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Tips for Parents: Concussion Recovery Activities for Kids to Combat Boredom

Although she was wearing a helmet, my daughter suffered a concussion falling off her snowboard. Here's how she kept busy during recovery.

Coming off the mountain via ski patrol

Coming off the mountain via ski patrol

Keeping Busy During Recovery

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 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 September of 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 to 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, 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.

Note: 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.

Outdoor Activities

Sunlight, fresh air—I love the outdoors!

  • Planting flowers or trees
  • Gardening
  • Playing on the beach/sand
  • Picnicking
  • Flying a kite
  • Collecting shells, autumn leaves, stones, or anything else
  • Washing the car
  • Fishing (supervised)
  • Clam picking
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Patientslounge

Indoor Activities: Boredom Doesn't Stop on Cold and Rainy Days

Some days, being outdoors just isn't a great option.

  • Take a nap.
  • Bake.
  • 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.

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 with 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
  • Soap-carving
  • Origami and making paper boats
  • Poster-making
  • Shell crafts
  • Making pencil holders
  • Making rope
  • Paper-making
  • 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.

  • Walking
  • Swimming laps
  • Ocean swimming in calm water (low wind, minimal to no waves)
  • Hiking
  • 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

  • Concussions
    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.

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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2010 Rhonda Albom

Tell Us Your Concussion Story—All Comments Welcome

Bob on September 14, 2017:

This is so much info rad website2017

jordan on May 19, 2017:

thanks this kinda helped I guess I'm gunna be 14 in July and im a horse rider and my gelding bucked me off then kicked me in the head when I tried to get back up (i dont have a helmet) like 5 days ago and I got a good concussion I've been SO BORED and my mom won't let me do anything so I just thought I'd Google it. I'm still bored and I'm at the point where I get super mad if I'm told I'm not allowed to do something. thanks, again

Maria on March 17, 2017:

Thank you so much for this article. It has such great ideas for activities for kids and teens.

My 14 year suffered a concussion 5 weeks ago. He is attending school part-time and he has to limit so many of the activities he used to love doing. He has been getting bored. He will love these activities.

Joel on February 02, 2017:

Arghh I got a concussion on Wednesday playing rugby I was sent home just before French today cuz I was dizzy but I'm so happy I found this site as I love baking, fishing etc. THANKS! Now I'm not as bored

Ana on November 06, 2016:

Lol I just recently got a concussion from smacking part of my head into a concrete wall outside of a classroom on my way to the last class period of the day I sure am lucky

JoAnn on September 16, 2016:

My 13 year old daughter plays tackle football on her school's team and got her first concussion the other night in a game (luckily mild). She's itching to get back on the field, but we've also had a couple very serious conversations about the possible long term effects if she tries to go back too early and gets another one. Happily, she's a pretty reasonable kid, and seems to understand that missing out now means that she'll likely be more use to her team later than if she got concussed again without proper recovery. The hardest part for her is going to be the boredom, sooo glad I found your site, and knowing that her coaches and team are suffering without her on both the offensive and defensive line. I'm glad her wrestling season starts right after football so that I can remind her that her recovery time might cut into that season if she gets too antsy and is tempted to sugarcoat how she's feeling. And she loves art, so I'm hoping coloring will go a long way too! Thanks!

Preston black on October 13, 2015:

You guys are awesome.!!!

Barbara Radisavljevic from Paso Robles, CA on June 20, 2015:

I remember when this first happened. It must have seemed a very long road ahead. I'm rejoicing that she has healed and is back to normal now.

Joanna on June 09, 2015:

This is a great list! I would add Knitting to the list, there are both the kind with needles but there are also sets where you can make hats, scarves using a circular tool to make it easier on the focus issues.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on March 08, 2015:

Your suggestions for activities to keep you occupied while in recovery are wonderful. They can apply to many injuries or illness. Excellent suggestions.

Matt Oslund on October 28, 2014:

thanks so much this was very useful

Lexi C. on September 25, 2014:

Getting a concussion 2 weeks ago and now feeling the smptyoms, this helped a ton. Thank you!

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on February 23, 2014:

@Rochpauli: I hope she can find something these lists that her doctor will approve. For us it was a slow recovery, but a full one.

Rochpauli on February 23, 2014:

Thank you for creating this page about concussions. My 14 year old daughter was playing in the snow on a surprise snow-day from school and bumped her head several times that day and while sledding the next day. The headache and nausea did not show up until the evening of the 3rd day and even then no link was made to a concussion as the jarring of her brain seemed minor and we simply thought she was getting the flu or some other ailment. When the confusion, emotional outburst and difficulty thinking and doing homework hit on the 5th day we immediately headed for a medical evaluation and have been fighting boredom ever since, sometimes overdoing activities that seemed fine, until a few hours later when symptoms ramped up with a vengeance. So we are finding it is best to do less than we think we are capable of and be patient. Paul and Eva in Vermont.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on February 14, 2014:

@PaigSr: It's a tough job for all of you. I hope you are ok now.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on February 05, 2014:

@lakesidelegal: For us, we found that not missing out generally resulted in a set back. Following our doctors suggestions turned out to be the quickest way to her recovery. (She had an outstanding medical team).

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on February 05, 2014:

@Lynn Klobuchar: Injuries are scary and happen far too quickly.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on February 05, 2014:

@boneworld: I think all parents worry about things accidents. Concussions can happen to anyone, even the least wild.

lakesidelegal on February 05, 2014:

Thank you for posting this list. My 10 year old daughter has academic and physical restrictions for the next several weeks after a soccer concussion. She is going to miss out on a number of really fun activities she had planned with friends and through school, which is so disappointing. We were working on our own list, and although we had several, it was great to have some new ideas. It was also nice for her to see that she's not the only one in this situation. Thank you!

Lynn Klobuchar on February 01, 2014:

My boys play hockey (ice hockey) and the concern about concussions is always there. Thank you for sharing your story and so many practical ideas. Cross my fingers and my toes -- we have not yet had a confirmed concussion. They play baseball, too. Love the active life, but injuries are scary. Best to your daughter.

Jackson Thom from West of Left South Lucky on January 28, 2014:

This is one of my fears for my little guy. He's still small, but he's wild, so I'm pretty scared we'll be dealing with concussions when he gets to be a teen. Hopefully, I remember this list if anything ever happens.

PaigSr from State of Confusion on January 25, 2014:

Poll follow up. I was the one that had the concussion. And the parents were the ones that had to wait patiently.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on January 04, 2014:

@Buckee06: Hi Buckee06 - Remember I have no medical background, I am just a mom sharing her story. In my daughter's case, once she had recovered she was told that another blow to the head in the first year would be catastrophic. This was done by a physician specializing in sports medicine, who we saw prior to and after the neurologist. My daughter was a member of the National Youth Team and was being watched for this upcoming Olympics. Sometimes life just changes. There are many articles out there these days about the long term effects of multiple concussions. I do understand your worry and concern. I have been there.

Buckee06 on January 02, 2014:

My daughter is 17 and An avid snowboarder. It his her life and passion. She started competing a few years ago and has suffered her 3rd concussion tonight from it. She is determined to board again but I am very scared and worried for her. She is very strong willed and defiant. She doesn't understand the long term affects. She won some competitions last year and loves seeing her progression. She also had a concussion previously from baseball. Tonight's she lost her memory and has had that happened once before. Is there a test I can ask the doctors to have done as she is only 17?

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on November 16, 2013:

@CynthiaGraham1: Cyndi, I need to remind you that I am NOT a medical professional, rather a mom sharing her story. We saw slow gradual improvement in my daughter as we followed the advice from her medical team. In her case, she was only allowed 30 minutes of any screen time per day to allow her brain to rest. If we didn't feel confident in her medical team, or see gradual improvement, we probably would have gotten another opinion.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on November 16, 2013:

@parentofbyoys: Currently, she is not competing, and when she snowboards it is just for fun.

CynthiaGraham1 on November 16, 2013:

My question is, in your opinion, how much texting is reasonable each day? its been 2 weeks since my 14 year old son pulled himself out of his hockey game due to concussion symptoms. About 10 days prior to that game, he suffered a minor concussion in gym at school. for the 10 days, he continued to go to school, play volleyball and hockey while suffering fom headaches and concentration issues in math; we didn't know. Then, during that game, he either suffered another indirect blow and/or exacerbated the original concussion. Due to the severe headache, etc., he fortunately pulled himself out of the game. The doctor at the children's hospital confirmed a moderate-severe concussion. The first week he did nothing for 3 days. But this past week, he tried a few classes at school as well as school work at home, both of which brought on headaches. This past week as well we mistakingly allowed video games and texting because we were originally advised that he could do activities that don't bring on headaches. He saw his sports doctor again yesterday and we learned he has regressed so no more video games, no school and she suggested 15 min of texting each hour. My question is, is that too much?

Thank you for this helpful website,

Cyndi

parentofbyoys on November 15, 2013:

Did your daughter continue snowboarding? I have two sons that snowboard competitively, and one recently got a concussion at school. We've decided to end competition because, frankly, it is a sport where concussions will be frequent (unfortunately...it is a wonderful sport in so many ways).

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on October 18, 2013:

@anonymous: It is, especially when they stare blankly at you and can't answer simple questions.

anonymous on October 14, 2013:

It must be so scary for a parent to see their child go through a concussion!

SteveKaye on October 12, 2013:

Important article on an important topic.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on September 12, 2013:

@anonymous: I hope his first day back at school goes well.

anonymous on September 12, 2013:

@RhondaAlbom: Yest wed evening he declared that he had enough. Dr said he will cranky/depressed. he can't wait to go to school tom. That's a positive!

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on September 10, 2013:

@anonymous: Just following up to see how your 12 year old is doing.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on September 10, 2013:

@anonymous: I would imagine it to be worse for an active 17 year old, especially in this day of constant social media.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on September 10, 2013:

@Aunt-Mollie: Yes, we are living proof of that, although in our case the missed the first one.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on September 10, 2013:

@Ruthi: That is exactly why we created this list.

anonymous on September 10, 2013:

My 17 yr old son received a concussion Friday at his football game. we went to the drs yest and my son was quite surprised to hear that he needs to be shut down for 3 days. I decided to think quickly and we went to the dollar store and he picked out a coloring book and scratch pad. We went to bed early and I'm glad he's still sleeping. activity today will be cooking, coloring, manicure & massage. He can go back to school fri half day. Thank you for your lists of things to do. It's not easy at any age. Blessings, patience & peace, to all families in our situation.

anonymous on August 31, 2013:

Thank you. Your page on concussions and things to do was very helpful

anonymous on June 25, 2013:

Thank you for this page. My 12 year old suffered her second concussion on Sunday in a soccer game. Her first was at age 9. I would describe her demeanor right now as a child that has a really high fever but without body aches and the actual fever. Today is the first day she hasn't felt dizzy but she still has a bad headache and extreme light sensitivity. The suggestions here will be great for us. As this is her 2nd concussion we plan to go very slowly with her recovery process and I know boredom will be an issue. I am so grateful this didn't happen during school as that would compound the issue but I do hate that so much of her summer is now on house arrest.

anonymous on May 20, 2013:

@anonymous: 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 3 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!

Aunt-Mollie on May 14, 2013:

It's encouraging to know that your child had a complete recovery. So many parents don't realize how serious a concussion can be and fail to have a child seen by a doctor. That's a pitiful mistake!

Ruthi on May 08, 2013:

I can not imagine how difficult it must have been to keep your active daughter from being bored by the inactivity while recovering from the concussion. Happy to hear she has reached full concussion recovery!

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on May 08, 2013:

@anonymous: I love the idea of the bath crayons. Thanks for sharing it and I hope your son's recovery goes smoothly.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on May 08, 2013:

@iSophie: Sorry about your concussion. Glad these tips were helpful.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on May 08, 2013:

@anonymous: Thanks Jim

anonymous on May 07, 2013:

This is an amazing site, thanks so much for the information! This is my 11 year old son's first day off from school and second day of concussion and he is going crazy without electronics or books. We just did the bath and I found a bunch of old bath crayons, colored bath tablets, and soap shaving foam so that made it a bit more amusing. He lasted a whole 20 minutes! We are off to buy paint & model magic, and later play some Legos, origami, and do some baking. I am just going to pretend I have a preschooler again and try to enjoy getting my baby back. Otherwise, we will all go insane! :)

iSophie on April 16, 2013:

This is great I had a concussion, and I wrote a Squidoo about it too!! Maybe you could check it out!! These are great tips, and were totally true, because I used some of these tricks!!!

anonymous on April 13, 2013:

great info

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on April 10, 2013:

@anonymous: Hi this is Melissa. Thank you!

anonymous on April 10, 2013:

My mom is 76 and she fell out of her bed the other day and gave herself a slight concussion, according to the doctor. Thanks for sharing your story and the list of ideas! P.S. I'm a professional graphic designer for over 15 years now, and the Comments are Cool banner shows signs of an artist. Well done. ; )

Darcie French from Abbotsford, BC on March 21, 2013:

I had a concussion from falling off a top bunk bed when I was 11. It happened while we were on family vacation and at the exact time I got my first menstrual period. Not fun.

anonymous on March 04, 2013:

I'm 13 and got concussion doing kickboxing. This really help!

anonymous on February 26, 2013:

I'm 13 and I got a concussion from basketball just 6 days ago from hitting heads with another kid while i was trying to get the ball. I went unconscious for a few seconds and then got up and everything was fine, but when I got home my mom said she would take me to the docters and the guy said that i got a concussion and said that I couldn't do ANYTHING, pretty much. so I was searching on what to do and fell across this website. And me and my mom made cinnimon and sugar rolls. THANKS!!!!!!

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on February 19, 2013:

@anonymous: How are you doing now? I am hoping you are much better and coping with the boredom.

Rhonda Albom (author) from New Zealand on February 19, 2013:

@anonymous: How is she doing now. Hopefully after her week of rest she has recovered. Glad the suggestions are helping.