Ideas for Keeping a 4 Year Old on the Couch After Surgery?

Updated on June 29, 2011
J.B. asks from Philadelphia, PA
18 answers

My 4-year old son is having surgery on his foot next week. For it to heal properly, he'll be in a cast for 6 weeks. For the first 3 weeks, he is not supposed to put any weight on it. How do you keep a very active little person still? He's not an art project kid. He cheats like crazy at card games. I don't want to rely too heavily on the TV. Any ideas? Complicating things is an 8-month old little brother who is starting to crawl.

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answers from Richmond on

Poor guy! I was 5 the first time I broke something... I understand ;)

Does he have to keep it elevated? Or just stay off it? Get a bean bag chair, and prop him up in whatever room you're in. Get a tv tray so he can play with legos, playdough, puzzles, color, etc. Let him cheat his heart out at card games! Have him make up some of his own, then teach you the rules. Bet with pennies ;) My grandmother used to bet us pennies... she robbed me blind every time, even when I DID cheat!

Get a video game system. I know, you said not too much tv, I can't say I blame you... but it will help! You can't be there every second for the next 6 weeks ;) Or a game boy, whatever kids are playing these days. They have some really educational games out now.

ISPY BOOKS ROCK! They also have a DVD game :)

Can you rent a wheelchair for him? Get him out! Take him to the park or museum or even the store...

Good luck! It's going to be tougher on YOU than him, but you'll both make it :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Get him a Nintendo DS and some easier games.

Print out stack of dot-to-dots, mazes, and simple word searches.

I also agree with a PILE of DVDs from RedBox and LOTS of candy. Poor kid. Hope he has a speedy recovery!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Pittsburgh on

If relying heavily on the tv is what works, I'd do it. These are certainly circumstances that warrant bending the regular rules.

Same for video games, if he has any. At 4, my son wasn't into them. Still isn't, but some 4 year olds are.

Best wishes... I'm sure this won't be easy for either of you...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Teach him now how to use crutches so he can be non weight bearing but still get around. Also, I personally would not worry if he watched a lot of tv. It is only for 6 wks and it is more important he follow the doctor's instructions.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Duct tape.


The mamas have some good suggestions.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Surgery is pretty traumatic. I might put my regular parenting rules aside and totally go for too much TV and CANDY!


Especially since the other kid is not old enough to know his brother is getting to watch too much TV and CANDY!

Plus the docs are fully aware a 4 yr old is not going to be on his back for 3 weeks. Just do the best you can keeping him off it.

Hope it goes well with your little fella!


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Buy him some new books to look at, board games, a handheld video game to play with and just give into the TV!! Get him some new movies so he won't get too bored. The alternative is duct tape! I had a very active 3 year old in a cast for a broken leg and an 18 month old. She enjoyed the coloring books with the "magic" markers that only color on the paper. That way she could lounge in her comfy chair and still color. I came up with "letters" for her to write each day (she would dictate and I would type). We sent letters to relatives, her doctors, kids in hospitals, even the neighbor's dog. Also gave her things like rubix cube and slinkies to play with and a new doll (GI Joe??) She played many games on my laptop. If you have or can borrow one there are free games on and and many other websites. You can print free coloring pages off many websites as well. If he has any "older" (less wiggly) friends, say 7-10 yrs old ask them to come play a board game with him to break up monotony. It's really hard at their age so just do your best and pray for much patience!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Im with theresa! Tv and candy!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Does he have crutches? Or a walking cane? He can put weight on that, not his leg.

Or wheel him around in an umbrella stroller. In the house. I did that with my daughter when she had a fractured foot as a Toddler.

Even if you don't want to rely on TV, this is an exception period.
It will be difficult to keep a 4 year old, off their feet, for 3 weeks.

You explain to him... putting weight on his leg will make is worse.
The Doctor said, to stay off his feet.
To try his best....

Or use this time to do home schooling. At a table do learning things with him.

Another good activity is "Moon Sand." My 4 year old boy, LOVES this and it occupies him for awhile.
I put it on a huge plastic sheet or blanket, and let him go at it.

Baby proof the home already. Have a Super Yard Play Yard for the baby to be in.... when you have to step away. Thus, baby can be in there and be safe while you are busy. Put baby safe toys in it. I used this for both my kids as babies. It is VERY useful.

Chances are, being that his leg will be in a cast any maybe 'sore'... he may naturally not want to be on his leg.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Once when my baby was ill, and I had a pre-schooler who needed entertaining, I hired a young kid from the neighborhood. She was only about 10, much too young to do traditional babysitting, but mature enough (and carefully instructed by her mom) to understand that her job was to stay near my pre-schooler, play with him, build things with him, watch movies, etc., and supervise him getting a juice box, etc. I was in the house at all times of course, but having her as "a mommy's helper" was wonderful. I paid her a little bit and she was so pleased. She took her responsibilities really seriously, and I believe she learned something about babysitting, too. So you might find someone who's reliable, but not quite old enough to be alone and babysitting, and hire them for just a few dollars a day to build Legos, challenge your son to games, get snacks, change the channel, play video games, etc.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Hand held video with learning games like a Leapster. Coloring. TV is fine if you put in the proper shows. You can DVR shows you prefer like religious and learning shows and put those one when he's bored. You can also get learning DVDs like LeapFrog. You can ask him to help with little things like even preparing dinner by giving him a bowl and ripping up lettuce for a salad, or cut up bananas with a butter knife, etc. Sit him up and have him do puzzles or get a bucket of Legos. There's also the magic markers where they don't make a mess on anything but the paper. Forget the name. You can get extra books to color to see pictures appear using the special paper and also get blank paper to use with the markers. Play-doh. Action figures.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets



answers from Philadelphia on

I have an iPad that my 3 year old son loves. There are so many learning games you can get, even for free. It's pricey, but if you were considering getting one, I highly recommend it. And if you didn't want to do that, we got my son a MobiGo for his birthday (look it up, I bought it on Amazon)... it's like a Nintendo DS but for younger kids (recommended ages are 3-8) and you get cartridges with them (there are ones tailored to different age ranges). And finally, if you like iPad, but not the price, you can get an iPod Touch (I'm an Apple geek... have an older one of those too), you would really get the most use out of that plus it's portable (great when you need a kid to sit still while shopping or in a restaurant).



answers from Pittsburgh on

This is not the time to be picky about TV. I'd limit it before hand (starting now) so it is extra special-- for at least the first couple days! I think the idea of having older kids come to help entertain is a great idea. What about builidng kits? Like Legos, Erectorsets, or those balsa wood dinosaur models? Also, you could get some balsa wood and a pocket knife and teach him how to whittle. Maybe he could work on a car like for the Boy Scout's pinewood derby?

It would also be a great time to teach him how to read, if he isn't already. Check out "Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons"-- it is a phonics based system, and you could do 2 20 minute lessons a day and be nearly half way through by the end.

Good luck. I don't envy you. Poor little guy.


answers from Erie on

I know you want to stay away from TV, but at least for the first week i would let him watch it on the couch, but you can help by having him watch learning programs like some of the stuff of PBS & whatnot. Lego's, puzzles, my 4 year old loves to put stuff together/take stuff apart so maybe go to your local kids store or craft store and get some neat "special" toys for him like easy to do models (cars, planes, etc.) ya know...different things to keep him busy putting stuff together. My 4 year old loves Trios (like legos but neater) and that keeps him busy for hours!

Good luck!


answers from Redding on

Cover the couch or bed with a sheet and give him a bed tray and play dough. Lots of it, and dont worry about mixing colors,, Get him some work books for his age, to trace numbers and letters, and let him start working on his next school year. new hot wheel cars, velcro dart board, but you have to retrieve the darts once he throws them. or just give in and let him watch tv, movies, and games.



answers from Philadelphia on

TV, iPad, Nintendo DS -- borrow these if you can -- lots of movies, etc. I think this is a situation that calls for Lots and Lots of Media.

If you can find some ways for him to exercise using arms only, I bet that would help him to not get too stir crazy. Like maybe those big rubber elastics for exercising, or an arm-bike (I dont' know what that's called).

Maybe also Lego kits.



answers from Philadelphia on

books on tape from the library
wikistix (wax covered string) to play with or clay/silly putty/playdough
hungry hungry hippos
I hope it heals quickly!



answers from Philadelphia on

I agree... you can let him watch PBS Kids all day and he'll end up learning all about dinosaurs (Dinosaur Train), science (Sid the Science Kid), vocabulary (Martha Speaks) and reading. (Between the Lions, Word World)

Also, if you have a little money to spend, get him a Tag pen and book. You hook the pen up to the internet and download the "book". Then, he places the pen anywhere on the page in the book and it will read him the page, a word, and some of them play games. My four year old loves it, and... amazingly, so does my 20 month old. The pen, which I think comes with one book, is $40. Books are around $10. Great also for long trips in the car.

Good luck, I hope his surgery goes well.

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