You’re still in hospital waiting to be seen by another doctor to let you know that they’re happy with the leg and you can all go home. And to go home is all you want to do right now. You want to go upstairs and have a little meltdown then sit and give your kids lots and lots and LOTS of kisses and cuddles.
But, once you get home and your broken-legged child is in your sole care, how are you going to take his/her mind of any lingering pain they’re feeling?
Also, the recovery could be anywhere from four-to-12 weeks, dependent on the type of break and if any surgery was required. That means you’re looking at a rough average of around six weeks of keeping your little one occupied and trying to stave off the boredom, as well as trying to keep all their other limbs active. It’s not an easy task!
First things first
The important thing to get right at the beginning is the management of your injured child’s pain. Hopefully you had a good chat with the doctors and nurses before you were discharged and they have given you some advice.
For younger children aged between two and four, try not to ask them about the pain too much. If they’re getting along well with the level of paracetamol and ibuprofen you’re administering each day, after a few days start to slowly lengthen the time between doses.
Older children should be more aware of what’s happening and be able to tell you what they need. But again, don’t ask about it too much, let them tell you. Unless they appear to be really struggling and and are trying to get by without pain relief, in which case DO raise it and give them some medicine!
As for the leg, it will need to be raised and supported for the first couple of weeks, at least. This is to help keep swelling down to a minimum. For younger children some sofas or chairs are deep enough that all you need to do is push their bottom right to the back and pop a couple of cushions under the injured leg. For older and taller kids, you’ll need an extra chair and possibly some spare pillows. But do take the time to ensure this is done properly, so the leg is raised and secure and your child is comfortable.
You also need to have a way of transporting your little one and being able to support the broken leg if required. For smaller children aged two, three or four, a buggy might suffice. But beware, you need to be extra careful when pushing and maneuvering as you don’t want to bash the leg, particularly while it’s still painful in the early days.
Unfortunately the NHS doesn’t provide children’s wheelchairs. You can try the Red Cross, who hire out a small stock of them for a contributory fee which can be whatever you can afford. Or, there are private companies that hire out modern children’s wheelchairs with whatever support attachment you need. These do tend to work out quite expensive, but if you can afford it, it means your child is able to get out and about and attend school (rules and teachers allowing) so it really is worth it.
Keeping a two-to-four year-old patient entertained
When your child breaks a leg you tend to find that friends and family – who are naturally upset and worried – will send get well soon cards and gifts. This is GREAT! Read the cards to your little patient as many times as they ask you to. It’s nice for them to know people are thinking about them.
This is a good activity to do in the early days as your son or daughter will still most likely be uncomfortable and nervous about moving. So reading together will help them feel happier, less worried and also help them get over the shock of the break.
DVDs, magazine’s, story, sticker and colouring books are gifts that some people like to send.
If they aren’t among the ones your child has received in the early days of recovery, then go and get some. If you feel it might not keep your child entertained and could be a waste of money but want to try it anyway, then go to a pound shop. They have all sorts of these types of things. Spend a fiver and get some new colouring pens/pencils/crayons too!
Be with your child while they are having a look at the activities they can do while sitting calmly in one place. As you know, all children are different so what appeals to one isn’t necessarily going to keep another happy. Hopefully a few favourite DVDs and a good selection of books and paper will keep them happy in those first few days at least.
After that, when your little one, and the rest of the family, have started to recover from the initial trauma, your son or daughter will probably start to get their appetite back. Both for food and for something a bit more interesting to do.
If they are starting to feel hungry, then why not create a menu together? What’s nice about this task is that it’s helpful and is keeping them involved in ‘normal’ family life.
If they want something a little more interesting or challenging, how about some lego duplo or mega blocks for smaller hands? If you have a suitable table, bring it up to the sofa or chair where they are currently spending their days and let your child do a bit of creative building. Or, if that isn’t practical or they aren’t comfortable doing that, then try getting a tray or a (clean) chopping board and they can build on that.
Toy figures or cars are great too. They can be held and easily manipulated and thrown around the sofa. Pretend voices can be added too. Another option is puzzles. Use the table / tray or board from the lego and get their little fingers and minds working together to create a masterpiece!
Playing doctors or tea parties is a great game for little ones. They can invite you or their toys to the tea party. They might also re-enact their recent hospital experience. This may give you an insight as to how they were feeling, particularly if your little one is at the lower end of this age group.
After about a week or two, you child is likely to want to get down onto the floor. This is great as it shows they are feeling a bit more comfortable and less worried about the injured leg. So, carefully lift them onto the floor (your back won’t thank you, but your child will be delighted at having a new vantage point!)
They can do all the things they could up on the sofa, plus play a bit more robustly with their cars and figures. They are also likely to gain a little more confidence and begin shuffling around after they get used to being down there.
Dominos and age appropriate board games like snakes and ladders are also easier to negotiate on the floor. There’s more room, and if your son or daughter is shuffling around a little, you could throw the dice a bit further to keep them moving and using their body. But don’t throw it too far as you don’t want to encourage your son/daughter to move too far or fast!
Your child could also play on a tablet if you’re happy with them doing so at this age. If not, let them speak to family members and friends on facetime. They can show off their cast and see how concerned people they love are about them. If they want to answer questions about how they’re doing that’s great. If they just want to talk about the park or their favourite programme, thats fine, too. The important thing is they are interacting normally with their family and friends.
If you did get your little one a wheelchair or their pushchair suffices, take them on a daily walk.
It could be something simple like around the block, just so they can have some fresh air and a change of scenery. Or you could go to the local park with a soft ball. Throwing the ball to each other is a great thing to do with ALL children and a broken leg shouldn’t stop that.
Also, if you are a family that goes out for meals together then, once your child is feeling happy in their chair or buggy with their broken leg, go out for a meal. It’s normal, and they will get a kids pack with some new stickers, pictures and activities to occupy their mind.
For children who attend nursery or playschool, it’s unlikely they will be allowed to attend while in a cast. If that’s the case then try and take them to a library story time or another group, where you will constantly be there to supervise and help your little one. These types of groups should be fine with your child attending with a broken leg. But, if you are concerned they might not be happy, ring ahead first. Your child will probably be upset if you tell them you’re going somewhere, only to be turned away upon arrival.
Ideas to keep five-to-ten year-olds occupied while their broken leg heals
As with younger children, your son or daughter is likely to be in some shock and pain once they arrive home from hospital. Manage that with the advice from the doctors and nurses and make sure your child is comfortable.
Children in this age a group are more able to explain how they’re feeling and express their feelings, particularly from the ages of seven and upwards.
Listen to them and show your son/daughter that you understand what they’re saying and are doing your best to help them feel better, both regarding the pain and their emotional needs.
All of the things discussed in the previous section could work for children in this age group too. Swap duplo for their favourite type of lego, get them some new reading books and age appropriate board games. Sock basketball is a great game to keep them active. Use any suitable receptacle and take turns throwing the sock in. Move the ‘basket’ around to keep it challenging.
As well as getting them involved with a menu, why not let them arrange a movie night or afternoon? They can choose the films, or have a list of films and get the family or friends or vote. They can also decide what snacks and drinks to serve. Turn this into something they can get excited about.
Children this age are probably allowed some time on a tablet or computer game so let them download a new game or two, or hire a new game for their console. While it may not be something you want your child to get used to doing all the time remember, they have been through a traumatic experience so giving them something they want and enjoy will really help take their mind off it.
If you would like them to do something more constructive while on the tablet or laptop, why not get them interested in coding? As well as taking their mind of their leg, they will be learning a new skill that is both useful and a desirable one for their future, pretty much whatever that may be. There are lots of websites available for different age groups, including from the age of four!
At this age, your child will be in school. Of course, you don’t want them to miss too much work, but your child has to be feeling comfortable enough to return to school if the school allows it. Between the ages of five and seven, your child may still need a wheelchair as they might not fully be able to use crutches and keep all the weight off their broken leg. This is a situation that most schools may struggle with and so your son/daughter may have to have a few weeks off school. Of course lots of homework can be sent home and you can help go through different subjects with them.
If you are doing school work at home, set aside a few hours each day to complete it, say two hours in the morning and one-and-a-half hours in the afternoon and with a break halfway through each period.
This will feel a bit like the school set up and is a way to get them in the right frame of mind to concentrate on their work. Of course, this isn’t something your child will be feeling up to immediately so do give them time to get over the pain and shock before introducing regular school work.
Encourage their friends to come and visit after school if possible. They could bring schoolwork round for your child and catch them up on any goings on at school. This should help them feel less isolated from their normal routine and their friends.
If you or your child want to see other friends or family members who can’t easily come to you, then arrange to visit them. Make sure your child is comfortable and safe in the car and make the visit. A change of scenery will do your child (and you) good and it will be nice to have someone else making the drinks and food for a change!
For children seven and over, they might be able to manage with a pair of crutches as they are more able to understand about keeping any weight off their injured leg. Make sure your child practices and is happy with the crutches. If the school is happy for them to attend and you and your son/daughter are too, then it might be a good idea to start with half days. Walking with crutches can be hard work and as your child is still recovering from an accident and they are likely to tire easily.
In this situation, your son or daughter will be a bit of celebrity at school for a while, which many children really enjoy. It will also mean they are living their life pretty much as normal which should help them process the accident, move on and concentrate on recovering.
Recovery entertainment for eleven year-olds and upwards
Children in this age group will be much more able to explain to you how they’re feeling and also be involved in any discussion with the doctors about pain relief. This is good as hopefully they won’t try and milk it and will work with you to ensure they aren’t in pain but also not overdoing the medicine.
For children this age it could actually be more difficult to keep them entertained. They have their own social life and a well-developed range of likes and dislikes.If they are sporty children, this injury is sure to be very upsetting for them. Try to stay calm and talk with them – or listen to their upset, however they express it. Of course it isn’t fair that they’ve suffered this traumatic injury. And while you may get fed up hearing it, try your very best to let them get their frustration out.
Once that’s done try and come-up with activities that are related to their likes and dislikes. Maybe they want to learn about coaching or tactics of their particular sport. Try and keep them active with their good leg and the rest of their body. Ball games are great and sock basketball could help them get rid of some pent up frustration too as they can throw the socks pretty hard (provided the ‘basket’ is sturdy enough and in a suitable position).
If your child is keen on keeping active, why not let them use some light hand weights? Or they can raise their uninjured leg while balancing something between their foot and ankle. Of course, children this age will be on crutches so they will be using their own strength to get around. However, you don’t want your son/daughter to over-do-it so additional exercises they can do while seated are great.
Try and give your child some privacy.
Children this age are becoming more independent and are used to having time alone in their rooms or with friends. If you have the room, then make sure they still have that space. They can then be happy with their own company for a while, and also have somewhere for their friends without having to negotiate the stairs all the time.
When the times comes for the cast to come off, don’t be surprised if you son or daughter is nervous about walking on it again. This is particularly relevant for younger children who haven’t been on crutches. It can take weeks for some children to gain the confidence to walk on their previously broken leg.
Do lots of exercises to show them that their leg is now healed. If the hospital didn’t provide a physio appointment, address that the day the cast comes off. Alternatively, you can pay for sessions privately. Most private pediatric physio’s aren’t too expensive, and again, it can be really worth it.