Activities for a sick toddler needed
November 22, 2010 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I need ideas for helping a toddler through four to six months of chemotherapy.

Two weeks ago, my 21 month old daughter was suddenly diagnosed with a large brain tumour, which has since been completely removed surgically. A few days from now, she will start chemotherapy. While much depends on how well she tolerates the drugs, the schedule for the chemo is expected to be: four days of administering drugs; several days of close monitoring, then two weeks at home. This makes a three week session, which will be repeated six times, making a four to six month course.

I am looking for ideas on how to keep a toddler as amused and happy as possible through this lengthy ordeal. Ideas for absorbing, distracting games or stories would be very welcome. She enjoys word games, songs like "itsy bitsy spider" and nonsense rhymes. She likes to look at pictures of animals and is in love with the television show "In the Night Garden", which like the teletubbies, has little dialogue and simple plots.

She can scroll around on an iphone and look at pictures and some simple iphone games might be in her reach, so suggestions of toddler apps would also be welcome, or other computer games. Both active and passive activities will be needed. Obviously, she can't read or write or use a keyboard.

I have no problem keeping her happy and amused under normal circumstances but we will need a lot more arrows in our quiver for the intense times to come when I expect she will often be feeling poorly. Any idea, no matter how small, which could entertain or distract her for even five minutes would be well worth it to me, and ideas stemming from personal experience would be especially welcome. Thanks in advance. Cute overload from last month here.
posted by Rumple to Health & Fitness (41 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The Jack and the Beanstock app has kept my 25 month old entranced for hours... Ok, really only 20-25 minutes at a time but that's hours to a toddler. She also loooves all of the Duck, Duck Moose apps.

So sorry you all are going through this and I wish you the very best of luck!!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 9:01 AM on November 22, 2010

I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's health.

Have you ever heard of the Wiggles? You will probably regret me suggesting this, but many, many kids cannot turn away from these guys once they see them for the first time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:05 AM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

iPhone apps that my 2 year loves include Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, Letters A to Z, Occupy Baby, iTot Flashcards, and The Wheels on the Bus. We also watch YouTube Videos of Sesame Street and They Might Be Giants sometimes.

So sorry you're having to deal with this and hope the chemo passes quickly and easily.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:06 AM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please accept my warmest wishes that this process isn't too difficult on your daughter or you. I can only imagine what you both are going through and you're most certainly in my thoughts.

Based on what my son found entertaining when he had surgeries as a toddler, I'd recommend the following:

- Storybooks with accompanying CDs (for some reason, though my son loves for me to read to him, he really gets a kick out of listening to stories on CD). Target and Toys R Us also have a bunch of storybooks with related sound-effect buttons that might be appreciated.

- DVDs: Scholastic Storybook Treasures have been wonderful for our son. Considering your daughter's other DVD interests, I'd really recommend Kipper too -- it's such a nice, gentle, slow-paced show.

- Some simple crafts, such as stick-on foam shapes, pipe cleaners, etc. might be fun to help pass an afternoon. Oriental Trading has some incredibly cheap, if not the greatest quality, kits. Sticker books, macaroni necklaces and glitter shakers (glitter and colored water in a tightly sealed water bottle) can be fun too.

- iPhone apps: we don't have a ton of experience with these, but my son does love Talking Hippo and also iStorytime.

- Maybe playing with your digital camera and/or video camera, even the ones on your iPhone?

- My son also loved looking through family photo albums. You could always order some extra prints of people/pets she loves and help her paste those into a little album of her own.

Good luck, take care of your little one (and, also importantly, yourself), and feel free to Memail me anytime.
posted by justonegirl at 9:08 AM on November 22, 2010

What about audiobooks? I used to get those great Disney books on tape and they captured my attention for at least half an hour 'cause you had to listen to both sides. I imagine you are completely inundated with all this entails, but perhaps you could ask a relative to arrange a recording session and your spouse, your baby's grandparents, and beloved friends could each record their favorite fairy tell or fable on the computer, and then you could transfer those sound files to your iPod so your girl can listen. It'd be a wonderful keepsake for her later, to know that her family was supporting her during her treatment.

Good luck to you. From the looks of it, your daughter seems like a total trooper. :)
posted by patronuscharms at 9:09 AM on November 22, 2010

The painting apps, like Brushes, require a little bit of grown-up intervention but keep my friend's toddler engrossed. Any app that makes a bunch of noise works too, but that might try your own sanity-- if not, my friend's kid liked one called Rimshot! that just presented a giant red button that made a handful of noises (crickets, the rimshot of the title, the sad trombone, etc.). Think drum synth apps like DigiDrummer, matrix synths like Melodica, piano keyboards like NLog-- something where she can smack her hand down and something will happen immediately.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:09 AM on November 22, 2010

Sand and Water table! Yes, even indoors. Just put down large plastic picnic tableclothes and let her go at it. It's active and sensory, yet she can go at her own pace and it is also pretty peaceful. Also, Buddha Board where she can paint with water. My daughter LOVED this thing at your daughter's age and couldn't get enough of it.

Homemade playdoh. Magna-tiles.

Do you have any friends who might be able to bring a bunny, a puppy or a guinea pig for the occasional visit?
posted by jeanmari at 9:09 AM on November 22, 2010

Rumple, sorry to hear about your situation. We have two sons, the youngest of whom is about 20 months old.

My Neighbor Totoro is intended for very young children, and can provide a lot of solace in tough times.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:09 AM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

*fairy TALE, lord almighty, I need to stop typing on MY iPod...
posted by patronuscharms at 9:10 AM on November 22, 2010

I'm terribly sorry for you and your daughter.

Two is a tough age, as you know, and going through something like this at the same time -- is very tough. Take it as easy on yourself as humanly possible.

Practical stuff our kid likes and has liked:

The iPad
Paints and paint brushes
Big fat chalk
All manner of drawing stuff
Scotch tape
Elmo/Mr. Rogers/Sesame Street
Etch a Sketch type things

Some things we do that might be useful:
We don't give her more than one thing at a time (like not, crayons plus belt plus etch a sketch) -- I think it just gets overwhelming
We rotate toys in and out, putting stuff away for a couple of weeks and then bringing it out
We have really special toys we bring out only on special occasions (we use this for restaurants) but it creates a big splendid novelty about those toys and it gives them a little extra longevity before she gets bored with them at one sitting.

Her biggest interests right now are items she can interact with: art supplies, creating little dramas with her animals, and the iPad. The iPad is really nice because there are many different games and apps and you can keep them coming.

One thing I've tried to do when I'm at my wits' end is to always be thinking of the next thing I'm going to do, or the thing I'll do if she's really fussy. In the supermarket, I think, 'okay if she goes nuts in the check-out line, I'm getting her a bag of M and M's' or 'I'm handing my phone' because it helps me to think where my emergency button is if I get really frazzled.

Again, I'm so sorry and I hopes this helps just a little. (Beautiful kid.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:11 AM on November 22, 2010

I'm sorry to hear this. I hope the chemotherapy works brilliantly for her.

My kids two and a half. They love puzzles. We literally have bought them stacks of hard wooden puzzles to play with.

Online Jigsaw Puzzles for Toddlers. I do not know if these can be played on an iPhone, but if you have a laptop she might be able to either move the mouse or have you move the pieces for her.

It's part of First School Preschool Activities and Crafts, which has stories and lessons you can read to her.
posted by zarq at 9:13 AM on November 22, 2010

I'm so sorry to hear that you are going through this. I don't have many insights into what keeps toddlers amused, but I think that you can't underestimate the importance of a well rested and relaxed mama. Make sure that you eat enough and rest enough, make friends with the chemo nurses, and find the blanket warmer, wherever it is.
posted by pickypicky at 9:17 AM on November 22, 2010

On the other end of the technology scale I would suggest:

- Finger puppets (light, portable, can be pulled out of a pocket when amusement is needed)
- Song books on tape, CD, iPod, etc.
- A Busy Book (also called a Quiet Book)

I'm so sorry you're family is going through this and wish good health for your daughter!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:22 AM on November 22, 2010

Sometimes only novelty will do. I used to buy interesting toys at thrift stores and garage sales and hide them until I needed to distract a sick child or when we had a long car trip to deal with. I would hand a child a cloth bag with 3 - 5 toys/games they had never seen before and get their undivided attention in the time it took to look at everything and figure out what they liked. Even longer if something really took their imagination.
Often included:

Magnet toys
Small dolls
Tea sets/play food
Those old "paint with water" coloring books or other simple to use on the go art things
Books, especially interactive (flaps, puzzles, sounds)

Perhaps if people ask what they can do this would be a simple option, filling a small backpack with special stuff.
posted by readery at 9:28 AM on November 22, 2010

Hugs to you guys.

Our 24-month-old's fave apps:
Duck Duck Moose's Itsy Bitsy app
Peekaboo Barn and Jungle

Also get Nick Jr. - Wonder Pets and Jack's Big Music Show
posted by k8t at 9:30 AM on November 22, 2010

Oh! Very very sorry... Hooray for modern medicine, though.

We got a lot of mileage out of one of those now-$5 electronic photo key rings loaded up with animal photos at 2.5.

See if you think the Leapfrog Scribble and Write and Text and Learn would appeal -- we got them around that age and they were hits straight out of the box even though 2.5 is on the young side; the then-2.5yo down the road had no interest. takes a while to ship stuff out, but it is overflowing with cheap toddler fripperies -- glow in the dark stuff, solar-powered stuff that moves back and forth (fascinating!), etc. (readery is spot on about novelty)

Does she like make-up? Make-up was/is a very big deal here, the ne plus ultra of bribes. With the holidays coming up the drugstores are stuffed with cheap giant kits with dozens of colours of everything; do not forget the brushes and to volunteer yourself for a makeover.

The biggest toddler toy here was everything from the Playmobil 123 series.

A BBC series called "Come Outside" is a beloved favourite, watchable six zillion times. It is sort of a documentary series for tots, beautifully done. There are a number of episodes on YouTube and more are torrent-able, I believe.

Also watched endlessly: a selection of brief videos of herself on my phone. A cheapish video camera would be a nice thing to have.
posted by kmennie at 9:32 AM on November 22, 2010

My son (28 months) has been spending a lot of time in ER's, doctor's waiting rooms lately, and has been hospitalized twice.

In the hospital:

Pediatric wings in hospitals should provide you with a portable DVD player, and a library of discs to watch.

My son prefers to watch DVD's with shows that feature the characters singing. Such as:
* Sesame Street, but especially anything with Elmo in it.
* Disney has a DVD series of "sing along songs". They're songs (with words appearing on screen) from various Disney movies and shows. Everything from Mary Poppins to Aladdin.
* Dora the Explorer
* Jack's Big Music Show
* Backyardigans
* WonderPets
* Laurie Berkner

When he gets nebulizer treatments at home (45 minutes per day) we park him in front of the TV to watch one of those shows.

I've saved him from meltdowns on long flights by downloading shows like this to my blackberry, so he can watch them.

Use YouTube. You can play YouTube videos on your iPhone. Sesame Street's channel has a massive amount of content, and it should keep her busy for hours.

He also loves to play with stickers. We buy sheets of them and blank pieces of paper, then have him peel and stick. You'd be amazed at how much time can be whiled away by a child with stickers and paper. (On a flight a few months ago, we had both kids peel and stick all over the airsickness bags. The flight attendants thought this was hilarious, but it kept the kids happily occupied for an extended period of time.)

If you haven't yet introduced her to coloring on paper, this is a good age for it. Crayola makes washable crayons for kids, and coloring books can be picked up inexpensively at most "dollar" stores.


Certain books are "event" books. We read one of about a dozen books to my kids each night at bedtime.

I took a set he hadn't seen yet (The Dr. Suess body parts series, Eye Book, Ear Book, Nose Book, etc.,) with me the last time he was in the ER, and explained that they were now his "doctor" books. When he goes to the doctor, these are the special books he gets to read. He can read them himself or I can read them to him. He gets to turn the pages if I'm reading.

And of course, let her flip through the photos on your phone. My kids LOVE doing that.
posted by zarq at 9:35 AM on November 22, 2010

How horrifying for you and her. So sorry you're going through this!

My 18 month old daughter loves my iphone. It is baby crack. Some of her favorite apps are from duck duck moo (the itsy bitsy spider, baba black sheep, and, especially, the wheels on the bus).

We also have netflix on there, and she likes to watch the wonderpets.

If you don't have wifi access, maybe some shows from itunes - our daughter loves the "kidsongs" series, especially old mac donald's farms - it's all music, so I guess if your kdi doesn't like music, YMMV.

My daughter spent a lot of time at doctors for a while, and we bought her a doctor's kit, which she continues to love - she likes to check my dad's ears with the pretend otoscope. Along those same lines, anything that has it's own little bag that she can put things into and pull things out of seems to be a big hit.

Depending on what the doctor says and how she is feeling, lots of little snacks might help.

How about a book full of pictures of people she recognizes - our daughter likes to turn the pages and identify people.

More with the music, but songs that you can teach her the motions to are great - wheels on the bus and five little monkeys are big at our house, like itsy bitsy spider which you mentioned.

Def. pens and papers she can draw on.
Maybe a small set of duplos? My daughter likes to do those (with some help).
Flashcards, maybe?
A soft babydoll she can hug and play with?
Lots of books, of course.

I am a big believer in rotating toys and games. I think if you have too many around they get distracted more easily and don't really play with any one thing much. So maybe have some kind of rotation system where things come and go. (This is hard with the iphone - my daughter wants a different story or game every minute or so, now that she understands that the phone does things other than play movies. Something to consider for the annoyance factor. My daughter wants the iphone ALL THE TIME if she sees it - so I try to only bust it out for really important times, otherwise the whining is hard to take. And I can't even imagine how hard it would be to be annoyed with a baby going through chemo, and yet, I'm pretty sure there would come a time that it would happen for me).

Also, sometimes children's hospitals have things set up for help with this - games, books, visits from dogs or clowns or whatever. See if there are things like that to take advantage of.

Gosh, my heart aches for you. Hang in there.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:38 AM on November 22, 2010

Your daughter is adorable! I am so sorry she is going through this.

My 19-month-old loves all the Dr. Suess apps. They will read a book to your kid, or the kid can choose to flip the page him/herself.

Her favorite TV show is Yo Gabba Gabba! but she also likes Sesame Street - there are TONS of Sesame Street clips online at their website. I started an account there and have all her favorite videos saved so we can watch them whenever.

She loves Ponyo, which is a Miyazaki film that came out a few years ago. It is really sweet and cute.

My daughter also loves to make a mess, so sometimes I will just suck it up and let her play with some dried beans or flour in a few bowls on the floor. Or, she also likes to help "pick up" so I will often grab a bunch of blocks or smallish toys, dump them out on the floor and hand her a basket or box. She will put them all in the box, one-by-one, very carefully, and then dump the whole thing on the floor again with joy. And then she will put them all back in the box. It's fun to watch.
posted by sutel at 9:39 AM on November 22, 2010

Oh, yes stickers, I came back to say that. Our daughter also likes Jack's big Music show (less annoying for mom than wonderpets, imo), and also there is a dr. seuss's ABC's app for the iphone I wanted to throw out there.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:39 AM on November 22, 2010

ugh, sorry to keep coming back, but another thing that tends to be a good distraction at our house is letting the kid go to town on our laptop using babysmash. (This may in fact be teaching bad habits, so again YMMV).
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:45 AM on November 22, 2010

How could I forget?! Poisson Rouge is awesome for the 2-3 year old set. My child was obsessed with it. Even watching Vimeo videos related to puppies and kittens made her laugh when she was sick.

(And seconding My Neighbor Totoro, though you might want to watch it before she does to see if she might be afraid of Totoro. My daughter, who is generally fearless, was a bit afraid of him at first because of the roaring.)

Other things that my daughter was into at that age: This train top, this pop-up grasshopper, and IKEA wooden train tracks and trains.
posted by jeanmari at 10:20 AM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do not underestimate the power of a tube of tennis balls. I am not kidding.

When my children were that age, they also loved this little family of dolls (check for different styles/cheaper prices).
posted by Sassyfras at 11:18 AM on November 22, 2010

I am so sorry you are going through this - wishing you the best possible journey through the ordeal.
When you say your child can't use the keyboard, do you mean the hospital won't allow it, or she just doesn't have the motor skills yet? If it's the latter, there are computer games for babies who can't yet type - my son's favorite since he was around 8 months old is craymachine from zefrank's site, but there are also a range of free games - some for banging the keyboard, some just clicking the mouse - on and kneebouncers .

As far as books go, we are getting a ton of mileage out of Next Stop Grand Central, which is nonlinear and silly with a lot of different pictures on every page, and pop-up books like A is for Animals and the One Red Dot series.

We also use YouTube a lot for videos - we made our son a playlist of the ones he seems to like (this is his current lineup, but I'm sure your daughter has her own taste). We've also found the old-school cow-in-a-can can entertain for way longer than you would think possible, especially when you put it inside a soup or other can for extra shakeability.

And then there's Yo Gabba Gabba, which is his personal form of crack.
posted by Mchelly at 11:23 AM on November 22, 2010

Oh, you'll both be in my prayers. She's absolutely adorable.

Things that have worked for me and toddlers have been:

Picture sets (like, 10 or 20 cards, each with a different type of one thing - dresses, dinosaurs, castles, cars, fruits, family members, zoo animals, etc.) Either bound or not. I had a dinosaur card set that only fit in very large pockets that I sat and looked at for YEARS as a kid.

The kind of paper dolls that have magnetized clothing.

Slinkies, silly putty, excessively bouncy balls.

Card games - they never seem to have patience for the rules, which annoys bigger siblings, but they like to lay them all out on a flat surface.

Dolls. I had ones with stories on their chests - you flipped the cloth "page" and the back side was a face for the doll that went along with the story.

They have books of "bedtime stories" where each story takes a page and there's a different story for each year. My parents got it when I was about 3.

DUPLOs and coloring books, absolutely.

Does she like to dress up yet? If so, you can get a lot of mileage out of a small bag of stuff.

She's almost old enough to grasp the basic concept of photography (push the button, keep the picture,) which might be fun. You could give her printouts of her photos from the previous day.

You could set up a kind of advent calendar, where she can open a new door every day (or, heck, the same little box day after day) to find a new toy/bit of candy/whatever.

Do you have an electronic keyboard? Both banging on it and listening to what you just banged out can be entertaining - and you can put headphones on her to give yourself a little rest.
posted by SMPA at 11:36 AM on November 22, 2010

My daughter has always loved stickers, and one sheet of stickers will occupy her for 15 minutes or more. All she does is peel the stickers off and transfer them to a piece of construction paper, and I have no idea why this is so fascinating to her, but it is. There are places where you can buy booklets of stickers cheaply, and I just hand her a page and she goes to town. Also, bubble wrap. She loves the pop pop pop noise, and she'll sit and work on a square of bubble wrap until every last bubble is popped. It makes her giggle. Best of health to your little one.
posted by molasses at 11:57 AM on November 22, 2010

Silly little things that might help: when I was a kid, my mother would bring crayons with me to doctors appointments so we could draw on the paper over the examining table. She also would steal tongue depressors and draw little faces on them to make them puppets.

My thoughts are with you and your family.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:07 PM on November 22, 2010

I hope everything goes beautifully.

In addition to all of the great suggestions above, please lena on the hospital Child Life Therapist. Depending on your state or country, this person may go by a different name (we used to call them 'play therapists'). But whatever the name, she or he can do wonders in helping your child adapt to the hospital environment.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:44 PM on November 22, 2010

At that age, my son could play for a long time with a rimmed cookie sheet covered in mixed dried beans and lentils. He'd use his construction toys to dig the lentils and build them into piles; he'd also sort the beans by color and type into an empty egg carton.

Something that was maybe a little too quiet for him, but depending on your daughter's preferences might be a hit, was cutting shapes out of felt and laying them on a felt board to make stories together.

So sorry to hear that she and you are going through this. Best wishes for a complete and speedy recovery.
posted by palliser at 1:50 PM on November 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone so much for these wonderful ideas (and keep them coming). We just got called over earlier than expected, so she starts chemo on Wednesday now. The duck duck moose apps look very much like her kind of thing. I will download some tonight so she has them for the ferry ride tomorrow.

Re: keyboards, she could slam her palms around some but I don't think she could engage with one meaningfully. She can poke at a touch screen and can swipe images on an ipod - that is, for months now I have had a file of animal pictures on an ipod which she can scroll through with a finger. This is about the limit of her dexterity though, especially as post-surgery her right hand is not working as well as it was (but it is improving).

I'll be looking at this thread lots in the weeks to come and trying out your different ideas. Again, I thank you all sincerely for your ideas, and for your good wishes.
posted by Rumple at 4:16 PM on November 22, 2010

This has to be so hard for you--I'm so sorry! Hopefully I'm not too late to the party to be of some use.

There's some good software out there for the very small set that doesn't require use of a keyboard. At that age, my daughter was in love with Reader Rabbit Toddler and Reader Rabbit Playtime for Baby and Toddler. You can buy them for about ten bucks each on Amazon, and they're fantastic. Everything is controlled by pushing a key (any key--keyboard smashes included) or waving the mouse around. I've since passed my copies on to another friend, and then they went to my mother, who teaches Headstart (special ed) for ages 3-6. They were well worth the fifteen bucks or so that I paid for them--really can't say enough good things about those titles.

Also, re: movies: Go look up Pingu on Youtube and see if it's your daughter's thing or not. Mine loooooved it from when she was about eighteen months old. It would prompt hours of hysterical laughter--she just thought it was the funniest thing ever. About half of her stuffed animals are named Pingu. It's held up well, too--she turned eight a few weeks ago, and is in bed right now, watching an episode of Pingu before she goes to sleep. Moreover, her father and I will watch it. Willingly. It's utterly, utterly charming, and there aren't any words, which meant that it was easy for me to tune it out, even when she wanted to watch it for the millionth time.
posted by MeghanC at 6:07 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Praying for you and your little one.

My kids love Shaun the Sheep (from the same team as Wallace and Gromit). No words, just sheep and doggy sounds and music, with the occasional pig/duck sideshow. It's very slapstick and adorable, and easy for you to watch, too -- we are having before-bedtime marathons this week.

Can you do fun things like paint her toenails/fingernails?
posted by mdiskin at 6:25 PM on November 22, 2010

So sorry to hear that your daughter and you are going through this.

Gearation is a big hit with my friends who are your daughter's age.

My niece's favorite songs when she was a toddler were Yes We Have No Bananas and Ducks Like Rain; she liked the videos a lot but she liked even better when her human jukebox (i.e., me) would sing them for her upon request. Fingerplays are also great for those times when you need to distract or amuse at a moment's notice.

Talking Carl and Balloonimals are good iPhone apps.

All the very best to you and your family.
posted by corey flood at 8:13 PM on November 22, 2010

Sesame Street Podcast will keep her quiet and happy at many a doctor's appointment. And if you're looking for 5 minute amusements, look no further than the dollar store - you could wrap up a little present for each day and give it to her. I found a kid's camera there that has fascinated my daughter for months. Best of luck
posted by crazycanuck at 10:27 PM on November 22, 2010

Nobody has mentioned Pocoy├│, which is a Spanish animated production aimed at toddlers and delightful for all ages. The English version is voiced by Stephen Fry, but it was completely delightful already before the translation.

You can make her "magic boxes" with holes connected with old toilet paper and kitchen roll tubes. Then you take turns posting balls down the tubes. It's my next project to do with/for my own little two-legged mammal.

My thougts go out to you and to your daughter. Best wishes.
posted by kandinski at 11:05 PM on November 22, 2010

I'm sorry you and she are going through this.

Ridiculous thing my friend let her son do at that age, which he LOVED: use chocolate pudding as finger paint, in an empty bathtub. (I don't know if this is a realistic option if she has bandages that can't get dirty, etc. But it is guaranteed ridiculousness.)

Matching games like Memory - there are a million sets of these, so you can find one that has nice animal pictures on it and bring a set of cards with you to lay out on the bed/table. "Here's one giraffe. But where is the other giraffe? I can't find him! Do you see him?"
If she's bored of matching, you can also make up stories that go with the cards - "Hello, I'm Mr Giraffe. I went down to the park and I found...... an alligator!" etc. Even fall back on older games like "what does the lion say".

Some of Dr Seuss's books for older kids are great hypnotic reading that may help her get to sleep -- I used "Scrambled Eggs Super" for this purpose with a kid of that age in a somewhat stressful circumstance - read it in an increasingly fast and lulling rhythm and it knocked him right out. It takes a book with great prosody to work for this, hence the Seuss.

You could try a "fishing" set - they have little fishing rods with magnetic hook, and plastic fish with magnets in their noses. She might get into the challenge of trying to catch the fish (not sure if she likes mechanical challenges like this).
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:21 AM on November 23, 2010

Response by poster: I've had a couple of recent mefimails about little C, and so I thought I would post an update here.

Firstly, though, she became quite the prodigy on her iPhone, and then, for her megadose, we got an iPad and she is unbelievably fluent on that as well. To wrap up the above question, when she was just learning to use the iPhone, the most successful games were

- Wheels on the Bus
- Itsy Bitsy Spider
- Peekaboo Barn

As she got more dextrous, probably the biggest hit was

- Monkey Lunchbox - SHE LOVED THIS and the fact it changes a lot means that she never got tired of say, the matching game
- she also got a lot of pleasure from some simple jigsaw puzzles.

Shows she liked a lot were, in the beginning
- Night Garden
- Wonder Pets (with a bullet!)
- Waybuloo (she now calls all kids older than her "cheebees"!
- the video The Snowman (I'm flying in the aiiiiiir) Snowmen filled a huge part of her imagination over the winter and thank heavens we had an unusual snowfall on a day when she was able to go outside and make one :)

She then got into
- Dora
- Max and Ruby

She watched a lot of shows during megadose and Dora, with its loud voices and commanding presence took centre stage then when she was feeling most poorly.

Since she's been home, she really isn't that interested in TV anymore, which we were wondering if she would be a complete media junkie. Well, she loves just kicking a ball as much as any kid!

She did get a lot of fun from stickers and crayons as well, and from a little flashlight and a light-up snowman globe. She also had a set of the Night Garden figurines and that was endlessly of interest to her.

All in all, the secret was variety, but also sensing what her mood was and developing a set of responses (was she feeling poorly/insecure - Night Garden. Happy - Wonder Pets. Active but couldn't leave the crib - stickers or blocks.)

Also, I found myself agreeing with almost everything on this blog post about toddler apps. The app MUST load quickly, not have a lot of buttons that accidentally take you out of the game, not have pop-ups when loading or any other time, and must also be playable 100 times - so mix it up - there's no reason I can see to have the exact same combination of elements. Lunchbox does this well where a lot of games would have the same matching pattern each time, it is effectiely randomized. It's amazing how lame some games are.

OK, so now the update on her health.


C. is doing really well. After her operation, she had 5 rounds of chemo, which was hard on her but she handled really well - by the fifth, her weight was down and she was clearly worn down but still a going concern.

Then she had round six, which was megadose therapy, in which they brought her to death's door (literally) and then kick-started her with a stem cell transplant. She handled that extremely well but that is relative to it being a pretty extreme procedure and she was very, very sick and extremely thin. After about a month or so she was up and about somewhat and eating again..

So that was in early May, and now she is back in daycare and having a blast, 50th percentile for weight and for height, and she even has a cm of hair! So we are really really happy with her progress. She does have some small balance issues from damage to the cerebellum and lack of activity but the brain seems to be routing around those!

Of course, we are not out of the woods. There is significant chance of recurrence, especially in the next 18 months or so. She had a clean brain/spine MRI two weeks ago, and will continue to get them every 3 months for the next few years, and annually until she is an adult. That's the most likely way it would get picked up if it came back.

So, we are just trying to live for the day and not think about the other shoe dropping right. Right now she is a healthy and vibrant kid much like any other kid.

A couple of pics are on my semi-dormant flickr stream here one from last weekend at the fair another a while after last chemo - the pic says May so maybe three weeks after coming back from hospital - making cupcakes.
posted by Rumple at 10:49 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the update and I'm thrilled to hear of her progress in the face of such a difficult and scary treatment. She's such a cute little girl and I wish her all the best health from here on out.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:56 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, otherwordlyglow! I feel both optimistic, and scared....
posted by Rumple at 3:55 PM on September 6, 2011

Thank you for the update, Rumple. She's just adorable, and I am wishing her continued clean scans.
posted by palliser at 7:04 PM on September 6, 2011

Thanks for updating... she sounds like an incredible trooper. Hope it's all clear from now on.
posted by Mchelly at 7:09 PM on September 6, 2011

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