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Entertaining Kids in the Waiting Room

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

What a busy day back in the office post holiday weekend! When I walk into an exam room, I’m always curious to see what my patients and their parents are doing while they wait (wish I never ran late and no one ever waited!).  At any rate, I got into a really interesting discussions with several parents as to what we should have in our waiting room and exam rooms to help make the waiting easier. A mini poll revealed no clear consensus but there were some very intriguing ideas and comments.

Our group practice “voted” last year to put TV’s in our waiting rooms. For the record I voted NO, as I thought it was hypocritical to have TV’s in our office when we were discussing limiting screen time (TV, computer etc) with our families. But, majority rules, and I lost, so we have TV’s in all of our waiting areas.

Now, when the TV’s were all installed, it was decided that they would not be on all day long. Instead, there would be TV time as well as quiet time as we have reading and “library” areas in our waiting room too.

Just like many homes, I realized that the TV came on at 8:30 am and stayed on until 10 pm at night. Our practice never had designated “reading time”.  Despite having books, most of the kids and parents opted to watch the Disney channel on TV.

So, two different parents spoke to me today about our TV selections and how they seemed to be geared to older children.  I thought we watched Disney, but must admit I am not in the waiting room censoring TV or watching what TV shows are on throughout the day.

The best line of the day was a precocious, adorable 5 year old who told me, “my Mommy says your office is inappropriate.”  Of course I immediately thought she was talking about waiting. But, upon further questioning not only could she tell me what the word inappropriate meant, “ if you go outside naked, that is inappropriate” she also told me that it was the TV show that was on while they were in the waiting room that her mother deemed inappropriate.   It happened to be a Disney show with Miley Cyrus. I think I have to agree with her. Probably not age appropriate for all children.

Her mother and I got into a great discussion about ideas for better viewing options, including movies like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music or even The Little Mermaid (there are scary parts there too).  I commend this mom for voicing her opinion and really being aware what her children are watching. This family only has 1 TV in their home.   I think we should hire her to come up with our viewing options and make DVD’s for our office that are more appropriate for all ages.

Another mother talked to me about having quiet time and reading in the waiting room. She thinks that this would actually calm bored children while they wait.  (I have very fond memories of reading Highlight’s magazine in the pediatrician’s office with my mother helping to look for the hidden objects).  It would also mean that the parent is engaged while reading with or to a child. She noted that most parents in the waiting room today were on their cell phones or iPads etc. and that the children were either running around or watching TV.  She always brings a bag of books with her when she comes and I bet her children will always have a love of books. Will have to see.

I don’t know the right answer, but I really appreciated the comments.  We are going to try and start having our waiting room have designated reading times and TV times and see if we can get to a happy medium. I know we will never make everyone happy but this should be a good start.  Wish us luck!

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your feedback, comment or email to Dr. Sue!

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One Response to “Entertaining Kids in the Waiting Room”

  1. Kelly Barton says:

    Hi Dr. Sue! I must say that reading your article was very refreshing. First, as a mother of two, I completely agree and can relate very much to what you and the other moms say in the article… especially about TV-watching… that it is okay in limitation, but is often times inappropriate in general waiting rooms. I absolutely LOVED your comment about having fond memories of reading Highlights magazine in the pediatrician’s office with your own mother. I, too, have those same wonderful memories.

    I also wanted to let you know that my business partners and I have created a product specifically for children who are waiting in medical facilities, and interestingly enough, Highlights magazine was one of our biggest inspirations in developing it. Our Alphabotz Scratch-N-Color Wait-Time Playbooks are low-cost activity booklets for children ages 3 to 10 and are full of games, puzzles, coloring, hidden pictures, and more. The unique thing about our product is that it is printed with an invisible ink that can only be developed through scratching or rubbing the paper. Each playbook comes individually shrink wrapped with a small wooden stylus (similar to a popsicle stick) that the kids can use to scratch the paper and watch the colors and images magically appear. They are completely mess-free (no markers or crayons), germ-free (children do not have to share them as they are given to each child individually), and were created to occupy a child for long periods of time.

    I just thought you might like to know that we now have a solution (other than television or video games) that is creative, innovative, and just plain fun. It is a great option for children while they wait. If you’d like to check them out, here is the link to our site:

    Thanks for a great article!
    Take care,
    Kelly Barton

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