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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.