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Active Play for Kids with Casts

A broken bone doesn't have to mean staying sedentary. Try these ideas instead.

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After they conquer the initial pain of injury, kids with casts on their limbs usually bounce back quickly. The challenge for parents becomes twofold: Keeping them safe from re-injury, and also making sure they aren't spending their days glued to the TV screen. After all, even the tube gets boring in large doses.

First, find out from your child's doctor what kinds of activities are OK. She will probably recommend that your child avoid running and biking (due to the risk from falls), as well as contact sports like soccer and basketball—again because of the risk of impact from collisions with other players or the ground.

Most kids today can get a waterproof cast (fiberglass with a waterproof liner), which makes living with a cast much easier for everyone. These can go in the bathtub, shower, and even the swimming pool. Your doctor will explain how best to care for the cast, whether it's plaster or fiberglass. In any case, your child will need to steer clear of sand, wood chips, and gravel so that irritants don't become trapped under the cast.

Activities for Kids with Casts on Their Arms

If your child has an injury to her hand, wrist, arm, elbow, or shoulder, she should be able to enjoy activities that focus on the lower body. Try:

  • Walking, or hiking on smooth terrain: Visit a new trail, park, nature center, or even a museum; the novelty will make the walk more interesting. You can also play some walking games as you go.
  • Dancing: Be inspired by a motion-controlled video game—just be careful if more than one child is dancing. That cast will hurt if it knocks into someone's head!
  • Swimming: As long as the cast is waterproof, this is a great activity for a kid with a cast. A kickboard can help make up for the arm that's out of commission. Check with the doctor in advance about diving boards and water slides, though; they may be off-limits for now.
  • Footwork drills: While soccer practice and games are likely out while your child heals, she can still use her feet to practice dribbling, passing, and shooting the ball.
  • Indoor toys with an active twist: Some toys and games prompt kids to get up and be active, even inside, and may be suitable for kids with an arm (or leg; see below) in a sling or cast.

Activities for Kids with Casts on Their Legs

If your child's injury is to his lower body, he may still be able to swim and walk, depending on the nature of his injury, his current stage of recovery, and the type of cast. Again, get your doctor's advice on what is OK and when. She might allow:

  • Swimming, if the cast is waterproof
  • Walking, possibly with crutches or a cane. Walking with crutches takes some practice, but will build upper-body strength. As your child gets more proficient, make it a game by adding obstacles to maneuver around.
  • Exergames (like sports games on the Wii or Kinect), as long as they don't require jumping. Boxing, for example, can really get the heart pumping just from moving the arms.
  • Gardening or yardwork, such as weeding while sitting on the ground or watering plants with a hose
  • Leisure activities that are full-body, but low-impact, such as bowling, badminton, miniature golf or putting practice; maybe even visits to batting cages or a driving range
  • Yoga: Look for a class or video focusing on "restorative" or "seated" yoga
  • Upper body skills practice: Shooting baskets, playing catch or throwing a ball at a target (all can be done from a chair, if necessary), bouncing a tennis ball up or down with a racquet
  • Art projects that engage large muscles

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