Importance of play in a hospital- The Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) case

Without play at GOSH, the hospital will be a mere brick wall filled with injections, medications procedures and ultimately “PAIN” for our children. They will otherwise be left frightened and confused about the meaning of all they have to cope with on a daily basis here at GOSH. Play helps mirror the intended reality that every person should rightfully experience especially in their childhood when the best memories that carry one through life are forged.

Unfortunately, illness and disease try to snatch these away from our innocent children but the existence of play here at GOSH, means that the horribleness is reduced and at times eliminated from the lives of our children. Play achieves this by creating the ability for children to escape their present and sometimes entrapping realities. It then catapults them into an imaginative realm where they can feel safe. During play, children can calmly relax and be at peace. At GOSH this experience is guided painstakingly by the play specialists.

The constant use of play to assist patients here at GOSH helps create a new type of reality for our children. It helps them forge new positive connections with the staff involved in their care. It reduces the confusion that leads to fear in a young mind regarding the incessant interruptions and interventions needed to keep them safe. Play also provides a conducive atmosphere for patients to interrelate and communicate appropriately.

Oftentimes play is intended to be a distraction for our children. However in reality, it adds to the enrichment in the quality of life that our children become privileged to experience by being here. Endless tools, toys, materials etc are employed by the play specialists to excite, engage, entertain and educate them.

At GOSH, there are no gimmicks the only effort required for the children to benefit from play is to simply but participate in the various activities planned and set before them consistently by these play geniuses. The fact that every play tailored and customised to suit each child makes it even more special and memorable to each participant. It creates a more personal and specific activity for each child to look forward to every time.

Play has most importantly become an invaluable coping mechanism for children here at GOSH- especially for those in pain. Sometimes and unfortunately when pain re-emerges despite medication, play can become the next option for some children. The distractive nature of play can be a subtle medium for alleviating an otherwise endless cycle of suffering for some of these children. In this way, play becomes transformed into a tool of respite for these ailing ones. It can be the only reason that a child smiles, shrieks, brightens up and even gives the littlest reaction amidst a trying episode in their day’s journey here at GOSH. Play once more, provides a hopeful reassurance that the flame of life will be kept aglow in our children against all odds.

For us parents and carers, we are not left out of the play experience provided at GOSH. We indirectly feed off the positive energy we witness in our children as they perform and enjoy each activity. That smile, that joy we see as the children play always makes each moment spent at GOSH more hopeful. After all their joy is our joy and all we live for.

These play geniuses extend the care for our children to us (parents and carers) by carrying us along. They equally provide us with distractions and play materials. The play areas also create calming and relaxing escapes for parents and carers. All these remind us never to lose sight of the inner child within despite our individual circumstances. In the end, we too, like our children find that if we can keep playing we will not be held down but propelled by our challenges.

So yes! Play does matter to us all and we are blessed to be surrounded by one of the best play teams in the world!


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Photo credit: Pixabay

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