Daily play, exercise and relaxation in hospital helps build strength, restore peace and nourish hope.
Children need recreation, especially when they are unwell and feeling discouraged. Play is the language of childhood, enabling children to express their feelings safely and creatively. When children are calmer, they cope better and heal faster.
Help your child by seeking out opportunities for play, fun and laughter wherever possible, and remember you will benefit as much as your child from daily play, relaxation and exercise. Laughter and courage are contagious.
Hospitals that treat children often have at least one room dedicated to play, filled with toys, dress up, musical instruments and books. Many also have craft corners staffed by volunteers or child life specialists – professionals who help children cope with potentially traumatic experiences.
These play spaces are a happy break from the ward, and provide wonderful opportunities for both child and parent to meet other people.
Playing with other children who share their experience helps dissolve the fear and isolation children often feel about being in hospital and the treatment they are receiving.
If your child is too ill or neutropaenic to visit the play room, ask a child life specialist, play team member or nurse to bring some bedside play activities. You can also seek these out yourself, but check whether there is a sign out process before removing toys from a space.
Play spaces in hospital are often equipped with medical play resources. These help children become familiar with equipment and express their fears and worries about their hospital experience. For more information on medical play and how this can help your child, click here.
Bring some music or audio stories to liven up your child’s days and help you both unwind. You will need a small portable stereo to play music. If you didn’t bring one with you, ask the hospital if they have one to loan, of ask a friend to bring one when they visit.
The hospital may have DVD players or VCRs available for loan. Sign up for a loan in advance, ensuring this does not clash with any tests or procedures.
Bring your child’s favourite videos, or rent from a nearby store. Some hospitals have a small library from which you can borrow videos, DVDs and books.
Be respectful of other children in your child’s room or bay who may not appreciate noise. Have earphones available for your child to use if necessary.
Exercise is important for both physical and mental wellbeing. If your child is well enough, explore the hospital together. Even if your child is a baby, the different sights, sounds and smells will stimulate her, and the walk will be healthy for you.
Try to take at least one walk each day, even if it is only several circuits of the ward or floor.
Breathe in fresh air at least once a day. Walk around the local neighbourhood if the surroundings allow, or explore the hospital gardens.
If your child has low white blood counts and the hospital allows it, go to the rooftop to drink in the fresh air and sunlight.
If your child is well enough, ask if she can leave for a few hours, and visit a local park. Green spaces are very therapeutic to the soul.