The Germ-Free Guide to Entertaining Kids at the Doctor’s Office

Happy cold and flu season!


Just kidding. Hopefully, you’re able to stay healthy this winter, by diligently washing your hands, eating healthy foods and staying active. But your kids are another story. Kids are cute little germ spreaders — picking up viruses at school, the children’s museum and pretty much everywhere they go!

So it’s inevitable that your kids, and perhaps even you, will get sick this season… and need to go to the doctor’s office. In addition to being breeding grounds for germs, doctor’s offices are boring, and often feared, places for kids. Here’s what you should avoid at the doctor’s office — and what you should do instead to keep your kids entertained!


Avoid: The Play Cube

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This colorful, interactive gem at the center of every pediatrician’s waiting room is just too cool for most kids to ignore — but, avoid it if you can. Most infections are spread by hands — and germy, little hands have likely touched every inch of this thing. At the pediatrician’s office, many of the kids are probably sick, with coughs and runny noses that contaminate this impossible-to-clean toy faster than you can scream “Don’t touch it!”

Alternatives: Bring your own toys — think small blocks or small cars that are easy to spray-clean or soak afterwards in warm, soapy water.

Avoid: The Kids’ Books

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Reading is great — we love reading around here! And it’s awesome that your child wants to pick a book off the shelf in his exam room. But — don’t do it! These books have generally been put through the ringer — left on the floor, coughed/sneezed on and read with germ-y little hands.

Alternatives: BYOB — books, that is! We love nonfiction books for waiting rooms, because they encourage kids to ask questions and usually offer lots of pictures and fun facts to engage your child.

Avoid: Snacks

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We know — we know. Snacks are such an easy way to entertain/bribe kids — plus, a hungry kid is a grumpy kid. But given the abundance of germs in the waiting room, it’s impossible to keep your child’s hands clean while they’re eating.

Alternatives: It goes without saying, but make sure your child has had a healthy, balanced meal before your visit to the doctor. We even endorse a celebratory ice cream date after the appointment! If your child is getting hangry, try giving them some whole milk in a cup with a straw, so there’s minimal hand/mouth contact. Or, prepare a green smoothie to-go! And of course, if you’re breastfeeding, that’s always a good option: there are tons of germ-fighting benefits in breast milk.

Avoid: The Medical Equipment

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Of all the things in the doctor’s office, the medical equipment is probably the cleanest, as it’s sanitized and cleaned after each use. However, this equipment is expensive and not a toy; plus, you don’t need to have your child spreading his germs all over everything!

Alternatives: If your child is curious, use your smartphone to look up the various pieces of equipment. Describe what each item is, does, etc. Point to body parts on toddlers and babies — turn it into a game! If your kids are interested in doctor’s equipment, get them a doctor’s kit and costume for imaginative play at home.

Avoid: The Waiting Room

Wait, what? If you have a really sick kid, or a busy tot who touches everything, simply tell the front desk that you’ll be in the hall, lobby or even front of the building while you wait. If necessary, leave your cell number so the receptionist can call you when the doctor’s ready. Or, check back every few minutes. The change of pace will be refreshing to your kids — and you’ll all get a little exercise while you wait!

While it’s impossible to keep your child contained in a healthy little bubble from October-May, avoiding just one trip to the doctor this year is, in our opinion, a great success! So have an extra glass of OJ (or a mimosa, because, you know, Vitamin C), and stay healthy this cold and flu season!

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Listen — we aren’t trying to sound like germaphobes here; some germs are good! In fact, the five-second rule is legitimate; just not at a public, germ-filled space like the pediatrician’s office. Read more in: Debunking the 5 Second Rule.

Sources: 1. Natural Health Journals, Avoid Getting Germs From Your Doctor’s Office | 2. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Avoiding infection: What to do at the doctor’s office | 3., Secrets of the Pediatrician’s Office.

Photo credits: Ashley Sisk Photography | Sarah M.

Sarah McCosham
Sarah McCosham
Sarah is a yoga practicing, mostly vegan, coffee chugging, Jack White-loving, stay-at-home-mom to three kids 4 and under in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since leaving the corporate world in 2011, she’s worked as a freelance writer for several local organizations, and is currently the Community Outreach Coordinator at Cincinnati Parent. Sarah loves hot baths, The Bachelor and high-quality dark chocolate.

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