700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

How to Keep a Child Still at Home While Recovering from Surgery

Jun 22, 2021
mother and daughter sitting on a couch

Supporting a child’s ability to handle hospitalization experiences starts prior to surgery and extends throughout recovery at home. Many factors, including developmental age and previous hospitalization experiences, play into a child’s ability to cope after an operation. Recovering after surgery is an individualized experience. In many cases, it is important to keep your body still for safety and to promote continued coping throughout recovery.


In many cases, infants cry and move their bodies as a form of communication.  It is important to be aware of your infant’s needs post-op while keeping in mind their need for attachment with their caregiver. To promote comfort following surgery while focusing on keeping baby still, utilize a favorite blanket, pacifier, sound machine and positive touch. A trusted caregiver is essential for an infant’s recovery process.

Toddlers and Preschool-Aged Children

Toddlers and preschool-aged children benefit from open and honest communication. It is important to remind your child that they do not need to stay still because they are in trouble or being punished, but to keep their body safe. Keeping their short attention span in mind, it is important to have a variety of developmentally appropriate toys and activities that can be introduced at a staggered rate. A sticker chart is a great tool to promote desired behaviors while providing praise and possible reward.

School-Aged Children

School-aged children may have lots of questions after surgery, providing you with an opportunity to sit with them and have an open discussion. Allow your child to lead the conversation to enhance their feelings of mastery over the surgical experience. Creating a schedule together as a visual representation of desired behaviors while recovering can help children map out the process. The schedule should include activities such as games, movies and coloring that can be done while keeping still.


Allow your adolescent to help create and personalize their post-surgery environment. Encourage them to create an individualized recovery experience that incorporates their doctor’s orders to be still. Discuss methods of staying in contact with peers while focusing on recovering post-operation.

Non-pharmacological pain management strategies that can be used with most kids from toddlers to teenagers include:

  • Deep breathing 
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Distraction activities
  • Guided imagery
Child Life Specialists at Nationwide Children's Hospital
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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.