14 games kids in casts can do to keep active

Editor’s note: This article first published on January 12, 2015. 

After performing a gymnast-like vault out of his crib at 18 months and moving at a warp-speed no adult could maintain from the moment he could walk, my son Luke was what some may have called high-energy. He was the child I assumed would have a frequent-flyer card at our local hospital. Yet somehow, he has managed to make it to age 15 injury-free (touch wood).

His sisters, on the other hand, while also active (just not at the Flash-like pace of their brother) have had several visits to the fracture clinic with sports-related injuries.

Breaking a bone is a common occurrence in childhood. As safe as we try to keep our children, accidents can happen in numerous ways and locations. At home, children trip over toys or fall off of couches. At the park or in the school yard, kids fall off monkey bars or a scooter or bike. Broken bones can definitely be scary for kids as well as their parents. But in most cases, broken bones heal at a much faster rate in kids than in adults.

How to deal with a kid in a cast

For the first few days after a child has their cast applied, the focus will be on rest and pain relief. During these days your child will probably want to engage in little more than quiet activities such as reading, screen time, and crafts. But very quickly, these activities will not be enough to keep any child from being bored, especially if they see their friends or siblings running and playing.

Pediatrician Dr. Kelly Fitzpatrick notes that while some kids are eager to jump back into full action, there are restrictions that parents must keep in mind while their children have a cast on their arms or legs. No matter how tempting it might be for the most active child, this isn’t the time to practice their wrestle-mania moves with their friends. In fact, any activity that might involve force or contact should be avoided. It’s amazing how quickly the healing process can be set back when a mending arm is knocked against a person or object. That being said, though, Dr. Fitzpatrick insists that “there is no need for a child with a cast to become a couch potato.”

Lindsay Kobus agrees. The physiotherapist says that keeping kids active while they are in a cast will not only relieve their boredom but it is also one of the best ways to encourage healing by keeping the blood flowing.

So here are some safe and active games to keep your child in a cast from suffering complete boredom (and to save you from listening to the same television theme song for the 27th time). From toddler on up, they’ll keep your child engaged, and maybe distracted, too:

Arm cast activities

  1. One-armed bean bag toss: There’s nothing like a soft beanbag and several targets to keep the uninjured arm moving. Inside, use different containers to throw into or use tape to make targets of different shapes and sizes on the floor. Outside, let your child create targets with sidewalk chalk.
  2. Kicking games: Using a soft ball such as a beach ball or even a balloon, children love games of pass or kicking on a net or other target.
  3. Simon Says: An oldie but a goodie! Actions can include stomping feet, waving the unbroken arm, or simply shrugging shoulders.
  4. Bowling broken-arm-style (i.e., not with a heavy ball and pins): Line up crayons, plastic bottles or action figures and use a lightweight ball to knock them down.
  5. Dance party: Put on your child’s favourite music (it won’t always be your first choice) and dance the day away. Just be sure your child keeps a safe distance from walls and other objects.
  6. Stationary bike: Especially for the older set of kids, this is a great activity to keep the blood flowing. If they need something to distract them while on the bike, music or TV are always good to focus their minds elsewhere.
  7. Scavenger hunt: Get outside and go for a hike disguised as a scavenger hunt. My kids would run in horror at the mention of a “hike” (for some reason this word translates to work and boredom). But with a list of articles to find and a potential prize at the end, a scavenger hunt in the neighbourhood or woods becomes a game.

Leg cast activities

  1. Catch: A simple game of catch or roll is a great way to engage your child in an active and safe game.
  2. Music making: I have never met a toddler who doesn’t want to shake a maraca or pound on a drum. Sing along (unless your child strongly disapproves of you being involved in their creative process).
  3. Sock basketball: From a seated position, use all those unmatched socks you’ve accumulated, and using different targets, channel your child’s inner Jordan.
  4. Hammering bench: Kids love to hammer, and a bench with pegs that can be pounded from one side and turned over to be pounded on the other is a great way to get those arms moving (and maybe work out some frustration).
  5. Punching bag: The older child’s version of the Hammering Bench. From a seated position, let your child punch away at a home-made or purchased bag.
  6. Juggling: Don’t restrict your kids to the traditional version with balls. As long as the items are quite soft, there are many variations of juggling objects such as rubber chickens, stuffed animals, or bean bags. (This probably isn’t the time to introduce flaming torch juggling.) A child can work up to two or three items at a time.
  7. Parachute play: Sit with your child and others (the more the merrier) and move a parachute up and down. Bounce balls or stuffed animals on the parachute as a challenge to see how high the objects can get.

A great activity that could be engaged in by kids in either arm or leg casts is swimming. Ask your doctor for a waterproof cast cover and let your child float and kick away.

If you’re a parent, you will likely have, or know a parent of, a child who will one day be in a cast. Rest assured! Having a cast does not mean endless days on the couch. There are so many ways to keep active. And before you know it, that cast will have been removed and your child will be back to full-pace again.

40 responses to “14 games kids in casts can do to keep active

  1. My grandson bbn izv7 and broke BOTH WRISTS si he can not use either hand. What. Activities can we do with him.

    1. Kick bowling, toe painting, eating/holding fork with toes (use a tablecloth on the floor, it is messy). Really make a game out of everything using his feet

    1. I snapped a tendon in each of 3 fingers picking up a ball so maybe sport is just generally dangerous.

  2. Great ideas! If anyone has additional ideas for a 12 year old girl with a broken collarbone it would be very helpful. It is summertime and she loves being active. I think missing out on favorite activities is worse than the pain. Happy to try any suggestions:)
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Laura. My name is Abby.
      My 11 year old son just broke his arm last night. Were you successful at finding some good activities to keep your daughter busy last year?
      Hope her collarbone healed quickly!
      Thanks!

  3. My daughter is 11 and has a leg in cast after breaking her ankle 3 weeks ago – she’s a trampolinist so is really struggling with having to stay on the ground. This week her school are doing a virtual sports day and she was devastated at not being able to join in so this afternoon i will be trying to set up an alternative sports day assault course in the garden for her and the rest of the family to try. I will keep you all posted when I think of ideas!! If anyone has any suggestions let me know :)

  4. hey i feel you i jumpt in the pool today its sumer and i broke my foot but im 4 years yunger than you i broke it jumping on the tranpoline doing a front flip i probably could try these so keep up the good work

    2020 may 22

  5. Do you have any suggestions for older tweens who are in non weight-bearing leg casts? The ones suggested are more for younger kids. Thanks!

  6. I’m 14 years old. I didn’t break my leg, but I have a cast up to my knee. I had to get a bone removed in my foot. The surgery was brutal, and once I heal, I have to get the other foot done. I can’t walk for six weeks. It’s awful. These activities are too young for me, but they are good ideas. You might want to consider making a list of activities for older kids. you might not have experience with older kids and casts, but if you do, and if you have ideas, I’d really love to hear them.

    1. Hi, can I add a few (probably better for older / more capable people):

      The list above mentioned juggling, which is a great one except when you’re learning you’re going to keep dropping things which is annoying if it’s hard to pick them up. Scarves are good for practising juggling sitting down. You cold try poi which is another circus activity that you could do sitting on a stool. Other circus skills you could try are contact ball (probably better to try it on a bed or soft floor so you can pick it up easily if you drop it) or devil stick. All these things require equipment but if you’re stuck in a cast for a while, or are permanently wheelchair-bound, it’s definitely worth investing. You can make your own poi with a pair of long socks with a beanbag or tennis ball in each toe.

      Music was mentioned but older people might be more interested in trying to learn an instrument – actual drums, guitar, piano – whatever looks interesting. Sometimes it’s possible to hire an instrument if you don’t have one.

      Baking’s good – kneading dough or whisking is good for arms and shoulders and if you succeed you have fresh bread or cakes to eat!

      Darts – not the world’s most physical game but still worth playing. Speak to your doctor about other sports you might be able to play. When in recovery from a knee injury I badgered my doctor for months until I was allowed to swim (using upper body only) for some exercise. If you’re not allowed to do sports like swimming, a lot of sailing centres offer have adapted boats specifically for sailors with disabilities. It’s a great sport to get into. If you’re permanently wheelchair-bound I’d also recommend skiing, although the adaptive equipment is expensive (3-track skiing is some of the best fun I’ve ever had).

    2. Hi Gracie

      I hope you feel better soon! My 8 year daughter also has foot surgery next week, to correct a previous injury, and will be in a cast for 4 weeks I think.
      Please let me know if you come up with any ideas on how to pass the time…

  7. My 4 year old just broke her leg fighting with her big brother. She easily gets bored just sitting down so do you have any ideas of how she can entertain herself in a wheelchair?

    1. Hi M, you can find some suggested physical literacy activities specifically designed for kids in wheelchairs on our website at https://activeforlife.com/activities/?age=&skill=15

      Kids in wheelchairs can also play many active games with some slight modifications. Try musical chairs, a wheelchair dance party, setting up an obstacle course in your driveway or on the blacktop at a local park, or set up a racing challenge (use your phone like a stopwatch and see how fast your child can wheel from one end of a basketball or tennis court to the other).

  8. These are wonderful ideas, my 8 year old just broke his collarbone and he is so active, doesn’t play with toys only plays outside and with soccer balls, footballs, he loves to be active so this is hard to see him so down and wanting to go go go but cannot. Will be trying some of these.

  9. I broke my arm right below the growth plate four weeks ago. When the doctors took my cast of and x rayed it they decided I needed to have surgery. This is the day after i got surgery.

  10. Breaking one limb can greatly improve skills with the unbroken limb with practice. For instance, I remember growing up and a cousin of mine breaking his collar bone while attempting to ramp a bycicle. He became the best one handed basketball player ever while he healed. As humans, we adapt, overcome, and revolutionize! We are survivors!

  11. I’m 13 and I’ve been looking for ways not to stay on my phone all summer. I had surgery on both of my feet and knees and I’m I’m casts from just below my k eyes to my feet on both legs. These games sound really fun so I will definitely be trying them out.

    1. bless you and I wish you a speedy recovery
      stay positive and strong
      my young friend.
      my son who’s 4 has just broken his arm and had wires inserted which is what brought me here.
      good luck to you you’ve got your whole life ahead of you
      go enjoy!

  12. My youngest was in a cast when she was 4 years old having slipped on one of her dress up princesses dresses that she didn’t put away after playing with it. While that seems like a lifetime ago as she is on her way to 8 now. I still can recall having to re-adjust the activities we did here with her. So, couldn’t agree with you more on your list for what types of activities can be done with a child in a cast.

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gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_4' >Age When Submitted</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_10_4' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_5" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_5' >1st Birthday</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_10_5' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_6" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_6' >2nd Birthday</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_6' id='input_10_6' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_7" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_7' >3rd Birthday</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_7' id='input_10_7' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_8" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_8' >4th Birthday</label><div 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