Most kids are little balls of energy, especially during summer, when long days and warm weather draw children to the beach, playground and play dates with friends. But what can you do with your child in a cast? For kids who have broken a bone or otherwise injured themselves, it can be tough to watch friends running, jumping and playing sports. Having to wear a cast doesn’t have to mean being sidelined. There are plenty of activities to do with kids who are recovering from an injury.
Kids and Casts: When and Why?
The primary reason for putting a child in a cast is a broken bone, although casts can also sometimes be used after bone surgery or for other purposes. There are a variety of casts: Adults might be most familiar with the hard plaster casts of their youth, but these days many clinicians prefer to use fiberglass or elastic casts, which are softer, more flexible and generally more comfortable than plaster casts. Kids typically require casts after breaking a bone in their arm or leg, although the size of the cast depends on the specific injury.
Aside from keeping your child’s injured area immobile, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t get wet (if it isn’t waterproof) and discourage your child from sticking objects into the cast — a big temptation when the skin inside gets itchy. Other than these precautions, your child should be able to enjoy lots of fun activities. You may just need to be creative!
Thinking Outside the Cast: Activities to Do With Kids
It’s natural for your child to feel frustrated and bored when stuck in a cast. The good news is there are many things you can do to keep kids entertained while they heal. The first step is to use the cast as a way for them to stand out: Encouraging friends and family to sign the cast with colorful markers can help put a positive spin on things from the start. Here are more ideas for having fun in a cast.
For kids in arm casts:
- Take a walk or hike. Make it interesting by playing “I spy” or trying to see how many different objects or animals you can find along the way.
- Dance. Try dance-related video games that only require legwork, or invent your own fun choreography.
- Kick it. Soccer, kickball and other sports may be off-limits for now, but kids can still practice kicking, dribbling and other leg- and foot-centric moves.
- Go for a swim. If your child has a waterproof cast, ask your pediatrician about water-based activities that may be safe and appropriate, such as using a kickboard.
- Go old-school. Bring back classic games including hide and seek, tag, Simon Says or Mother May I, and those that can be modified for one arm, such as bean bag toss and light bowling.
For kids in leg casts:
- Walk it off. A child in a cast may still be able to participate in light walks using crutches, which can build upper body strength.
- Have a seat. You can modify a number of games to be played while seated, such as playing catch, throwing balls (or even balled-up socks or paper) into a basket and video game-based “boxing” or “skiing.”
- Take a stretch. An instructor can teach your child simple yoga poses that can be done while sitting or lying down
- Learn something new. When regular activities are compromised, your child has a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills, whether that’s juggling, learning an instrument, painting or crafting
Being stuck in a cast doesn’t mean being stuck at home. Always ask your pediatrician or a sports medicine specialist, such as those at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, before trying a new physical activity with your child.
Please note: Do not allow children to play in the sand with their casts. Sand can get stuck in the cast and cause skin issues. If you have a beach vacation coming up, speak with your doctor about how to protect your cast at the beach