My FoolProof Tips For Helping Your Toddler When He Has a Broken Bone:
Unfortunately, due to a genetic disorder, our family is no stranger to broken bone (see here) and currently we’re on the tail-end of dealing with another one. So I thought I’d write up the tips I’ve learned over the past 18 months that help your toddler when he/she has a broken bone. Hopefully, for your family its a one time thing, but if your family is similar to mine it may be something you deal with on a recurring basis.
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links which are no extra cost to you, but help me run this site. However, everything I talk about are items and ideas that we use over and over again.)
My son is currently almost 3.5 years old but when he started breaking bones it was right before he turned 2. In that time period we’ve had 5 broken bones (see this post). There’s been a learning curve in helping him deal with the pain and find fun things to do but so far apart from the sadness of “another one!”, we have a pretty good system down of what happens and what helps! Obviously, I hope no one reading this has had to deal with a kid breaking a bone, but if you are and it’s a new experience, here are the things that have helped us the most in keeping our toddler happy!
The early days of a broken bone are the most painful and require the greatest adjustment. Using a pillow to elevate, support and immobilize the bone helps a lot when dealing with a small child. Also, using appropriate doses of approved painkillers (consult with your doctor first, please!) to take away the pain can be necessary in those first few days.
Using a bed-tray for food or as a makeshift table also helps in the first few days when there’s a lot of pain and he doesn’t want to be moved. You can use it to set up an iPads , Kindle or Tablet for movies or audiobooks, which can keep them entertained for hours.
Keeping the things that comfort your toddler near them is also essential! Whether a special blanket, pacifier, bottle, stuffed animal… trust me, now is NOT the time to make them be a “big boy” or “big girl” and wean them off of those “comfort crutches”. The younger they are the more those tools help them deal with the pain and trauma that has suddenly happened to them.
In my experience so far, distraction is one of the most helpful things you can do. The younger your child is, the more help they’ll need in this area and the less they’ll be able to cope on their own. My go-tos? Movies, favorite toys, and coloring.
We use a bed-tray as a makeshift table for the first week or so. It’s a great way to safely set up an iPad for movies to widdle away the hours. We got these child-friendly earphones from Amazon to help keep the noise down. I know there is some controversy over screen-time and kids, and if you’re the parent who has the patience to read books and entertain your child all day, triple kudos to you! Seriously! I’m not that mom and probably never will be. I make myself feel less guilty about it though by picking the more educational shows to watch. An extra benefit to that is that my kids have a lot of useful information (including my 4 year old knowing how to add multiple numbers) without me having to teach them.
Some of our favorites are:
The Magic SchoolBus
Wild Kratt Brothers
Winnie the Pooh
Dora the Explorer
Anything related to dinosaurs
To cut down on physical products we use Amazon Prime Video and Netflix and have yet to run out of decent content to watch or listen to. We’ve also recently started using Amazon Alexa and Audible Books to find and listen to audio books and that’s been a huge hit.
Tap into what your kid likes doing and encourage them in that. My son LOVES dinosaurs, movies about dinosaurs, coloring dinosaur pictures, dinosaur clothes, building lego houses for his dinosaurs and legos. So, as a result he has a lot of dinosaur things now. He plays with them, sleeps with them, and tells stories with them.
He also loves coloring and you can find a lot of free coloring pictures on google. Mom tip: Buy washable markers. They are just as good as regular markers except better because they’re a breeze to clean up. Even when your kid decides that wall art is the new thing, water and a washcloth will wipe it right off. Also, you can find almost every coloring page imaginable for free with a google search. If you have a printer, you can print these out and save a few bucks on multiple coloring books.
Due in part to his age, every time he breaks a bone he gets a new present (usually more dinosaurs, haha). This has helped mainly in taking his mind of the initial pain and focusing on something fun that he is going to get to do. Obviously our goal is no more broken bones, but if it has to happen, we try and make it as painless as possible.
Downsides to a Broken Bone that No One Tells You:
The biggest one is probably no bathing. This can be tough when your child is so young and more prone to get dirty. The best thing to do in this case is just keep them away from anything that would warrant a bath: dirt, paint, spaghetti etc… You can get water-proof cast covers like this one, but I haven’t found them necessary yet.
Handling Transportation and Errands: If your toddler breaks a bone, he’ll be too little for crutches; he probably won’t warrant a walker which means you’ll have to carry him a lot. This isn’t such a big deal, but it definitely is a bit of a workout as they get older and heavier. It also can be challenging to do grocery shopping. I’ve solved that by simply going when my husband is around to take care of our kids.
Figuring out clothes: If you have a toddler who is still in diapers, Dressing them with a broken bone can be a difficult task especially in the first few days where they don’t want to be moved at all. Getting toddler onesies and bigger size pants/shorts has worked for us so far.
Skepticism: I’m just going to add a note here especially for parents of kids who have OI. You probably are already aware of this, but especially in the early days, you may get quite a few raised eyebrows and questioning looks if your child keeps having multiple breaks. There’s no way to sugar-coat this, but a normal kid’s bones are so resilient that multiple breaks usually indicates child abuse and you probably will get questions about that at some point. Thankfully, a lot more is known about brittle bone disease in the medical world now than it was 30 years ago and every doctor I’ve come across has instantly recognized that my son’s bones are genetically weak and prone to breaking. However, for other instances especially if you’re involved in school/daycare etc, my best recommendation is to have a letter from your doctor explaining the condition and what it means etc. To that point, it also is extremely helpful to explain what type of play is and is not okay for your child, most particularly because to other kids people with Type 1 Osteogenesis Imperfecta will look perfectly normal.
A brief example is that for us, water-play has been a part of 4 out of 5 of the broken bones. So, anything to do with water is now strictly monitored and for those who read this who know me personally…. If I’m paranoid about the tiniest spill on the floor, you now know why. 😉
The Most Important Thing to Remember
And finally, the most important thing we have learned in dealing with all this, is grace. Have grace for your child and grace for yourself. Yes, it’s tough, it’s hard but broken bones will heal, life will go on and this season too will pass.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to reach out to me in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!