Holiday Gifts for Kids with Health Challenges

Health Writer

It is a bit like the Grinch stole Christmas (or Hanukkah) if a child has to spend holiday time in the hospital or confined at home due to an ongoing chronic illness. It’s also a downer if a child has an accident or acute illness that puts them in the hospital during a time of year when “merry” and “cheer” are the operative words. Special and thoughtful gifts will be especially appreciated by kids in those situations and by any children who face daily health challenges. Here are a bunch of gift ideas that cover a range of age groups.

Bed-bound gifts of joy

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Make the focus beyond tech gifts and turn the clock back to simpler gifts that allow kids to really play and discover the old-fashioned way, even while confined to a hospital or home bed.

Basket of activities — Fill a basket with small puzzles, a Rubik’s cube, card games, word search activities, math games, crayons and coloring books, or paint-by-water pads with brushes. Make sure the choices are age-specific. Cost: Variable

Musical gift — Kids who are stuck in bed will appreciatea gift that entertains with lights and music. The Remote Control Ocean Wave Projector offers light shows and plays a variety of music that can soothe an infant or entertain a young child. Cost: $22.99 (Amazon)

Crafts — The ancient art of Origami paper folding is perfect for a child confined to bed. Origami Paper in a Box includes the paper and an instruction book. Cost: $12.64 (Amazon)

Paper airplanes are fun to make and to fly. Ultimate Paper Airplanes for Kids includes an instruction book and 48 tear-out paper planes Cost: $11.02 (Amazon)

Camera — Instant Polaroid-type cameras have made a comeback. For a child stuck in a hospital, taking instant photos of visitors and happenings on the ward can be incredibly fun.

Fujifilm Fuji Instax Mini 9; Cost: $59.95 (Amazon)

Film for camera; Cost: $16.52 (Amazon)

Nerf balls — Soft, cushy balls can let a child have fun throwing and catching a ball even from their bed. Nerf Pro Shop Mini Sports Pack has three sports balls in the pack. Cost: $18.29 (Amazon)

Books and meditation CDs — Books of any kind are a perfect gift. Audio book versions of popular books like Dr. Seuss or “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” can be invaluable when a child is too fatigued to hold a book and read. Meditation CDs that teach meditation geared to a child can provide unique relief and empowerment.

Enchanted Mediation for Kids; Cost: $12.34 (Amazon)

Mermaids & Fairy Dust (geared to girls); Cost: $14.94 (Amazon)

Especially for someone in a wheelchair

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Constantly sitting has its challenges but there are some wonderful gift opportunities with style and fun in mind.

Sheepskin slippers and booties — When a child is confined to a wheel chair, lower extremity circulation can be impaired. Warm bootie slippers or sheepskin boots are trendy and provide soft warmth. They’re easy to slide on and off and they are also very forgiving to skin which may be sensitive due to compromised circulation. Indulge in fun colors and styles. Cost can vary based on the brand and style. Kid’s Sheepskin Bootie (Ages 4-10); Cost: $29.95 (Sheepskin Shop)

Bean bag lap tray — This versatile item protects someone from very hot or very cold beverages and food and is perfect if someone is a tech geek and needs support for a laptop or iPad. Cost: Find a range of choices and options at PB Teen. Prices start at $39.

Wheelchair “Pals” are adorable arm rest covers that come in cushy animal styles. Choose bunny, hippo, lion, puppy, frog and more. Variety of Wheelchair Pals:; Cost: $29.95 per pair (Wheelchair Pals, online)

Gloves — These come with and without fingers, with technology that lets the child still use their smart device, the sheer variety of lengths, styles colors, and price points make it an affordable seasonal gift. Cost: Varies. At Land’s End prices start at $19.95.

Decals to decorate a wheelchair — Kids love stickers and personalizing a wheelchair can really make the “ride” feel special. Scroll through the Etsy website to find an assortment of options. Cost: Most under $10 (Etsy)

Over-the-door mini-hoop basketball — What kid doesn’t want to play hoops? If you stick around to retrieve the ball, this activity can provide hours of fun. The soft ball that comes with these sets makes it a safe activity. Nerf Sports Nerfoop Set Toy; Cost: $13.49 (Amazon)

Homebound but still active

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Getting stuck at home during the holidays can seem terribly unfair but there is a host of gifts that can make a home stay magical.

You can suggest making a teepee with sheets or buy a six-foot Teepee Tent Playhouse with Carrying Case. Imagine the hours of fun adventures that can be had. Cost: $49.99 (BCP online)

Kids of every age love blocks and building sets and Lego is the king in this category. They now offer gender-specific sets in addition to gender-neutral and themed sets. Sets are categorized by age and there’s a wide range of price points. For the younger child: Duplo All-in-One-Box-of-Fun; Cost: $29.99 ( For a girl (4-7): Mia’s Vet Clinic; Cost: $29.99 ( For a boy (7-12): LEGO 31045 Creator Ocean Explorer Science Toy for Kids; Cost: $11.69 (Target)

Inspire the next young chef with a child-geared cookbook. Boys and girls can manage many of these recipes with a little help from a supervising adult. Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up; Cost: $11.84 (Amazon) Honest Pretzels: And 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 & Up; Cost: $12.42 (Barnes and Nobles)

Painting kits provide hours of fun. You can buy an easel and paints or just a fabulous set of paints and paper. Crayola Painting Set; Cost: $14.48 (Amazon) First Impressions Children’s Easel with Accessory Pack; Cost: $49.99 (

Board games are great if you also plan on “staying and playing!” There are dozens of age-appropriate games to choose from. Consider Candyland, Monopoly Junior or Monopoly, Clue Junior, Stratego Original, Qwirkle, and Racko. Cost: Games start at around $12

Jigsaw Puzzles especially the ones with 250 pieces or more are great because assembling them can be an ongoing activity for the child, or the whole family. Set up a small table, spread out the pieces and the fun begins. Cost: $9.95 and up

Home bowling sets are great for all age groups and will occupy kids as they set up and knock down the pins. Giant Inflatable Set; Cost: $23.97 (Amazon) Majik Electronic Arcade Bowling Game; Cost: $36.20

Remember that the best gift you can give may be the gift of your company. Letting mom or dad have some time off while you spend some quality moments with that special child — it is the ultimate gift of love and joy.

See more helpful articles:

How to Talk to Kids About Chronic Illness

4 Questions to Ask Your Loved One with a Chronic Disease

Helping Kids Deal with IBD