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Choosing the Right Waiting Room Entertainment for Kids

April 03, 2024

A young child plays with puzzle pieces on the floor of a waiting room and an adult hands them a piece

Your waiting room is a busy place. On any given day, you’re juggling a full schedule of patients with their own unique needs. But one group in particular needs more hands-on attention to pass the time.


You might already have some toys on hand to keep them busy, or maybe you’re looking for some fresh ideas. Don’t worry — we’ll walk through how to make the kids in your clinic feel right at home.

Whether they’re visiting for an appointment or tagging along with a parent or guardian, it’s important to choose waiting room entertainment that caters to the unique needs of children. Plus, we’ve got some helpful tips on how to keep your waiting room organized and fun! 🧸

Why child-friendly waiting rooms matter

A young girl smiles as she sits in her parent's lap in a waiting room

Improving expectations

Creating a fun, calming place to play can have a cumulative positive effect on a child’s expectations. If a kid remembers that your clinic has that awesome toy they loved playing with last time they were there, they may even be excited to visit you again.

Helping parents and guardians

Waiting room entertainment makes your whole front desk experience smoother for the parents and guardians. When kids are sufficiently occupied and entertained, it allows the adults time to complete paperwork, ask questions, and prepare for appointments without distractions. It also helps facilitate smooth and orderly check-ins, allowing your clinic to function more efficiently, which benefits everyone.

Supporting development

Choosing waiting room toys is all about creating an environment that not only entertains, but also nurtures kids’ physical, emotional, social, and intellectual needs. When we put some extra thought into the toys and activities available in the waiting area, we’re setting the stage for positive experiences and successful visits.

Key considerations when selecting waiting room entertainment

Two children play with rainbow-colored toys, one unicorn and one dinosaur, in a waiting room

Choosing the right waiting room entertainment is more than just picking out some toys. It’s about finding that sweet spot where things like safety, cost, accessibility, and hygiene all meet, while also considering noise levels and whether the options are suitable for kids of different ages and needs.

Let’s take a look at a few helpful considerations:

Age guidelines. Align activities with safe developmental stages. Infants need stuffed animals without removable parts, while LEGOs suit older children.

Safety first. Prioritize hypoallergenic, BPA-free, non-toxic toys made from safe materials that pose no choking hazards or risks of toppling and causing injury.

Cleanliness. Select toys that are easy to disinfect and develop rigorous cleaning protocols to prevent germ transmission.

Inclusivity. Offer entertainment choices that reflect diverse backgrounds, accommodate differently-abled children, and appeal to a wide spectrum of ages and interests.

Make the most out of your space. Floor plans, storage capacity, and existing décor may dictate options. Maximize space through wall mounts, corner shelves, or rotating toy selections.

Potential disruptions. Some facilities may need stricter noise guidelines. Prioritize quieter play for smaller spaces over loud options that may disturb staff or patients.

Budget-friendly. Seek quality second-hand toys or emphasize value picks that withstand frequent use over luxury brands with higher price tags. Weigh costs against developmental value.

Great ideas for child-friendly waiting rooms

A young girl lies down on a couch in a waiting room and reads a book

Think about all of the people in your waiting room on any given day. Out of the many, diverse clients you interact with, each person is unique — including children.

Fortunately, there are endlessly creative combinations of toys, books, and activities to engage children across different developmental stages. The key is finding the right mix of items to make sure no one is left out.

Let’s take a look at some of the different types of entertainment to consider when planning your waiting room.

Quiet play for calm environments

For smaller waiting rooms where noise can be a distraction for other patients, consider investing in quieter toys and games that won’t disrupt the rest of the waiting room. Stuffed animals and plush toys can spark imagination and provide emotional comfort for anxious children. For safety, remember to choose sizes larger than an infant’s fist with secured eyes and nose pieces to prevent choking hazards.

Magazines and books can also encourage quiet engagement. Reading is an amazing way to foster emotional and intellectual growth in kids. By curating a range of age-appropriate and diverse titles at all reading levels, you can make sure we’re connecting with children from all walks of life.

As well, puzzles and logic games offer calm, brain-stimulating fun. Jigsaw puzzles, 3D puzzles, color and number-based puzzles, magnetic fishing sets, and other hands-on games entertain young minds while building concentration. As always, be sure to select toys with large, secured pieces to ensure safety.

A young boy and girl enjoy coloring dinosaurs with crayons in an activity book in a waiting room

Building and creating

Building sets, art supplies, and other inventive games inspire open-ended creativity ideal for childhood development. Toys like LEGOS, KNEX, Lincoln Logs, Duplo blocks, and other building games exercise spatial and creative thinking while providing endless configurations to explore.

Art-based activities can also boost creativity and engagement. Easy options like washable crayons, markers, and sticky pads for doodling encourage self-expression without the cleanup. Just make sure to lean toward hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and kid-friendly supplies.

If freehand ink and crayon seem like too much, you can also consider mess-free options like magnetic drawing boards, invisible inks, water-reveal activity pads, and spirograph designs. These can captivate kids for hours with no-waste cleanup.

Technology for multimedia engagement

These days, most kids are exposed to technology and digital entertainment at an early age. And while TVs, tablets, and gaming consoles are effective tools to entertain digitally inclined kids, they tend to require more oversight and controls.

TVs are the simplest option. You can curate a playlist of popular age-appropriate shows or animated films to engage young viewers and keep them occupied.

If you want something more interactive, tablets and video game consoles can be pre-loaded with educational apps and games for various age groups. When it comes to electronics, just make sure to purchase protective cases and sanitize between uses.

A child and their parents play a game on a tablet together while sitting on a playmat in a waiting room

Budget-conscious ideas

Creating a child-friendly environment might require some resourcefulness and outside-the-box thinking, but it doesn’t need to break the bank. Here are some budget-friendly options to choose from that will keep kids entertained for hours:

  • Coloring and activity books offer low-cost entertainment kids can take home
  • Build your own puzzle — you can create cost-effective ones with a printer like Vistaprint
  • For toys, books, and games, you can typically find quality options at second-hand or thrift stores like Value Village. Just make sure you clean these items before bringing them back to your clinic.

Maintaining a hygienic environment

Young boy builds a lego set in a waiting room

When kids are outside your clinic, they’re touching everything. And when they come into your clinic, they’re touching the toys in your waiting room.

To keep everyone healthy, you’ll want to think about cleaning strategies and storage solutions to reduce germs.

Here are some tips that can help you maintain a hygienic environment:

Daily cleaning. Sanitize all toys with medical-grade disinfectant at the end of each day and let dry completely overnight.

Weekly deep cleaning. For fabric toys and porous surfaces, employ more rigorous cleaning each week with child-safe antimicrobial sprays.

Proper storage. Dedicate clear storage bins for clean toys. Use separate containers to hold soiled toys awaiting cleaning.

Choose washable fabrics. When selecting stuffed critters, dolls, and plush toys seek out machine-washable fabrics that withstand regular laundering.

Adequate ventilation. Ensure waiting rooms have proper ventilation and open windows regularly to circulate fresh air.

Clever storage solutions for a clutter-free space

A waiting room designed with storage bins with the backdrop of a house, clouds, and potted planters. A stuffed monkey hangs from the ceiling attached to an overhanging pendant light. Wave Physiotherapy. Photo courtesy of Articulate Design Co.

So now that you’ve picked out your toys, you’ll need somewhere to put them.

Here are a few creative storage ideas to keep your space clutter-free:

Mount shelving on walls/doors. Wall-mounted shelves and hanging canvas bins maximize floor space for play areas.

Categorize toys. Use color-coded bins and baskets to separate toys by type (plush, puzzles, blocks, books) for quick cleanup.

Label bins. Print labels clearly identifying toy types and age groups. Images help pre-reading kids participate in cleanup.

Rotate toy selections. Keep excess toys in storage closets and rotate new options weekly or monthly to maintain freshness.

Install coat hooks/cubbies. Designate nearby spaces for families to store bags, coats, and strollers to prevent hallway clutter.

Encourage kids to clean up. Use fun signage and verbal cues to get kids to participate in cleanup before and after appointments.

Accommodating children across all developmental stages

A young child smiles and plays with block letters on the play mat of a waiting room. Their parent or guardian is crouched beside them, smiling.

Children’s needs change so quickly as they grow and develop. So, let’s talk about a few ideas to keep kids of different ages and developmental stages entertained while they wait.


For babies, focus on:

  • Plush toys and mobiles with contrasting patterns
  • Floor gyms with dangling arms to bat or grasp
  • Mirrors at ground level for self-discovery


This exploratory age benefits from toys that engage curiosity and promote learning through play like:

  • Ride-on toys to strengthen balance and coordination
  • Shape sorters, stacking blocks, and interlocking puzzles
  • Pretend-play props like toy food or musical instruments

Grade school kids

Older, school-aged kids have longer attention spans better suited for:

  • Building block sets inspire creativity and problem-solving
  • Chapter books and comic books
  • Board games, mazes, Mad Libs‐style games


Independence-seeking pre-teens and teens often shy away from “childish” toys. Instead, they might prefer: - Magazines and Young Adult fiction books - iPads and video game consoles - Age-appropriate family board games

Differently-abled children

Children with physical or intellectual impairments need additional accommodations: - Sensory-friendly spaces away from overstimulation - iPads with adaptive learning software and disability features enabled - Manipulatives — like blocks and spinners — with various textures/sounds for sensory play - Simple picture boards and visual aids for nonverbal patients

Caregivers know their children’s specific capabilities best. Seek ongoing feedback from families to tailor options to the patients visiting your clinic.

Creating a sensory-friendly, inclusive space

A young child with headphones on holds markers as they look at an activity book

For some neurodiverse patients, waiting rooms can prove especially overstimulating or distressing. Make sure neurodiverse children feel included with these tips:

Define quiet spaces. Designate quiet, less stimulating areas apart from active play zones, strategically placed between the main waiting room and clinical spaces.

Reduce light and sound. Use localized lighting and acoustic panels to reduce ambient noise/light and carefully position TVs/toys away from these spaces.

Offer sensory tools. Provide fidget toys, textured pillows, weighted blankets, and other manipulatives for soothing sensory input.

Give patients choice. Sensory overload manifests differently for each child. If a child doesn’t want to engage with a toy or the entertainment in your waiting room, that’s also completely fine. When you welcome them at your front desk, make sure to communicate that there are many options — but, ultimately, it’s up to them to choose.

See what works and adapt to feedback

You know your waiting room best.

If you’ve noticed that the same old puzzles aren’t captivating the kids like they used to, then it might be time to shake things up – why not ask the families for their two cents on what could brighten up the place? You can even survey parents and kids about new products they would enjoy. Also, try rotating new options from time to time to keep kids engaged.

Creating the optimal selection of toys and entertainment for little ones is an evolving, continual process. With cost, safety, cleanliness, and inclusiveness in mind, you can create environments where kids enjoy entertainment well-suited to their unique needs — and give their parents peace of mind.

A chart outlining the development ages and stages and the best toys for each

Looking for more tips and tricks like this? 👀

For tons of great advice on all things clinic life, make sure to check out Front Desk magazine. You can even sign up for print issues — delivered right to your clinic! 📖

The cover of Front Desk magazine

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