Stuck in bed for the summer
June 7, 2008 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I just found out my 14 year old niece broke both her femur and tibia and will be in a cast from hip to toe for the next 6 weeks! I want to put together a care package - any suggestions?

I don't know her that well, but I do know she is very into sports such as soccer and basketball. She doesn't play video games, so that's out, and I don't know what type of music or tv she likes. Help! What are some things I could give her to occupy her time while she is basically bed-ridden for the summer? Any books that are popular with the teens I should know about? (I checked with her mom but she said "anything" will be appreciated.)
posted by bahama mama to Human Relations (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I did a lot of crocheting during physical therapy. I suggest a cute, fashionable learn-to-knit or crochet kit, which can be found in a Michael's or even a larger bookstore, in the crafts section.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:24 AM on June 7, 2008

Nintendo DS. She doesn't play video games yet.
posted by alby at 9:40 AM on June 7, 2008 [5 favorites]

A long backscratcher. From what I've been told there's nothing worse than an itch deep down a cast that you can't scratch.
posted by justnathan at 9:45 AM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I was 14, I was in a hip-to-toe plaster cast for about 10 weeks across most of summer and the first part of my freshman year. Fortunately I was mobile and I was able to get down to the movie theaters every few days with some crutches and a bus. If your niece really is more or less bedridden for the duration, why not get her a netflix or greencine account and one of those cheapo DVD players? Or if she's going to be semi-mobile, maybe a stack of movie tickets?

I know audiobooks are big with the younger crowd, although I can't be sure about the appeal to today's 14 year old, so what about a subscription to something like Simply Audiobooks?
posted by majick at 10:06 AM on June 7, 2008

A teenaged neighbor kid who has been going through a year of one legged recovery since being injured in a major car accident has a become a whiz bang harmonica player, because of all his cast enforced practice time. Seriously, the kid has worked up his own, heartfelt plaintive arrangement of Dixie that can raise hairs on the back of your neck, and does a Bluesette that would make Toots Thielemans smile.

This is no time for her to take up cello, or piano, or other instruments where body position is essential, but a breath instrument like harmonica or recorder can not only be entertaining, but it goes some way to helping bed ridden persons avoid pneumonia, according to the neighbor kid's physical therapist.
posted by paulsc at 10:08 AM on June 7, 2008

Second a Netflix subscription (and a portable DVD player if she doesn't have a player in the room).
posted by radioamy at 10:44 AM on June 7, 2008

Get a beginners knitting book (one that includes 'how to knit') that focuses on easy teen-pleasing patterns. Go to a craft store or yarn store and get her some supplies for some of the projects in the book (the staff should be able to help you to do this.) This site is especially usefull for people teaching themselves to knit, since it has video demos. She'll have something to do, and will be to accomplish something while she just sits there!
posted by Kololo at 10:57 AM on June 7, 2008

Stephanie Meyer's books are great, even adults like them. Vampire romance novels with nothing more steamy than kissing. But they're long, teen oriented and there are three of them. Plus they're good - not that I (ahem) would know or anything...

I like the idea of netflix and videos as well as knitting/crocheting books. Maybe some blank paper and a bunch of markers (sharpies so she can cover her cast with drawings)? I keep thinking of the movie Frida where she is stuck in a cast and draws all over it and discovers she's an artist.

A few more ideas: Her own copy of Bend it like Beckham. A nerf slingshot to hit siblings when they dance all over the place and she can't. Handheld puzzle games either electronic or not (I used to have one that had water in it and you'd try to get the little loops over the tines). Two decks of cards and a book of solitaire games. Some of those klutz drawing books might be fun (go to a craft store). Ohh I had Ed Emberley's Great Thumbprint Drawing Book when I was a kid and whiled away hours making silly little scenes. That might be fun too.

Sounds like a very sweet idea! Good luck!
posted by mulkey at 11:26 AM on June 7, 2008

Seconding the DS, unless she really dislikes video games on principle (I married a hater, you can't convince them). It's hard to know what to recommend without knowing her, but Professor Layton is a sweet puzzler and Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass is a deliciously addictive puzzler. There are lots to choose from!

You can totally get a used DS for pretty cheap at a Gamestop or something — just make sure you turn it on in the shop and see that it doesn't have dead pixels, which make the baby Jesus cry.

Runner-up idea: an omnibus origami book and some (good) origami paper. I have Eric Kenneway's "Complete Origami" which would IIRC be pretty in-depth but still good for a beginner. I haven't folded in years though so if anyone has a better book to recommend please do!
posted by mindsound at 12:28 PM on June 7, 2008

Oh yeah wow books duh. Again, ignorant of your niece's personality I'd recommend Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials books (starting with The Golden Compass, the movie version of which is only so-so), Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, and Cory Doctorow's new book Little Brother (free download!).

Aha: a library card, if she doesn't have one already. :)
posted by mindsound at 12:35 PM on June 7, 2008

Make sure she's got a laptop with a cooler fan, on which she can play the movies from your Netflix gift. And make sure it's got internet access, so she can also watch any of those thousands of Netflix movies which stream free if you have a Netflix account.

You don't need to buy it alone, you can be the one to orchestrate the purchase and get everyone else on board -- other family members, her athletic team members, whoever. (In fact, you ought not buy it alone even if it's not a problem, money-wise -- it'll be cool for her to know that she's loved by so many that surround her.)

You can get a basic laptop for under five hundred bucks, new, probably four hundred if you watch sales closely (and you're going to have to play the rebate game, which is annoying.) Probably get a used puter for two hundred fifty -- it's got to have a good screen and a dvd drive and a fast enough chip to play those streamed Netflix movies.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:35 PM on June 7, 2008

get her a guitar and maybe a couple at-home lessons to start off, then show her how to find guitar tutorials on youtube so she can spend the summer learning to play songs by artists she likes. those youtube demos & covers are really inspiring- it's so cool hearing people's individual & imperfect covers of so many different songs in unexpected styles.

if price is a factor when looking for a guitar, you can probably find one at a good rate on craigslist. and i'd suggest looking for one with a narrow neck- most girls have smaller hands, and a narrower neck is easier to play.
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:26 PM on June 7, 2008

When I was 14, I really got into making my own jewellery - everything from casual every day sort of stuff right up to really elegant and expensive looking pieces with weaved wire and lots and lots of beads. Some of the more complicated pieces take a couple of solid days worth of work. Once you put in the initial expense of good pliers and some basic findings and supply of beads - if she's any way creatively inclined it will provide hours of distractions. Ditto with scrapbooking.

It's probably better of you chat to her about it first - but in the US I believe there is a huge industry for both of these hobbies, so I think finding supplies should be reasonably simple and you should be able to do it fairly cheaply. Stuff that she makes also makes awesome gifts.
posted by cholly at 4:46 PM on June 7, 2008

Some thoughts for non-video games (these links are to a site with reviews and pictures; you can buy the games from merchants online like Funagain or Amazon, or from a local store)
My two strongest recommendations would be:
1. Settlers of Catan - pretty much a guaranteed winner for anyone, IF she will have 2 or 3 friends/family members to play with. A tiny bit complex when first learning the rules, but quickly becomes straightforward. A game of trading and negotiation, with some elements of "stick it to the other guy". It's a different board every time, and this is definitely a game you could play all summer without getting sick of it. It's been the most popular board game in the world for the last 10 years or so. (But if she won't have anyone to play with, then skip it.)

2. Set - fun for solitaire or with a group of any size. A geometric logic-puzzle game, also it's cards-only so it's less expensive than full board games.

Other thoughts....
Citadels - card game with negotiation element, 2+ players. Favorite of older teenagers at the game store I used to work at.

Bohnanza - simpler card game with heavy negotiation, trading etc, works with 3+. The premise is that you're a bean farmer, but the game is great fun if you think she would be willing to give it a try.

Blokus - simple, great with 2,3, or 4 players. Beautiful to look at, but always interesting strategically.

Ticket to Ride - straightforward, works with 2-5; build train routes across the US.

Mamma Mia! - very simple pizza-building card game, 2-5 players. Might be too simple?

Party games like Taboo, Apples to Apples, Pictionary, etc

Bang! - western gunfighting game, with secret allies and enemies. Fast, fun, beloved by teenagers (girls included) at the game store I used to work at. Requires 4+ players.

Killer Bunnies - is a goofy card game for 2+ players. If she or the family have a slightly goofy sense of humor she'll probably enjoy this. The strategy isn't that intense, but if she's not a heavy-duty strategy person the funny cards may be plenty amusing regardless. Pictures at the link.

Munchkin is a series of silly, fun card games. There are Munchkin games in various themes: Fantasy (Dungeons and Dragons), Vampire, Pirate, Star Wars, Kung-Fu, Western, Mission Impossible, H.P.Lovecraft, etc - so you may be able to find one that's up her alley. The cards are sometimes a little racy (eg the artwork has cartoon bikini-babes, think the level of raciness of Mad Magazine), IIRC.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:46 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thirding (fourthing) the DS.../.it is such a unique system that its great for a lot of 73 year old mother got one to play brain age and the like. Check out Professor Layton and the Curious Village...not a 'video game' at all...more like a digital puzzle.

A laptop and a wireless router and a subscription to club so she can collect badges...tons of solitaire type games that are also not video gamey.
posted by legotech at 8:26 PM on June 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone for all the suggestions and thoughtful advice! I truly appreciate it and I definitely have enough ideas to come up with something I think she'll like.
posted by bahama mama at 8:57 AM on June 8, 2008

Fourteen year olds are usually old enough to read the books that adults want to read in my experience.

Also, try and get your hands on an old Nintendo machine and a few old games. There are no better video games for non-video game players.

Get her an edible arrangement to munch on, and stationary to write letters to her friends.

Netfix is your friend.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 8:13 PM on June 8, 2008

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