Distraction ideas for vaccination time

During your child’s vaccination, the best thing a parent can do to help distract their child is to plan ahead. Thomas Hobson, director of Child Life, shares some easy things parents can do to keep kids distracted and remove fear when it comes to vaccinations.

Some of the ideas on this list involve minimal advanced planning; however, these few extra seconds of work can make all of the difference in the world to the child. Additionally, depending on the length of the process, you may have to use several of these options on the list.

Tablet or Smart Phone

There are tons of games, videos and other apps that can engage your child during the experience. Find the one that captures your child’s attention. However, depending where the vaccination will be injected, your child may not be able to use both hands/arms. If that’s the case, be sure to pick an app that can be done one handed.

Read a book

Bring along your child’s favorite picture book. This classic child life technique works amazingly well. First, if you actively read the story – meaning you ask questions about what’s happening on the page – your child engages more with the story. Second, the book can be used to block your child’s view, if they’re nervous about see the injection.

Listening to music with headphones

This is the time to pull out your child’s favorite music and pop on the headphones. For some children, the music is comforting and gives them a point of focus. Additionally, the music, especially with the headphones, serves to mask the other sounds around them, which can reduce their overall stress.


Similar to listening to music, some children do better actively engaging with music. If this sounds like your child, pick out songs that they know and belt them out together. Let your child select the songs, but be prepared to jump in if they blank out. You want to have the hits keep coming.

Play I Spy

Surprised by the vaccination and don’t have anything on hand? This is the time to pull out the classic game of I Spy. You want your child to be the guesser, since the point is to have them focus their attention. This is a great chance to get them to focus away from the injection.

Tell Each Other Jokes

It sounds simple, but you can distract your child by telling each other jokes and riddles. Unearth all of those old knock-knock jokes from your own childhood and share them. They don’t even have to be good ones, just as long as you’re going back and forth.

Make Up a Story

Children have wonderful imaginations, and by tapping into them, you can easily distract them from the vaccination. For this, the two of you will take turns making up a story. Begin by giving the premise for the story (for example, “Once upon a time, there was a young girl walking through the woods…”) and then have your child start telling. When they get to a point, they’ll hand story back to you and so on. The wonderful thing about this activity is that it can go on as long as you want.