The importance of play in hospital

We believe, that no matter where they are, children should always be allowed to be children. This is why we’re funding items to support play therapy in hospital.

As the official fundraising arm of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital (the Alex) in Brighton, we not only fund life-saving and cutting-edge medical equipment, but also items that enhance a young patient’s experience during their hospital admission and throughout their treatment.

We support the Alex’s dedicated team of play specialists by funding toys, games and activities to enable them to do their job to the best of their ability and make a real difference to the overall experience of children, babies and teenagers on the wards.

Only the other day we delivered a huge box of gifts for teenage patients at the Alex and received a wonderful response from parents via the Rockinghorse Facebook page. Supporter, Janet Anne, commented: “They look great. It can be tough being a teenager in hospital, it’s important to have things to do…on your own, with your family and friends and games are a good way of connecting with the hospital team.

Kamal Patel is a paediatrician specialising in critical and emergency care at the Alex. Following a recent post on Twitter about how we support play in hospital, he commented: “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and young people.”

Ever mindful of inclusivity, we also fund sensory items for young patients with extra needs. Recently, we heard from parent Miss Ellis, who contacted us to thank Rockinghorse for helping to improve her daughter’s hospital experience. Her daughter Izzy is a regular visitor to the Alex and relies on a wheelchair for her mobility. She very much enjoys visits to the Sealife-themed sensory room in the hospital, which we co-funded two years ago.

Miss Ellis said: “Due to Izzy’s physical disability, a lot of the toys on the ward are inaccessible to her. However, with thanks to the support of Rockinghorse, the hospital have purchased switch-adapted toys which means Izzy is able to play regardless.”

We have also donated funding for a mobile ‘magic carpet’ which is being used to help young patients admitted to the Alex’s dedicated emergency department. This piece of equipment is a fantastic interactive resource that engages children of all ages and abilities, helping alleviate any anxieties during a hospital visit. It projects interactive games and images on to the floor, bed or table, that a child can control simply by moving on or over it.

Amy Farmer, one of the dedicated team of play specialists at the Alex, says: “The portable magic carpet aids treatment, offers play opportunities and enhances the all-round hospital experience of young patients admitted to A&E. The equipment has become invaluable to me, as my main job is to help calm and engage with patients who are very poorly and/or distressed, whilst the medical team make their diagnosis.”

When a child is admitted to hospital, their usual routine is disrupted, and they may be separated from members of their family for certain periods of time. Having access to toys and games and being able to play whilst in hospital can bring some normality to a potentially stressful situation. Play can help familiarise the unfamiliar surroundings of a hospital ward and create a positive experience and environment. It also helps hospital staff to engage with children who may be shy or unable to communicate and can encourage them to express their feelings and worries about treatments and procedures during their stay.

Thanks to your support, we are continuing to fund play items to make a real difference to a young patient’s hospital experience.

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