20 Spica(and brace)-friendly Ideas for Keeping Babies Happy


Lucy went into a spica when she was seven months old, which is around the time many babies start to crawl and get more mobile. I found it quite a challenge to keep her engaged and stimulated for three months and tried to find spica-friendly activities to do together. Some great ideas came from these sources:

* the various babycentre sites (.com, .au and .uk)

* www.thestay-at-home-momsurvivalguide.com

* www.babble.com

I’ve tried to keep the activities simple, cost-effective and do-able for non-creative types like me!  If you can get hold of/make a spica table, don’t hesitate. I think it is essential for keeping our bubs happy when they’re all plastered up.

I hope that you can find something here to try with your little one and would love to hear from you if you have activities to add to this list.

1. Visit a dog exercise area

1397618631559This is something Lucy and I do regularly because we have a dog – Stella – a Staffordshire Terrier (awesome family dogs if you’re thinking about getting one!) Lucy absolutely loves watching the dogs run around and play with each other and it keeps her entertained for ages. She doesn’t mind at all when they get boisterous and bump into the pram – it just adds to the fun!



2. Tear up a catalogue

Those annoying advertising spreads that clog up your postbox can become your New Best Friends when you realise their potential! I prop Lucy on the couch next to me and she rips up catalogues while I read the paper/have a cup of tea/check emails/whatever for a few minutes. The delight it gives her makes the tidy-up afterwards completely worthwhile.


3. Goodie box

1397615186394Gather a few items from around the house that you think may be of interest to your little one. Put them in a box and present it to them to open and explore the contents. I like to put a ribbon around the box for an added challenge. This can be done endlessly, as the most random thing can hold her attention more than any of her usual toys. This is one of my favourite activities!



4. Sign language

Now is as good a time as any to introduce your bub to sign language while they are forced to sit still and pay attention! Hop onto YouTube for little video clips to watch and then put the signs into practice during your daily routine. There’s a lovely Baby Einstein one that Lucy and I watch.


5. Go for a ride

1398057253824We have a little device called a Corn Popper which was given to us for when Lucy is older but she loves it when I pop her on the seat and hold her hands on the handlebars while whizzing her around the house or yard. The added bonus is that it provides an intense workout for your rear end and hamstrings 🙂 There are lots of different contraptions out there so it doesn’t have to be a Corn Popper that you use.


6. Rhyme Time

Our local libraries in Australia run a fabulous, free program for babies and toddlers called Rhyme Time. Unfortunately we’ve only made it to one so far due to nap times clashing with the sessions. I know rhymes are important for language development so we’ve come up with a Plan B: the libraries give out Rhyme Time dvd’s in a little goodie bag when the babies are a few weeks old. I pop it into the dvd player and we have our own private session of Rhyme Time, following along and enjoying singing and doing actions together. This way we get to do it when Lucy is fresh and cheerful and can stop it at any time when she’s had enough. When she’s a bit older we’ll get to the proper sessions but this is a good alternative for now.


7. Play dates at the park

1398058669395I’m sure you do this already as it’s a pretty obvious way of keeping mums and bubs socialised and happy. One thing I do to encourage social interaction for a spica-clad, immobile baby is to take along Lucy’s modified Bumbo for her to sit in. The other babies are inevitably drawn to this strange contraption and crawl over to investigate! Lucy has more interaction this way than if I am holding her.



8. Play with food

1397569580531Lucy is now starting to understand that things fit into different categories. I use lunch time to play around with this concept by chopping up finger foods and putting them into little tupperwares with different coloured lids. I sit her at her spica table and give her the tupperwares to explore, talking about what is in each one. We then open the lids and tip out the contents. Eventually she’ll be able to sort the foods back into the tupperwares but that’s a bit advanced for now. When I tidy up the scraps at the end of lunch, I put them back into their allocated containers and talk about what I’m doing. A lunch sitting can last nearly an hour – that’s how engaging she finds all this!

9. Play with scarves

1397615407203Colourful scarves lend themselves to all sorts of games for babies. The original idea was to tie them together and put them in a box for Lucy to pull out. It didn’t quite go to plan so I improvised and dressed up our dog instead 🙂 She was very accommodating – any attention is better than no attention!  Pull your scarves out the cupboard and see how your baby responds and go with the flow…




10. Wrap up toys

Unwrapping one of her 'presents'

Unwrapping one of her ‘presents’

Gather a few toys that haven’t been played with for a while and wrap them in gift paper. Put them in a bag and let your baby rummage through the bag and unwrap the ‘presents’.







11. Read books

My little book worm

My little book worm

One of our favourite regular outings is to the local library to take out books for Lucy. The library has a huge selection of books for babies and a lovely play area too. I started reading to Lucy very early on and at one stage I nearly gave up because all she wanted to do was grab the book out of my hands. Thankfully I persevered but now stick to just the board books which can sustain rough handling and I allow Lucy to turn the pages while I’m reading. She has become an avid little reader and I often walk into her room when she’s woken from a nap and find her lying there with an open book in her hands and one on her lap. As an English teacher, I couldn’t be more thrilled 🙂


12. iPad games

talking-tomI confess I’m a bit old-fashioned in terms of not wanting Lucy too device-savvy at a young age. I don’t let her play with my phone or iPad even though there are lots of apps that have been developed for babies. There is, however, one app that I have used with Lucy and she absolutely loves it: Talking Tom! I figure it’s good for aiding her speech development since the cat repeats everything she says.There is a free version available but I recommend buying the app so that you’re not inundated with annoying adverts. It’s a great one to have on your phone for when you’re sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and need to keep bub entertained.


13. Two-handed clacking

Future drummer?

Future drummer?

This is handy for when you need to keep your bub busy while you’re cooking. I move Lucy’s spica table into the kitchen and give her wooden spoons and spatulas etc to make some noise with.







14. Videos on on your phone

Like most parents I can’t resist taking lots of videos of Lucy being cute. I often play them back to her and she is absolutely captivated by them! When I get videos of my nephew doing cute things I show them to her too. Babies love watching babies!


15. Play with bubbles

There is a gorgeous video clip of a baby in hysterics watching her dog eat bubbles. If you haven’t seen it before, please pause and give it a watch – her giggles are contagious! I haven’t quite had that reaction yet from Lucy and our dog hasn’t quite eaten the bubbles that enthusiastically but I am going to persevere because, well, it’s fun.


16. Paint swatch sorter

Playing with paint swatches

Playing with paint swatches

Visit a paint shop and gather up a selection of free colour swatches. At home, get a yoghurt or icecream tub and cut a slot in the lid. Play with the swatches together with your baby, discussing the different colours, then show her how to put them into the container through the slot. It doesn’t matter if she chews or bends them because you can just get a fresh batch when they get tired.



17. Aeroplane

Lucy hates – I mean hates – tummy time but I know it’s especially good for her in the spica to help prevent pressure sores. One fun way of getting her onto her tummy is to do the old favourite aeroplane trick (lying on your back with your baby resting on your shins). She gets to see the world from a different angle and I sneak in tummy time without her even realising it.


18. Join a toy library

1400075732813This has been a lifesaver for us. After a few months of playing with the same old toys, Lucy was so bored of them but buying new ones can get very expensive. We have joined a toy library and pay $60 for a year’s membership. It is worth every cent for the amount of toys we now have at our disposal and I can experiment with different toys to see which ones she likes without having to buy them first and potentially waste a lot of money on things she has little interest in.



19. Visit the zoo or a farm – without driving anywhere!

A visit to the farm!

A visit to the farm!

A friend of ours kindly passed on a box full of toy animals when her girls grew too old for them. We’ve been having a lot of fun with them – some days we visit the farm and learn the names and noises of all the farm animals. On other days we visit the African plains where lions and zebra and giraffe roam (what noise does a giraffe make, anyone?!)




20. Make a collage

Lucy inspecting the items on our collage

Lucy inspecting the items on our collage

When you go for a walk, take a bag with you and collect little bits and pieces of interest as you go. When you get home, create a collage on paper or card and talk about all the things you saw on your walk.







I would love to expand this list so please let me know what else you’ve been doing to keep your babies happy!


First X-ray Post Spica


I am pleased to report that Lucy and I had a very positive trip to the hospital this morning. It was supposed to be the day her spica came off but because that got taken off two weeks early we just had to have an x-ray done to check on the hip’s progress.

As much as I hated that awful spica, it seemed to achieve good things! The angle of Lucy’s left acetabulum went from being a very bad 38 degrees in January (6 months old) to measuring a much more stable 24 degrees today (10 months old). One of the mum’s in the DDH Parent Support Western Australia  group took a sneaky pic of the angles chart at Princess Margaret Hospital. According to this chart, 21 degrees (plus or minus 3) is the normal angle for babies her age. This means that both her hips are now in the normal range – woohoo!

angle info

Angle chart from Princess Margaret Hospital

A graphic version of the acetabular angles chart. The heavy back line indicates what is normal per age group

A graphic version of the acetabular angles chart. The heavy back line indicates what is normal per age group (this is not Lucy’s chart – it belongs to another hipster bub)


I know that it is possible for the hip socket to regress (as I’ve already seen with Lucy) and for this reason I am “happy” to keep Lucy in her Rhino brace for a few more weeks. The downer for me this morning was that I had been told by one of the specialists that she would be in the brace for 6 weeks full-time and 6 weeks nights and naps, but the specialist we saw this morning is a 3-month man: he prefers a minimum period of three months per treatment type.

He said that by the time babies reach the age of two, their bones are no longer plasticine or malleable enough for any form of bracing to be effective. From that point on, surgery is required to correct any problems. So, while it is still possible to mould Lucy’s hips, we’ll persevere with the Rhino brace and hope that it will do the trick.

Lucy is so much happier in the Rhino and her favourite time of the day (other than meal times) is when she gets to splash in the bath. Her legs are getting stronger by the hour, she is sitting beautifully, kicking madly, holding her toes at every opportunity and far less cranky when made to do tummy time. We are slowly giving her some brace-free play time which she absolutely loves!

Our hipster bub is making progress!

Trying out her new table that Dad made for her! Paint job still to be done

Trying out her new table that Dad made. Paint job still to be done!


Skin and the Spica


In the words of one of the nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital: “Spica’s are notoriously hard to work with.” This was in response to the state of Lucy’s skin when her spica was removed last week – two weeks before it was scheduled to come off.

While we are doing everything we can to get Lucy’s hips better, Lucy’s body seems to be sabotaging our efforts. It refused to be shackled by the Pavlik Harness (read about that story here) and it reacted very badly to being in a cast for what should have been three months.


About a week and a half into the spica, Jon and I discovered that Lucy’s skin on her lower back/top of bottom was looking badly chafed. We weren’t sure how to treat it because we’d been told that no creams or powders were allowed. We decided the best thing would be to create a barrier between her skin and the cast so we placed a cloth nappy insert to line that area. Fortunately there was enough space to do so. I know a lot of casts fit too snugly for this method to work.

The skin was looking terrible and started peeling and then Lucy developed a temperature. On the second day of her temperature reading above 38 degrees celcius I decided to take her in to the hospital to be seen to in case she had developed an infection. Typically, it happened to be a Saturday which meant I could only take her to the Emergency wing rather than Orthopaedics.

The staff on duty weren’t too familiar with spicas and we were due to take Lucy for a 3-week check-up with her specialist in a few days’ time. After examining Lucy, they concluded that her temperature was unlikely to be linked to the condition of her skin and advised me to give her Panadol to keep her fever down. They also took a skin scraping to send to the lab to check for a fungal infection, and said I should discuss it further with the specialist on Wednesday.

Fortunately her fever came down on the third day and by the time we went for her check-up the skin was looking a lot better. (The cloth nappy insert proved to be a very effective addition to our nappy system and we used it for the duration of the spica, changing it at least twice a day. Lucy never had another skin problem in that area.) When I raised the issue with the specialist he wasn’t remotely concerned about it and said that he had seen some pretty ghastly skin conditions in his dealings with spicas but that it was worth it for the good achieved by the spica. He didn’t even take a look at her skin! The lab results showed that the skin didn’t have a fungal infection.  Interestingly, he said we should go ahead and use the usual Sudocrem or similar to treat any rashes (even though all the info I’ve read from various sources advises against doing so!)


I must say I was a bit taken aback by the callous manner of the specialist and the way he told me- basically – to suck it up and let the spica do its job. So when we encountered our next skin-woes we felt that we should try and manage it as best we could rather than take her back to the hospital. This time, after about a month of being in the cast, we noticed that Lucy’s skin on her upper thighs were starting to weep a bit. It was tricky to see exactly what was happening inside the cast but a yellowy-fluid was making its way out the cast and onto the edges of her nappy. We used a damp cloth to try clean the skin then dried the area before placing sanitary liners on the inside edges of the cast to soak up the fluid and create a barrier between the cast and the skin. We noticed an improvement after a few days of doing this.

Less than a week before she was due for her 6-week spica change, her skin took a turn for the worse and this time, not only was it weeping but it started to smell rotten. Again, it was on the weekend when this happened so I called the plaster room at the hospital to ask them what I should do. They said to wait until her cast change on Wednesday and the doctors would decide whether to put the new cast on or let the skin heal for a few days before fitting the new cast.

Cast change day was a long ordeal (more details here) and when Lucy came out of theatre she had on a new cast. I assumed that either her skin wasn’t too badly affected or they had doctored it in some way so that they could still put the new cast on.

The first two weeks of the new cast went by incident-free and fresh-smelling but week three brought a return of the weeping skin. Again we tried to manage it ourselves and this time used diluted dettol to clean the skin and prevent infection. We used bamboo nappy liners on the inside edges of the cast and changed them morning and night. The dettol seemed to work and when we went for Lucy’s three week check-up the staff at the plaster room had a look under the cast when I raised my concerns with them. Firstly they told me off for putting the liners inside the cast, then they said that all they could see was dead skin and that that was perfectly normal. When I explained the weeping skin to them they said they had never seen that before. I was told to bring her back in if it happened again.


This is what was oozing out of Lucy's cast

This is what was oozing out of Lucy’s cast


Well, it did happen again. And with a vengeance. We tried our usual cleaning and disinfecting and drying and bamboo-lining but it got worse. One morning the smell had become so bad and the colour of the liquid oozing from her cast had turned a brown colour and I knew that the spica had to come off. I took her to the hospital and sat in the waiting room for over three hours before we finally made it into the plaster room. The staff took one look (and smell) of the liner I pulled out and they agreed with my verdict.




Lucy's thigh a day after the cast came off

Lucy’s thigh a day after the cast came off

The sight of Lucy’s skin under the cast was not a pretty one. Her left thigh was bright red and oozing and angry. One of the nurses asked me if no one had told us not to put anything down the cast, implying that we had caused this breakdown of skin. At the time I was trying to console my screaming baby and didn’t have the strength to defend myself against her accusation masked as concern. Later on at home when I had a chance to properly examine Lucy’s skin, I could see that the areas we’d been able to reach to clean and disinfect were a lot better off than the unreachable areas so I don’t think we did too badly in nursing her at home. Unfortunately you just can’t see what is happening under most of the cast so you’re pretty powerless to fix it all.

Bare-legged with dressings under the Rhino brace

Bare-legged with dressings under the Rhino brace

The hospital gave us some loose dressing to place on her skin under the Rhino brace and advised that the best thing for the skin was air, rather than something like Sudocrem which forms a barrier on the skin. For the first few days we didn’t put any leggings on Lucy so that as much air as possible could reach her skin and promote healing.




I’m not a doctor therefore not qualified to explain why Lucy’s skin reacted the way it did to being in the spica. I know that when she first went into the cast she had a fungal nappy rash. Perhaps this had something to do with it? With the second cast, the left side was a much tighter fit than the right side so less air was able to get in there and dry up the inevitable urine that sneaks in no matter how careful you are. I also suspect that on the day her spica was changed the doctors should have opted to leave it off for a few days to give it a chance to heal. It was late in the day and her procedure had almost been cancelled but the anaesthetist had pushed for them to go ahead with it. They probably just hoped for the best rather than delay her treatment.


One week after the spica came off, her skin is looking much better

One week after the spica came off, her skin is looking much better

I have been amazed by how quickly her skin has healed. It looked dreadful the first few days as the skin dried and peeled but after just a week it is almost completely better.

We are having an x-ray this week on the day that her spica was supposed to come off. In the meantime we have been told to keep her in the Rhino brace for two weeks on top of the six weeks full-time and six weeks nights only that was originally prescribed.