BACKGROUND Waiting in hospital is a condition of high stress for patients and their families, especially in childhood. The literature has investigated the emotional experiences of patients and their families, recognizing the need for a comfortable environment, attention from the staff, information and sharing emotions with others. Waiting time in day hospitals is a topic that has not yet been investigated in the literature, but is nevertheless interesting for researchers. This exploratory study investigates the experience of waiting young patients and their families go through during treatments in day hospitals. METHOD Fifty children and adolescents from ages 7 to 15 years, admitted to the day hospital of a paediatric haematology and oncology ward of an Italian hospital, completed the Emotional Reaction Instrument (ERI) and the Child Drawing: Hospital. Their parents or relatives completed a semi-structured interview on waiting. RESULTS The data showed that the young patients displayed a low level of anxiety and negative emotion. In contrast, the adults' experience of waiting in the day hospital entailed boredom, anxiety and concern for the emotional state of their children. These conditions can be alleviated by relationships and sharing emotions with other adults. CONCLUSIONS This study has shown that day hospital waiting rooms should be organized and should be experienced by adults and children as relational spaces. This could provide useful suggestions in order to improve the organization of day hospital waiting rooms.