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The importance of play in hospital

Research tells us that play and connection is very important during a child’s hospitalisation. It helps with their boredom, and can distract them from uncomfortable things that they may not be used to that happen in hospital.

It can be really hard to think of things to together when you do not have access to toys and games from home, or when your child is really poorly. It is also best to try and limit your child’s use of screens, and let them play in other ways too.

We hope this resource can provide some ideas of things you can do during your visit.

These activities are designed to promote positive interaction and connection you and your child. They are also just great ways to have fun and pass the time.

All you need is yourselves, and maybe a pen and paper.

Hand massage

Massage your child’s hand with yours. Perhaps you could draw patterns with your hand on theirs or use cream. Scented creams or moisturise can be nice.

Massaging increases circulation, and can reduced stress and tension. It releases a happy hormone called ‘endorphins’ which are also released when eating good food and having fun exercising. Endorphins are good because they help with pain, lower stress, improve mood, and enhance your sense of well-being.

Pizza massage

Pretend to make a pizza on a different part of child’s body such as on their back, tummy or hand.

Start by using the body part as the base. Can you pretend to roll out the dough? Sprinkle the cheese? Add your child’s favourite pizza toppings, or get silly and add chocolate and ice cream.

The important bit is to use touch and notice what your child likes or does not like. Again, this has all the benefits as hand massaging, and connects you to your child.

20 questions

Someone thinks of something (such as an animal, famous person, sport and so on), and the other person has 20 questions to guess what it is! You can only answer with yes or no.

For example, “Are you an animal?” “Yes”, “Do you live in the sea?” “Yes”, “Do you have fins?” “No”, “Are you a jellyfish?” “Yes!”.

Think of what your child is most interested in. Do they know about all the dinosaurs? Do they have a favourite football club? Do they know all about Ancient Egypt? Let them talk about their favourite things and get excited.

Writing a sentence to make a story

Take turns to say a sentence out loud, making a story. Each sentence should link with the one before it.

For example, “A man was walking his dog to the shops”, “To get some milk and cheese”, “And the dog stole the cheese!”, “The dog said ‘this is my cheese now!'”, “And the dog shared it with his friends in the park!”

This lets your be silly and use your imaginations. It might become a story you come back to, or you could try draw it out.

I spy

Look around and choose something and say “I spy with my eye something beginning with…..” and the first letter of the item. For example “I spy with my eye something beginning with C”.

Guess items beginning with C until you guess correctly.

Other games

  • Using your finger, draw letters on somebody’s arm and the other person has to guess the letter
  • Learn new nursery rhymes together or make up your own songs.
  • Practise hairstyles on each other like braiding
  • Play 10 seconds of a song and let the other person guess which song it is.
  • Rock, paper, scissors
  • Take it in turns to make funny faces, the other person must try not to laugh
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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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