How to survive a toddler with a broken leg

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As a mother, I always feared certain things and dreaded any of them happening to my children. Well, when my toddler was about 17 months, my worst nightmare happened. He fell and got a broken leg.

A very active toddler with a broken leg was not a good combination. The journey was rough, but we survived. Along the way, we were able to come up with ways to make each day easier and figure out how to handle a toddler in a full leg cast.

Broken Leg toddler

What happened?

Since you’re probably wondering how he broke his leg I will give you a brief rundown. It was a Sunday morning in October when it all happened. Usually, our Sundays consist of going to church, relaxing and enjoying time as a family. Well, this week was quite different. We spent our entire morning in the instacare, trying to console a screaming toddler, waiting for answers and direction.

The rest of the day was long, worrying and exhausting both physically and mentally. No mother likes to see their child in any kind of pain, especially when they are so young, they don’t understand what happened.

Every morning usually runs the same, one of us goes upstairs to get Thomas, change his diaper and bring him downstairs, while the other gets him his morning milk. It is pretty routine, and we usually trade on and off most days.

Well, on this particular morning it was my husband’s turn to make the trip upstairs. Unlike every other morning, this one didn’t go quite as planned. All of a sudden, I hear a loud CRASH. It completely startled me, and I went running over to the stairs. My husband and toddler were laying on the stairs. I grabbed Thomas who was screaming uncontrollably and made sure my hubby was OK.

My poor husband had lost his footing and slipped and fell down the stairs while carrying our toddler. One of those freak accidents that you have no control over. Thomas was hysterical, I’m sure from shock and pain and we were both a little shook up.

At first, we didn’t know for sure if he had really hurt his leg or not (because he is quite dramatic) but once he would bear any weight on it, we knew something was wrong.

Was it broken?

We hurried over to instacare that morning and got it looked at. That whole experience was pretty traumatizing. Trying to explain to a VERY defiant 17 month old what happened is pretty much impossible. The experience resulted in us practically having to restrain him during the x-rays trying to keep him as still as possible.

The x-rays showed that he had broken his leg in two places. Fortunately, they were not super severe breaks and were only “buckle breaks”. This was a bit of a relief because that hopefully meant quicker healing time.

toddler leg splint

Once the verdict was in, it was time to splint the leg. I’m pretty sure everyone in the building could hear my toddler crying and screaming. To give you an idea of his personality, he is the type that does not like to be touched if he doesn’t know you. Now add having a broken leg to the mix- Yep, you can see why it didn’t end well!

It was horrible! I don’t wish it upon anyone. Having to use all your strength to keep your child still who has absolutely no idea what is going on and is in terrible pain was heart wrenching for me.

Finally home:

We were glad to be home after that. We had lots of snuggles, rest and movie watching. I really try to avoid letting my toddler watch TV except for on occasion and when really needed. This was one of those times.

He needed to have the splint on for a few days for any swelling on his leg to go down before they casted it. The days with the splint were horrific. He was miserable and so were we. Sleeping was rough, getting around was tricky and the overall experience was not fun at all!

Thankfully, we were able to get a cast in place a few days sooner than originally scheduled. Thomas was trying to get the split off, so we had to be constantly re-wrapping it. The doctor suggested we come in and get a cast on sooner rather than later.

Since Thomas only had 2 buckle breaks, the breaks weren’t as severe as they could’ve been, so swelling was pretty minimal which also allowed for casting to be done sooner.

Cast fitting:

To be honest with you I was preparing for the worst on this one. I was only recalling the events a few days prior and couldn’t imagine how they were going to cast a toddler that quite possibly could be screaming and certainly not sitting still.

Well, it turns out that it seriously went better than I could have ever expected. He was an angel for the nurses. Although, I am pretty sure milk, a favorite movie, a lovey and the fact he was not in a lot of pain could have helped the matter!

Leg cast for toddler

We chose a blue cast and within 20 minutes or so the cast was all hardened and in place. He had to have a full leg cast because it needed to cover a joint above and below the break.

So, since his break was toward the bottom of his leg, his ankle and knee needed to be casted as well. He had the cast on for just shy of 4 weeks. We were able to get it off right before Thanksgiving!

My best tips for you if you’re dealing with a toddler and a broken leg:

I am so glad my husband and I were able to figure out some super simple ways to help ease the trouble of dealing with a busy toddler in a cast. Believe me, it was easy but using these simple ways really helped a lot.

Plus, we totally survived the 4 weeks and I hope to give some encouragement to another mother out there who might be in this same situation

1. Just accept the fact and move on.

At first, I was really quite frustrated that my little guy broke his leg! I thought to myself, why? Like I have time to deal with a very busy toddler who now has a full leg cast on and is very limited in his mobility.

Not only was I bummed out about it all, but I felt so bad for him! He didn’t understand what was going on and had no idea why he couldn’t move like he normally did. I would look at other kids his age running and playing and felt so sorry for him and didn’t want him to be missing out.

The truth of the matter is that as mothers we just worry. It is just what we do. Or at least that is what I do! It is ok to worry a little bit, but don’t let it consume you. He wasn’t in a cast forever, just 4 weeks that were over before we knew it.

2. Your child will quickly adapt (probably way quicker than you)

Little kids are amazing! Their bodies heal fast and they adapt SO quickly. I was seriously so shocked at how quickly Thomas adapted to having a full leg cast. Within no time at all, he was doing all of his normal fun activities. He was walking everywhere and even trying to run with his cast on.

Broken bone toddler playing

3. Buy cheap sweats:

Your child isn’t going to wearing some of his normal clothes. Jeans and other tighter fighting clothing are just not going to go over a cast.

Toddler with leg cast

When Thomas had his splint, we did cut a couple pairs of old pants as the splint was even bulkier but once he got his cast on, we just bought $5 sweats at Walmart that stretched quite easily over the cast.

4. Skip the cast boot and use batting tape instead:

If your child was a walker before they broke their leg, most likely your child will figure out how to walk again with the cast on. My toddler had already been walking for about 2-3 months before breaking his leg, so the cast wasn’t going to stop him.

There are quite a few different cast boots you can buy to help your child walk with the cast on. We couldn’t find a reasonably priced one that would arrive in enough time to make it worth it, so we went a different route.

Lizard skin wrap for cast

My husband came up with the fantastic idea of using batting tape. Our house has a lot of wood and tile flooring in it, so if Thomas were to walk, we needed to make sure he had a good grip on the bottom of the cast. We didn’t want him slipping and breaking his other leg!

The boot seemed like a great idea, but the tape was even better! Batting tape gave the perfect amount of grip needed and it was fun to let Thomas pick out a color each time. Plus, it was cheaper than a well-designed boot.

We changed his tape about every 7-10 days depending on how gross it got. Overall, we went through three different tapes.

How to put it on:

You can find batting tape at a local sporting goods store or you can find it online at amazon. We tried the batting tape and the lacrosse tape. Either way, make sure it is the Lizard Skins brand (this is important). After that, we tested out a few different thicknesses and I would recommend either 0.5 mm or 1.1mm but no thicker than that. We tried the thicker one thinking it would give more cushion, but it was just too thick and was not easy to wrap.

How to wrap a leg cast

  1. Take the wrap out of the packaging and begin unrolling it.
  2. Start by placing it over the cast where you want it to be. Sometimes you have to fiddle around with it and find out what direction works best.
  3. Then start taking of the backing tape and begin wrapping. Don’t take off the all of the backing tape in one go. You want to peel it off gradually as you apply it to the cast.
  4. Continue wrapping until you get to the heel. Go as far as you can to cover the heel and that’s it!

5. Have your child wear a non-slip shoe in the house.

It seems weird but it is will help your child feel more comfortable if they are walking around. Think about it, a full leg cast restricts movement within the leg- that’s its job! BUT, with that being said your child can’t bend their leg which will cause them to swing it out while walking. This will make them feel very uneven. It is almost like one leg is longer than the other.

Toddler with full leg cast

When Thomas was walking around, inside the house or outside I always made sure he had a shoe on his other foot. This just gave him a little extra height and made him feel a bit more balanced.

I always used his croc for inside as it is super grippy, easy to get on and off and super easy to clean (if you don’t want messy shoes in the house)

6. Bath time

As you can imagine bath time was tricky and not as fun as baths usually are. We figured out a good system that seemed to work well.

You’re going to laugh but trust me, this totally works and is SO worth it. All you need is a disposable livestock OB plastic glove and some hair ties. That’s it!

Head over to a local animal feed store and you should easily find these gloves there. They are SUPER cheap! Like 30 cents each. Plan of getting a few uses out of each glove.

Broken bone hacks

How to use:

  1. Get your child undressed for the bath.
  2. Slide the glove on. It will get stuck on the batting tape because the tape is so grippy. But just slide it on over the tape.
  3. Cover the whole entire leg, past the point where the cast ends.
  4. Grab a hair tie. I got a couple of hair ties and tied them together, so it was big enough. (my toddler has chunky legs) It needs to be snug, but you don’t want it too tight that it’s cutting off circulation.
  5. With the extra part of the glove, fold it over and pull it gently back down towards the bottom of the leg.
  6. Slide another hair tie onto the leg and then secure the excess piece of glove in place.

Please note this is not a completely waterproof seal. We actually would not have Thomas sit in a bathtub full of water. Sounds terrible but we just accepted the fact the next months of baths would be quick and not super exciting.

How we would do it:

We would fill the bath with warm water so it would make the base of the tub not freeing cold when Thomas would sit in it.

I would also grab a big plastic mixing and fill that will warm bathwater. That would be the water I would use to wash him and he would also enjoy playing in the bowl of water too!

Cast hacks for a broken bone

Don’t use the glove as a complete waterproof item. It is great in the way we used it. But we were NOT completely submerging his leg in the water.

7. Don’t deprive your child of being outside, just make some adjustments:

Our little toddler could honestly be outside all day long, so keeping him cooped up was just not an option. Once he quickly figured out how to get around, he was heading to the door faster than we could.

When he first broke his leg, it was still relatively nice outside in terms of weather. We had a lot of warm fall weather, so everywhere was dry. Once it rained and got wet outside, we had to improvise a little more, but he was still able to go and enjoy playing outside.

cast hacks for a broken leg

Grab some old socks and just layer up your child’s foot. They will look funny with a giant foot, but it totally works! I would use about three old socks just to ensure his cast would stay clean.

If it is wet outside, you do the same except add a Ziplock bag in there too! I would put one sock on and then a Ziplock and then a couple of other socks. The sandwich bag will act as a waterproof barrier and keep the cast dry even if the ground is wet and muddy outside.

8. Remember “this too will pass”:

I know that is probably not what you want to hear if you have a child with a broken leg, but it is true. It is not forever, and it will only be an inconvenience for a short while in the grand scheme of things.

Toddler with full leg cast

I honestly think it was almost harder for us as parents to cope with the situation than the one who actually had the broken leg! Like I said, toddlers adapt so well, they usually get along just fine.

9. When the cast comes off, give your child some time:

I did become a little anxious prior to his cast coming off because I was worried he wouldn’t be back to normal right away.

What if he would always walk funny? Will he have any lasting long-term damage?

Just remember not to have super high hopes and give your child some time to adjust back to the way things were before. Don’t expect them to hop off of the doctor’s bench the moment the cast is off and take off running.

Their muscles in their leg have been completely dormant for weeks. Muscle memory is gone and their leg is weak. It is 100% normal for them to take some time, so don’t put pressure on them.

Surviving a child with broken bone

Thomas was really uneasy on his leg for the first couple of days after getting his cast off. He also would try crawling around and would crawl with his leg straight out like the cast was still on. It took him a couple of days to actually realize he could bend his leg!

Even after a week, he was still walking like the cast was on and wasn’t bending his leg all of the time. He was also walking with his foot turned out, since that how he had been doing it for a month.

I know it can be worrying because you want them to go back to normal without any issues. Just give them some time and they’ll be back to the way they were before you know it.

It has been a little over two weeks now and he is doing really well. He has straightened his leg out and is walking and running much better. I would say in another week or two we will never even notice anything ever happened.

Hopefully, these tips help you! I am glad we had some great tools to ease some of the inconvenience and also make it the best experience for our child.

Have you dealt with a broken bone before? Any other tips you have for me?

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broken leg hacks

4 thoughts on “How to survive a toddler with a broken leg”

  1. blank

    Hi! Thanks for this post! My 13 month old just broke her leg as well and it’s been hard to navigate :(( My almost 3 year old hit the gas on our golf cart and knocked sissy over. She twisted it and got a break high on her femur. I have felt just awful. Thanks for the positive words. A accident is a accident but it’s almost sadder when they were just innocent bystanders and didn’t at least like jump off the couch or something lol. Praying that the next few weeks fly by💕 thanks again

    1. blank

      Hi! I am so sorry to hear about your sweet little one. I totally know how you feel! I felt that exact same way when my guy broke his leg. Don’t beat yourself up about it. She will adapt so quickly, you’ll be surprised. Also, those tiny bones heal so fast! Does she have a thigh-high cast? How long does it need to be in a cast? I hope the post was helpful and that your little girl heals quickly!

      1. blank

        The post was exactly what I was looking for 💜 interesting story with us. That first night I took her in for X-ray and they said it was clear no break. 8 days later she still wasn’t walking on it so I took her in to pediatrician where they ordered additional follow up X-ray that showed the break 😟in 2 places . So off to ortho at valley children’s we went. At first I was a total mess and really upset it was missed on X-ray but I think it ended up being a blessing in disguise. Luckily since she had already been crawling on it for a week w no displacement and it was healing well they decided to splint it from her toes all the way up above her tush. I was so thankful to not have to put her in the spica cast which is very involved and what they most always do for femur fractures (what they would have done first night) it has to be placed w Child in the or under general anesthesia). Thank god it was already healing well and that the splint was the course of action. So she is to wear that for 2 weeks but they said I can remove it to bathe her and put her to sleep at night so she can get some relief. I just bathe her last thing at night so she’s only in my arms and her crib not up crawling and trying to walk or anything. It is mostly for her protection during the day so she doesn’t re injur it while healing finishes. Today is day 6 I hope the rest goes quickly

        1. blank

          Oh my goodness! I am so sorry to hear that. That would have been very stressful, to say the least, but as you said, maybe it was a blessing in disguise because she didn’t have to get that cast. I’m so happy to hear she is healing well! That is super nice you can take the splint off to bathe her and when she sleeps. I’m SO glad you found this post helpful. When it happened to my little guy, I was ao sad and overwhelmed that I wanted to write a post about broken bones to help other mothers going through the same thing. It is hard to see your baby hurt, but remember she’ll be back to normal before you know it. I love natural remedies so another thing I found helpful when my little guy had the splint is I would give him Arnica Montana to help with the bruising and swelling. It is a homeopathic remedy that can help any aches and pains, just in case she is experiencing any discomfort with it 🙂 It seems like your cute girl is a champ and is healing really well.

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