My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women

10 Things To Do With A Toddler While Undergoing Cancer Treatment


Oliver and his post-it art.

Oliver and his post-it art.

Oliver playing with oobleck.

Oliver playing with oobleck.

Raising a toddler is hard.  They are moody, unpredictable, infuriating yet completely loveable and cuddly all at the same time.  You have to be on your feet at all times and ready for anything.  But what if being on your feet isn’t really an option?

While I was undergoing chemotherapy, I experienced extreme fatigue and weakness.  I had a lot of help from Ken, my family and friends but it was still important to me to raise my son and have private time.  While it was extremely challenging to do this, I came up with creative ways to keep him entertained that didn’t drain all of my energy.

1. Snuggles while watching TV:  I know, I know.  The American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s a no-no to let children under the age of two to watch television or use technology.  So do many of the parents in the area where I live.  “How much TV does your child watch?  Oh, we haven’t started yet.  Little Billy and I do art projects all day and take music classes 4 days a week.”  Well, screw this.  If you have cancer, TV can be your best friend.  Yes, we watched more television that I normally would like but it gave us time to snuggle and we talked about all the things we were watching.  And guess what?  He still can speak sentences, recite his ABCs, count to 20 and more.  No harm done.

2. Snuggles while reading books:  Reading books was always a great way to pass the time.  I couldn’t read books for myself because of the chemo brain but board books were fine.  Thank goodness for picture books, right?

3. The nap game: This is a real game that we made up!  I would bring Oliver to my bed where he could jump around and plop a bit.  Then I would pretend to fall asleep and he would do all sorts of silly things to wake me up.  He loved this game and it would entertain him for a good long time.

4. Coloring: If you are feeling well enough, you can both color at a table together.  But if sitting upright is not an option, get large pieces of paper and put them on the floor.  Take a pillow down with you and lay down while you both color on large sheets of paper.

5. Peek-a-boo:  Lay down, hide under a blanket, then pull the blanket off.  Peek-a-boo!!!!

6. The selfie game:  What do toddlers love more than anything in the world?  Themselves!!!!  Snuggle up with your smart phone and take selfies.  Then your toddler can look at them while you take a light doze.

7. Home movies: Take videos of your little one doing things like singing, dancing or being silly and let him watch it over and over again.

8. Sing songs with hand games:  Children love songs.  Oliver always wanted to hear Twinkle Twinkle or Open and Shut Them over and over again.  I would lay down, he would sit on my lap and we could sing together.

9. Oobleck:  Oobleck is messy fun that is easy to prepare.  All you need is corn starch and water.  The only downside to this is the clean up but it provides lots of entertainment for your little one while your head rests on the table.

10. Kisses:  This is the obvious one.  Oliver is a love bucket so just snuggling and kissing was entertainment for him.  And I was happy to oblige.  Somehow, nuzzling and snuggling him made me feel less sick.

What are some fun ideas you have for entertaining a toddler when you are feeling under the weather?


9 thoughts on “10 Things To Do With A Toddler While Undergoing Cancer Treatment

  1. These are brilliant suggestions based on something which seems to be so uncommon these days – common sense!

    While I’m at my son’s home during his pancreatic cancer treatments, I have spent a great amount of time with my grandchildren, his 4 yr. old daughter and 2 yr. old son. They are not allowed to watch t.v. except during times when Mommy needs a break, or Grandma needs to find her “marbles” (I keep telling my granddaughter that I’ve lost my marbles…)

    BUT… these children know their ABC’s and their numbers and I do believe that the educational television programs which they watch actually benefit in many areas. It’s much better than when my sons were young and all that was available for young ones were Tom and Jerry cartoons or Scooby Do.

    The main comment/thought I have is that in all of your suggestions, “love” powers your activities.

    • I’m so glad you like these suggestions. I’m sure caring for two young children is a challenge right now for you son and daughter-in-law. And thank you for pointing out that “love” powered my activities. That couldn’t be more true!

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  3. I love these suggestions and want to thank you for your blog overall. I was diagnosed in March and am scheduled for a mastectomy in a couple of weeks. As a mother of a young child, I’ve found your experiences incredibly helpful and moving. I’ve been struggling with (dreading, putting off) how to talk about my illness and the disruptions that are to come with my 3yo son…ordered a bunch of books online and hope that at least one of them will help! Wishing you health & comfort ❤

    • Hi, first of all, I’m so sorry to hear of your diagnosis. I know what you are going through, all of the emotions, especially as it relates to your child and motherhood. You are in my thoughts.

      Figuring out how to talk to young ones about illness is challenging. My son was only 20 months old when I got diagnosed and, of course, there’s no way to talk about cancer. I just thought about what I knew he would understand. He understood boo-boos. He understood being gentle.

      We didn’t hide my scars from him. Partially by choice and partially not. You know how toddlers follow you around wherever you go? My husband would change my drains or help me dress after my surgery and my son was there. He knew my body was different, drastically different, but we calmly let him know that I had a boo-boo. He was concerned but got used to it. He still calls it “Mommy’s big boo-boo.”

      Think about what your son understands now and start there. And I think books are great too. There’s a book called, “Nowhere Hair” which I think would be great for his age. It didn’t work for my son.

      Please consider me a part of your cheerleading team and community for advice or to vent.

  4. Love these!

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