It never fails. You rush to the doctor's office to get there on time, only to find you have to wait... and wait... and wait some more. If you're lucky, the waiting room might offer a few toys or books, but don't count on it. Pack up your Mom Bag O' Tricks full of activities so you're not the one with the screaming child in the waiting room.
Your full-size version of Candy Land isn't practical for the waiting room, but a travel version of your kiddo's favorite game does the trick. You'll find them in the game section of most stores. Don't want to spring for a game? Make your own. Stuff random objects like coins, plastic toys, fancy buttons, seashells and crayons in a clear bottle. Pour rice or beads into the bottle to fill it, leaving an inch at the top. You have an instant scavenger hunt in a bottle as your toddler turns it to find all of the little treasures. Ditch the game pieces completely with something simple like "I Spy."
Who says art isn't portable? A few mess-free art supplies in your bag keeps your junior artist occupied until you hear your name called. Take a cue from your favorite restaurant with a small package of crayons and paper. Tuck the crayons and a mini notebook inside a travel soap container to keep it together. Let your toddler or preschooler create a sculpted masterpiece from aluminum foil. Just rip off a few sheets of the foil for her to shape. For the little fashionista, pack a bag of beads and a string so she can whip up her own jewelry creations while she waits.
Fend off nasty waiting room meltdowns -- both yours and your toddler's -- by keeping her engaged. Books are fine for a while, but you'll have better luck when she can really dig in and get her hands on a project. You don't want her staring at a screen all day, but a portable video game, toddler-friendly phone apps or interactive electronic toys -- with a low-volume option -- are options for the waiting room. Bring along some lacing cards, or make your own by cutting a shape from cardboard and punching holes around the perimeter. She can pass the time weaving a string through the holes.
Whether she's the patient or not, your toddler may feel nervous in the waiting room. Pack up her blankie that she drags everywhere or that well-loved stuffed animal that's missing an eye. It doesn't matter what the item is, as long as it has the soothing effect on your child that helps you all stay sane while you wait. Get her cozy in your lap with her prized possession to read one of those waiting room books or picture search games in the latest "Highlights" magazine. Her favorite sippy cup and snack also provide comfort in a sometimes stressful situation. Keep her belly full to distract her and keep her from turning into a grumpy toddler.