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Toddlers (age 13 months to 3 1/2 years) often react with “stranger anxiety” when confronted with unfamiliar faces. Their fear can lead to defiant, negative behavior or temper tantrums. Toddlers often perceive pain as punishment and are more likely to actively resist during painful procedures.

As you prepare your toddler for a hospital stay or medical procedures, ask your health care provider to explain the procedure your child will undergo and to clarify your role. Ask about pain medicines that can be given before and if you can be present during the procedure.

A parent’s presence is the best source of comfort and support for children. Let toddlers know when you will be there. If you can’t be present, let them know when you will return. Talk with your children about procedures in general terms that they can understand. Using play medical kits and role playing medical procedures using a doll or stuffed animal will help them know what to expect.

The following ideas will help your toddler cope:


Thinking or Behavioral Distractions 


Rapid rocking



Sucking on a pacifier 


Hold child on lap
or shoulder


Heat/ice pack

Familiar blanket

Stuffed animal

Nursery rhymes


Books (picture, pop-up)


Bubble blowing


Pounding toys


Speak through a doll or stuffed animal

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care providers. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or others on your health care team. If you are a Gillette patient with urgent questions or concerns, please contact Telehealth Nursing at 651-229-3890.