Baystate Health print this page

Preparing Your Pre-Schooler for Surgery





Many pre-school age children will worry about:

  • Feeling pain, needles and the unknown.


  • What will happen because they don’t fully understand the things they have heard about going to the hospital. 


  • Feeling that hospital experience is a punishment. 


  • Being without parents. 




Most pre-school age children do best if you talk to them two to four days ahead of time. 

  • Choose gentle and simple words to describe what is going to happen and why it needs to be done. 


  • Use word choices like:


    •  “The doctor will take care of the bump on your arm so it won't hurt anymore."

  rather than

    •  "The doctor will cut off it off.” 
  • Explain that they will be in special sleep when the doctor takes care of them so they will feel nothing. 


  • Be truthful in your information and encourage them to ask questions. 


  • Use dolls or stuffed animals and engage in interactive play with your child. 


  • Read books together about going to the hospital. 


Here is a list of books you and your toddler or pre-schooler may want to read about coming to this hospital.  While they may be great ways to help your child learn about general things associated with a hospital experience, you will need to be careful about the specifics they may contain.  Some things we do here at Baystate Children’s Hospital may differ from things described in these books.  It may be best to get correct information from your surgeon or the nurses who will call you, or to sign up for the hospital tour program.  


Katie Goes to the Hospital by Barbara Taylor Cork


A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital  by Deborah Hartzig


Franklin Goes to the Hospital by Sharon Jennings


This is a Hospital, Not a Zoo by Roberta Kaim


Going to the Hospital by Fred Rodgers


You and your child can also read this online picture book account of a little girl's surgery experience at Baystate Medical Center.


  • Reassure that you will be with them until they fall asleep and then again as soon as they are in the “wake-up room”.


  • Allow the child to pick out a favorite blanket, stuffed animal or toy to bring to the hospital. 


Remember, the calmer you are about the experience the better your child will cope.  The child will be watching you to see how you are responding to this new experience.