Tips for Parents: Concussion Recovery Activities for Kids to Combat Boredom
Concussions and children are not a great combination, but it happens. Active children find rest and recovery boring, but without it, they won't heal. So, how did we avoid the boredom? With a bit of structured research, we found lots of things to do. Managing the symptoms without driving the family insane is possible.
Below is the story of how our daughter got concussed and our list of tips and suggestions for keeping busy during recovery, most of which are useful for both adults and children recovering from a serious head injury.
Our Snowboarding Accident
In Sept. 2009, our daughter (then, a New Zealand Jr. National Snowboard Champion) took a hard fall while snowboarding and knocked herself out. She was wearing a helmet. It was less than two weeks after a prior fall that was later determined to have given her a mild concussion. This second concussion left her with a need for a slow, restful recovery. She was cut off from sports, screen time, new learning (no schooling), and even reading.
Eleven months after the accident, she was able to resume most of her usual activities, but the doctors still kept her out of any competitive sports, at least for a while longer.
She fully recovered a month later.
There was nothing we could do to heal her concussion quicker.
But, there were plenty of things that she needed to avoid since they would slow her recovery.
Things to Avoid During Concussion Recovery
These were the activities our daughter was told to avoid:
- Any sport that requires a helmet, including skiing, snowboarding, bicycling, rock climbing, horse riding, and skateboarding.
- Any sport/activity with sudden acceleration or deceleration, including swinging on a swing, bouncing on a trampoline, and amusement park rides.
- Any sport/activity that could involve a collision with others or a fall, including wakeboarding, windsurfing, running games with friends, laser force, and sailing.
- Any activity that can overstimulate: movies, going shopping malls, and public events.
- Any activity which involves new learning or concentration, including education, reading of new materials, or puzzles.
- Screen time (this was limited to 30 minutes per day), including television, computers, and Nintendo, Wii, or other video games.
Things to Do During Concussion Recovery
After we stopped feeling sorry for ourselves, we were able to come up with quite a long list of activities to avoid boredom while not impeding recovery. All suggestions on our list were approved by a member of our daughter's medical team. Some we tried, some we didn't, but they are all here to help you. Remember to clear them with your own doctors.
We are not medical professionals. This is our story and activities which worked for us. If you have a concussion or any brain or head injury, be sure to confirm any activities with your medical team before giving them a try.
Sunlight, fresh air—I love the outdoors!
- Planting flowers or trees
- Playing on the beach/sand
- Flying a kite
- Collecting shells, autumn leaves, stones, or anything else
- Washing the car
- Fishing (supervised)
- Clam picking
Indoor Activities: Boredom Doesn't Stop on Cold and Rainy Days
Some days, being outdoors just isn't a great option.
- Take a nap
- Do crafts
- Re-read familiar books
- Watch fish in a tank or aquarium
- Play with gentle animals
- Play with dolls
- Talk with friends
- Make a movie (but watch out for too much screen time)
- Take photos
- Relax in a bubble bath
- Listen to audiobooks or stories on the Internet
- Paint a room
A Concussed Brain Needs Rest
Just like you wouldn't run on a broken leg and expect it to heal, if your child has a brain injury, he/she need to rest the brain so it can heal.
Arts and Crafts:
We use several craft books; The Really Big Book of Cool Crafts for Kids is our current favorite. We discovered a few of these craft ideas from other sources:
- Quilting, patchwork, or applique
- Braiding friendship bracelets
- Basket-weaving with palm leaf or other natural material
- Drawing, sketching, or tracing
- Coloring: Get coloring books or download pictures from the web
- Painting pictures: Vary your medium: acrylic, watercolor, tempera, oil pastel, chalk pastel, felt tip markers, gel pens, or crayons
- Painting on various surfaces: jars, wood, ceramics, terracotta planters
- Making candles
- Origami and making paper boats
- Shell crafts
- Making pencil holders
- Making rope
- Making paper flowers
- Molding and creating with clay
- Making latch hook rugs or pot holders
- Beading necklaces, bracelets, or headbands
Gentle Physical Activities for Post-Recovery
Remember to get medical clearance before undertaking anything physical.
When our daughter's acute concussion symptoms (headaches, dizziness, confusion, and exhaustion) were gone, her doctors began getting her fitness level back. She started out slow.
- Swimming laps
- Ocean swimming in calm water (low wind, minimal to no waves)
- Stationary bicycling on a cross trainer or treadmill
- Kayaking or rowing
An Example of How These Ideas Helped One Mom
"My son is recovered now so just thought I would add some more things we tried since reading this site out loud was one of our activities that was helpful! We did painting, modeling with clay/model magic, we found a kit where you design and decorate your own football which was crafty and good for a sports-minded boy, we also bought mesh and strings from the lacrosse store, and my son tried to learn how to string his lacrosse stick, which was crafty and wasted lots of time! I also pulled out the dusty Thomas train set from preschool, and we built a huge train track across the living room, so don't forget about your old toys, they do come in handy. We also tried building sets of the newer Lego knockoffs like LaQ and Nanoblocks. It was a more exciting challenge after three days of old-school Legos. And my son wore sunglasses all day for his first few days back at school which helped with the fluorescent lighting bothering him. Again, thank you for this wonderful article, it really saved the day!"
Thanks, Jenny, for taking the time to share this with us. It is good to know that you have benefited from our experience. Thanks for sharing these other ideas that helped your son.
Learn More About Concussions in Children
The term "concussion" conjures up the image of a child knocked unconscious while playing sports. But concussions can happen with any head injury, often without any loss of consciousness.
- Sports-Related Concussions on the Rise in Kids
The number of children treated in hospital ERs for concussions they got while playing on sports teams has doubled in just a decade, a new study shows.
We read quite a bit. We found this book to be the most helpful, especially early on when it was difficult for us, as parents, to watch and understand what was going on, and why.
A Few Credits and Thank-Yous:
Many of the ideas for these lists were gathered from:
Estelle Borer of Kidz Therapy, Silverdale, New Zealand
Dr. Cynthia Sharpe of Concussion Specialists, Auckland, New Zealand
Friends at the Homeschool Lounge
If you have multiple incidents in your family, please answer with the most severe injury.
How did your child (or you when you were a child) get a concussion?
© 2010 Rhonda Albom