30+ Ways to Stay Sane While Waiting With Kids

We sat in the pale, square room. In the decade 30 minutes since we got there, my 3 and 4 year olds crumpled the books in my bag, colored 3 pictures each, knocked over the trash can, smeared Eau d’Cheerio on the windows, fought over every crayon in the box, threw fits on the floor, got stuck under the exam table, and decreased my life expectancy by 20 years.

Let’s be honest, kids aren’t beacons of patience. Especially when they’re in frustrating situations that are beyond our control.

Since 2 of my 4 kids have developmental delays, medical and psychiatric special needs, I’ve spent over 200 hours in doctors offices in the last 6 years. Most of that in waiting rooms. That will make any mommy nuts. Trust me, I know.

Back in that pale, tiny room 4 years ago, I had a choice. Go with the angry, impatient, “crazy mom” moment, or find a way to enjoy the ride. I spent a year doing the first. NOT a pretty sight. Then one day I just decided to have fun in the waiting room. I had to spend the day being mom anyway, why not just extend normal life into that sterile little room? The least that could happen was we’d all be happier. And that was all the motivation I needed!

So here it is. A list of silly, goofy, playful things to do in a waiting room so you can wait with style instead of teeter on the brink of mommy psychosis. Enjoy! And please leave a comment with your ideas at the end!

Make art:

  • Crayola color wonder kits (no mess – yay!)
  • crayons and coloring books
  • stickers and paper
  • window decals (from Target $1 isle) to use on cabinets or windows
  • try to draw a recognizable picture together (house, boat, person). One starts & other finishes it.
  • draw your ideal waiting room and talk about what you’d do there
  • make a cootie catcher from office paper
  • make word searches together

Get the wiggles out:

  • charades
  • make a secret handshake
  • play hokey pokey
  • play Simon says
  • play name that tune. Then do it with only foot tapping or clapping.
  • play rock paper scissors for chance to pick the next activity
  • try to balance a pen on your nose (like a see-saw)
  • see who can stand on one foot the longest
  • have a thumb war

Play games:

  • travel Sorry or Connect Four (or another travel-sized favorite)
  • deck of cards – for Go Fish, Old Maid, War, etc.
  • make rhymes
  • play the alphabet game (find an A, then a B… from words in the room)
  • think of as many words that start with the sound/letter ___ as you can
  • play hang-man
  • guess how many people will come and go during your wait and see who’s closest
  • make a new board game using a sheet of office paper and crayons

Laugh together

  • tell each other (or make up) jokes
  • recite Shel Silverstien poems
  • say tongue twisters
  • invent a new language and talk exclusively in that until the appointment starts
  • pretend you’re from outer space and trying to figure out what the room is for, looking for clues

Do something practical

  • imagine/plan your next adventure or family vacation
  • write a letter to grandma
  • plan your family’s meals for the week together

What would you add to the list? To leave a comment, click here. (No, seriously. I’ll be using your suggestions for next week’s appointments! 🙂

Have a great weekend!

Share the love. . .Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookEmail this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this page


  1. says

    This post was timely for me– thanks for writing it! I love the phrase “teeter on the brink of mommy psychosis”– can't we all relate?!

    I posted and linked to you for these great ideas.

  2. says

    Wow, Shannon! I love all those ideas! That's stuff I could just add to normal life around here when the kids have “bored” moments. And love the scripture focus too. Thanks for your comment!

  3. says

    Laurie, What a super practical post! I love your ideas/suggestions, and the fact that the only change here is “perspective!”

    My additions: read a Bible story then act it out, learn the books of the Bible (perhaps by song), memorize a Scripture verse, jumping jacks, time yourselves running in place, see who can hold their breath the longest, stretch, Uno, bubble blowing contest (w/ gum), decorate Christmas/B-day/Valentine's Day cards to give away, learn how to fold paper airplanes using a guide book, learn something about the human body (use a model in the office or bring a book), impersonations, Pictionary, Catch-a-phrase, recall funny stories/favorites/family memories, Mad Libs (or make up your own), read Chronicles of Narnia or some other chapter book aloud, paint your fingernails/toenails,Queen Latifah, Rewrite the words to familiar songs about waiting in the doctor's office…

    How fun to think up ideas! Blessings in Christ to you and yours as you wait, Laurie!

  4. says

    ohmygoodness! I am so glad I found your post and subsequently your website. Thank you for all the info. I just clicked on your videos and I want to watch all of them! most all the headings sound like us 🙂 And I know I will be going thru all the posts in the topic box too. I have a feeling I am going to be on here a while 🙂 oh! And I just ordered one of the books on your resource page “When madness comes home” on Amazon. Thank you for posting all along your journey.

  5. says

    Charlotte – as you're looking, check for the ones marked special needs (in the topic box below my videos). That's where a lot of the posts are. And check my resources page too. Some good books for raising kids with tough behavior.

    Have a great day!

  6. says

    Thanks Laurie! I just saw this message just now. And the one you left on my blog. Thank you for taking the time out to reply on both. And thank you for the info.

    I am looking forward to looking through your blog (I'm new here 🙂 and your other posts and encouragement on the topic of BP.

    God Bless you,

  7. says


    I am new to your blog but want to thank you for this post. I am a father of 2 beautiful boys who are extremely active so waiting with them is not as “fun” as one might imagine. I love how you were able to let go after one painful year and enjoy the experience. You are soo right, In life those moments don't have to be wasted and can be used as a time to grow closer together. I will do my best to put this to practice and will think of you when I do.

    I look forward to coming back to your blog and getting to learn more from you.

    Sending you a Big Hug – Bernardo

  8. says

    Charlotte – thank you so much for your prayers. I stopped over and left a comment with my contact info on your blog (which I love, btw!). So good to hear from you and I'm looking forward to connecting and encouraging one another!

  9. says

    I saw your post on FB moms together about this blog post but what caught my eye was this…”I'm waiting for my daughter's bipolar to stabilize”.

    I too spend way too much time doing this, sadly. 🙁 just wondering how old your daughter is and if you have any writing regarding this or could recommend some.

    I have talked with my daughter about possibly sharing her story to help others and she said… “First, I think I need to finish helping myself” 🙂 (She's only 13)

    Thanks for any info. I will be praying for both you and your daughter.

  10. says

    I have 2 sets of twins who are in kindergarten and 2nd grade. One of my 2nd graders has autism, so I can relate to some of this! One thing we do while waiting is find a spot on the floor – like a red tile or even a smudge – and then we pick a starting point and take turns pitching a penny at that spot. Whoever comes the closest in 3 rounds is the winner.

  11. says

    Laura – That “making up a story together” idea would be so fun! My dad used to do that with us as kids for bedtime stories. It would totally be fun in a waiting room!

  12. says

    Great ideas Laurie! I always had a book with me or magazines to read. I still carry a book with me most days just in case I get stuck somewhere! Telling stories or all making up the story together, taking turns making it up would be fun too!

  13. says

    This is a great list of ideas! I always aim for the first appointment or the first one after lunch so I (hopefully) won't have to wait so long. 🙂