1. Gift cards are great. Young patients and their families love these. Purchase from stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble or Best Buy, which are plentiful and easy to find.

Gift cards allow patients and their families to shop both in-store and online. Visiting stores can be a welcome distraction for families. For patients, online shopping lets them choose what they want, then look forward to the fun of a delivery.

2. Engage the mind. Educational toys and games such as puzzles, LEGO, K’NEX or a doctor kit mix fun and learning. And don’t forget about books!

3. Get crafty. Kits for easy arts and crafts projects, jewelry making and building offer hours of distraction. So do stickers, drawing pads, coloring books, crayons, painting supplies and Play-Doh.

4. Try the classics. Think Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and easy board games like Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders or checkers.

5. Go digital. Movies and PlayStation games – kid appropriate, of course – help young patients to pass the time.

Guidelines for giving to adolescents and young adult patients

1. Gift cards – still great. For this older age group, consider iTunes for music, Starbucks for beyond the hospital and Amazon for Kindle books to read during a hospital stay.

2. Be creative. Advanced arts and crafts kits will keep patients entertained and busy. Knitting and crochet tools and more challenging LEGO kits are also good options.

3. Get organized. Totes and overnight bags can help patients carry their belongings to and from the hospital. Choose fun patterns and bright colors to liven things up.

4. Get fashionable. Pajama sets, slippers, robes and socks are welcomed gifts and a great way for patients to add flair and personality to an impersonal environment.

5. Use your noggin. Beanies and hats (non-knitted) in a variety of styles and colors can help young adult patients stay warm while asserting their individuality.

One note of caution:

Tempting though they may be, avoid purchasing stuffed or plush toys. A number of patients suffer from weakened immune systems, and these toys can trap dust and other substances that could make patients sicker.


If you are looking for a second opinion or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

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