books · media · medical · OBSERVATIONS · slice of life

Illiterate Waiting Rooms

Playing at the end of her dental visit.

There’s a disturbing trend I’ve noticed at quite a few of the pediatric medical offices I’ve taken my daughter to recently. They’re DEVOID of books. No board books. No picture books. No chapter books. In fact, most are devoid of anything for kids to do except for watch television. All that I’ve been seeing in most of the waiting rooms I’ve been going to with Isabelle lately are kid size chairs and tables with a television.

Granted, I understand there are sick kids in medical offices. As a result, things have to be sanitized at the end of a given day if a medical office wants to keep germs at bay. But “Sponge Bob” on the doctor’s office television is not okay with this mom! (If you’re not familiar with the “Sponge Bob” study regarding the show’s negative effects on preschoolers’ brains, click here to learn more about it.) Perhaps a way around this is to have a sick kids waiting area, like my pediatric office had when I was a kid. Have a fever or something contagious? Well, you have to wait in isolation. You weren’t allowed to play at the chalkboard (Yes, that’s how old I am!) or with the toys in the waiting room. You had to wait by yourself with your parent. I’m sure there were kids who mixed in with the general pediatric population from time to time, but people generally respected that rule in the office. If more medical offices operated like this today, perhaps books and toys could be brought back to waiting rooms so kids could have fun while they waited for their appointment.

Perhaps the other reason there isn’t a lot of stuff in waiting rooms nowadays is because kids bring portable technology with them and play with that. Again, I’m not one of these moms. If I’m taking the stroller into an appointment, I load up the bottom basket with books and small toys. However, if I’m holding Isabelle’s hand through the parking lot, holding the diaper bag and my purse, carrying items to keep her busy in the office isn’t possible. (Maybe I need to create some toddler busy bags that I can stuff into her diaper bag.)

Alas, this morning I was delighted when I took her to the dentist for a checkup and found a fully stocked play area. (NOTE: I don’t know how often the toys are cleaned and I wasn’t about to ask. Therefore, I put sanitizer on her hands once she was done playing!) There were bead mazes, books, musical instruments, trucks, and even a play kitchen! Isabelle had such a good time playing alongside another little girl in the kitchen before her appointment that she wanted to stay for 10 minutes after her appointment to play some more (and by that point she was the only kid in there). She wanted to push the toy vacuum with one hand and cook in the kitchen with the other hand. We don’t have a toy vacuum at home and the kitchen there was very different than the play kitchen we have at home. How could I say no to that?

Would it be wrong for me to go on a mission to find out why waiting rooms around here are devoid of real things for kids to do and read? Perhaps I can get some of the offices we frequent to stock up on some basics by investigating and making gentle suggestions.

Isabelle was saying the word “hot” with her sticky sound (aka: the final t at the end of the word) over and over again. I was so delighted by it, since this is new for her, that I whipped out my iPhone and started to record her at the farmer’s market. Of course, she stopped remarking about how hot it was as soon as I pulled out the phone. Alas, she does some singing in this podcast that I think is pretty cute.



12 thoughts on “Illiterate Waiting Rooms

  1. Our office had a major fish tank, floor to ceiling separating the sick and just check up kids. It was so entertaining and relaxing…especially with a good book. I loved the sweet melody and how clear Isabelle was in the song and with the word ‘hot’. Thanks for the slice and happy Keynote this week. xo

  2. Interesting observation in the waiting rooms. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve been to one to notice. I’m sure the germs are an issue. Thank goodness for sanitizers!

  3. An interesting observation. I am in that group of patients thrilled that I can pull out my iPad, independent of the office magazines. In some offices I do see kids things, toys mostly. It was great that Isabelle could enjoy what she found at the dentist’s office. BTW, we MISSED YOU!

  4. How odd. I haven’t been in a pediatrician’s office recently, but I do see televisions cropping up in medical offices all the time….how am I ever supposed to get better if all that’s on is Fox News- instant agita! I wonder if the staff in charge are even paying attention to what’s in the waiting room…perhaps they need to sit up and take notice!,,

  5. I wondered this too. Highlights magazine in the dentist’s office inspired my curiosity and drove me to research and write. Do ask why. I’d love to hear a reason beyond “people steal them” which is what receptionists said when I asked.

  6. I love the idea of the “sick kid” waiting area! Your post has inspired me to take a closer look at the materials when I go to the dentist next week — I know there are magazines for adults, but I don’t know if there are kids’ books. (There are toys though!) The TV-only waiting room sounds dreadful!!!

  7. Stacey,
    You have asked a great question. As I think about it, our pediatrician office does have a big television. Of course, they do still have some books and toys. I guess we’re lucky. I’ve thought of looking at classrooms to see what teachers value, but perhaps waiting rooms are a sign of what doctors value — or perhaps they should be.


  8. I was all ready to chime in about your observation. But that beyond sweet and cute and lovely recording of you and Isabelle at the end just drove all thoughts out of my head. I just wanted to play it again so I did. I adore this interaction! ❤

  9. Great observation, Stacey. I’ll have to ask my daughter about their pediatrician. AS for other med professionals I go to, some have ‘screens’ but mostly visuals scrolling, not a tv. Fishtanks and magazines abound. During the years I was teaching, my students held book drives for gently used books to give to pediatrician’s offices so they could use them for families who needed a ‘push’ to read to their children. That clinic had many toys and a few books lying around-no tv. The organization is called Reach Out and Read. I would certainly ask why no things at all.

  10. wow, I am surprised to hear about the lack of toys, books etc. I wonder if it is just a germ maintenance issue more than anything? Our pediatrician’s office is new and they set up the entrance for a wellness side and a sickness side-so it now has 2 different entrances…both were stocked with toys and books-more books than anything though-one thing that’s different though-they no longer give lollipops (bet the dentist is glad for this)…times they are changing right?

    I enjoyed listening to you and Isabelle singing-and using the word hot to describe the day! Fun!

  11. It probably is about germs, but it’s a sad reality. My father is a pediatrician, and loves nothing more than to add new dew-dads to his waiting area. He has a train that circles the ceiling, wall mazes, stools shaped like animals, etc. Engaging kids innate curiosity with all of the action helps to take some of the fear away from the environment!

  12. Yes, children’s doctors’ waiting rooms vary in their availability of books. However, in one doctor’s office, our child carried a book from the waiting room to the examination room and was encouraged to actually take the book home! The doctor assured us that more books would be placed in the waiting room for other children. We thought this was a great way to get books into homes that might not have them!

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