Girl in hospital bed

The importance of ‘play’ during a hospital stay

A stay in the hospital can be difficult for a child at any age. Illness and hospital stays are both stressful. They disrupt a child's life and can interfere with normal development.

While they are in hospital, children may miss their friends and family. They may be bored, or they may be afraid. Children may not understand why they are in the hospital, or they may have false beliefs about what is happening to them.

As much as possible, children in the hospital should be encouraged to play. Play can take a child's mind away from pain, anxiety and illness in general. Play also helps a child stay stimulated. This encourages normal child development.

Play and recreation are a natural part of childhood, and vital to normal development. Children are able to learn, master experiences, express themselves, cope with anxiety, create, achieve, and develop skills through play and recreational activity. Recreation is still possible, even if a child is not able to leave his or her hospital bed.

Some recommended activities (depending on age of the child), may include watching movies, playing board games, reading, drawing, building with blocks or Legos, creating craft projects, coloring or painting, molding with clay or Play-Doh, creating plays with puppets, writing in journals and scrapbooking.

SKIP hospital care packages are filled with activities that can be played bedside, to provide joy, fun and comfort during a difficult time.

Source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia