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Mobility changes: Helping Children Cope

When children are in a cast or must stay in bed, the change in mobility can be hard for them and their family. It is normal for children to move and play. If they can't move as much as they are used to, they may feel frustrated or angry. This can affect the whole family.

How can I help my child?

Feelings need to be expressed. Encourage children to tell you how they feel, or to draw pictures about it. You can also help reduce restlessness and frustration by helping children focus on what they can do, rather than what they cannot.

Help your child be as independent as possible. Have needed or special things within reach. For example, provide a container to hold your child's toys and games and a lap tray on which your child can color, paint, do puzzles, or other tabletop activity.

Help your child move as much as possible within the limits that have been set. Change positions by using a beanbag chair. Use a wagon or reclining wheelchair to help your child get around. Take short trips to the mall, zoo, park, or to the library for story time.

Provide activities

The following activities will help support your child's development and keep children of different ages entertained and active.

Note: Watching television or movies, playing video games, or viewing and playing on the computer have a place in helping children cope with mobility changes. Use them on a limited basis. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2, and no more than 2 hours of total screen time for children 2 and up. Engage children and teens in non-media entertainment, such as board games and puzzles, imaginative play, books, and creative art activities.

Infants and toddlers

Children in this age group who have just become more independent through crawling and walking can find limited mobility especially hard. Their brain develops rapidly during these years, and is best supported by interacting with people and manipulative toys. These ideas can help:

  • balls
  • books
  • light-up and sound toys
  • listening to music
  • mobiles
  • pop-up toys
  • pounding toys
  • simple puzzles
  • shape sorters
  • stuffed animals
  • toy mirrors
  • xylophones

With supervision, use:

  • bubbles
  • Mylar® balloons (never latex)
  • water toys


Preschoolers like to play in ways that give them choices and the chance to be in control. They are becoming more social, so consider planning opportunities for them to play with other children.. Be sure to schedule rest time along with play time.

  • board games and card games
  • coloring books
  • crayons
  • Duplos®
  • Etch-a-Sketch®, Magnadoodles
  • foam balls
  • musical instruments
  • Paint-with-Water® books
  • play people
  • pounding toys
  • punching bags
  • puppets
  • puzzles
  • sticker books
  • With supervision, use:
  • beach ball
  • bubbles
  • Mylar® balloons (never latex)
  • playdough
  • water toys
  • water color paints

School-age children

Friendship is important, so encourage friends to visit. Use iPads or other technology to have teachers help students make a video of the class and to have facetime together.

  • board games and card games
  • books
  • computer games – non-aggressive content
  • crayons and markers
  • crossword puzzles
  • Etch-a-Sketch® , Magnadoodles
  • felt boards
  • foam balls
  • hand-held games
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • Koosh® balls
  • Legos®
  • Listening to music
  • Mylar® balloons (never latex)
  • paints
  • paper or foam airplanes
  • paper dolls
  • punching bags
  • puppets
  • Seek and Find books
  • stuffed animals
  • Velcro® target
  • video games
  • word searches, mazes

With supervision, use:

  • beach ball
  • bubbles
  • ar models
  • craft projects
  • finger painting
  • Model Magic, Play-Doh, clay
  • rug hooking
  • water color paints
  • water toys

What else do I need to know?

Never have latex balloons around young children. If they burst and pieces are swallowed, they cause choking. Use Mylar® balloons instead.


This sheet is not specific to your child, but provides general information. If you have questions, call Children's child life department: Minneapolis 612-813-6259, St. Paul 651-220-6465

Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

Reviewed by Child Life 6/2015 © Copyright 

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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