Therapeutic Play

What is therapeutic play?

Therapeutic play is used to help meet the emotional needs of children who have an illness or surgery that requires hospitalization. Being in the hospital is stressful for children and their families. Sometimes, children feel scared, confused and out of control. Therapeutic play is used to help children understand and cope with illness, surgery, hospitalization, treatments and procedures.

What is the goal of therapeutic play?

The goal of therapeutic play is to provide a family-centered approach to help your child adjust to hospital care. A child life specialist can help meet the emotional needs of children in the hospital by getting to know your child, giving him/her a chance to express himself/herself and allowing him/her to adjust to being in the hospital through therapeutic play. Parents of infants are offered a chance to learn new skills to comfort their baby and ways they can encourage their baby's continued development while their baby is recovering in the hospital.

Child life specialists can help your child and the other children in your family with:

  • Play activities to prepare your child for medical procedures and learn about his/her surgery
  • Relaxation and pain management skills
  • Providing a opportunity for your child to express his/her feelings through normal play
  • Brother/sister needs:
    • Children at home may be worried about their brother or sister who is in the hospital. They may be upset because mom and dad are away from them more than usual. The child life specialist can help you to answer questions you may have about any children at home.
    • Visiting the hospital can also be stressful for brothers and sisters. The child life specialist can help prepare brothers and sisters before they visit so they can understand what they see and how they feel before and after their visit to their sibling in the hospital.