Play & Recreation

Child Life Program

Play is a very important aspect of a child’s development and it also serves as a universal form of communication. Each stage of development requires different needs and desires of achievement. Children who experience hospitalization need to continue their development and socialization through play but it has to be manipulated due to the change of environment and familiar play objects. Here are the different age groups and some examples of how to integrate play while hospitalized.


Infancy is a time for development and exploration of their surroundings and individual growth. Infants are completely dependent on their caregivers and solely react to the temperament of their surroundings. Fears infants could experience are separation anxiety, stranger anxiety and pain.


  • Rattles, rings, noise making toys
  • Mirrors for self exploration
  • Soft objects with a variety of textures and sounds
  • Visually stimulations light up toys and movement enticing object

Play in the Hospital

  • Peek-a-boo with medical equipment (masks, hats, gloves, etc.)
  • Playing and exploring medical equipment (stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs)
  • Familiar music and toys from home


Toddlers are beginning to communicate by placing words together to get phrases of desire communicated to caregivers. They are also becoming more independent and wanting to perform tasks without guidance. Fears toddlers could experience are separation anxiety, loss of control and restraints within environment.


  • Familiar comfort items and toys from home
  • Exploring crayons, paper, stickers, paints
  • Stacking blocks and sorting shapes
  • Hiding objects and relocating them
  • Music and educational television programs

Play in the Hospital

  • Peek-a-boo with medical equipment
  • Using a toy doctor kit and playing doctor with doll or stuffed animal
  • Play with medical equipment and provide education with simple words


School-age children are exploring new surroundings by being away from the home environment and meeting new peers. They become more competitive and are able to think logically and put cause and effects concepts together. Fears school-aged children can experience loss of control, separation from family and peers as well as body disfigurement.


  • Familiar comfort times and toys from home
  • Watching favorite television programs
  • Playing with peers
  • Board games, video games, cards
  • Arts and crafts
  • Educational activities

Play in the Hospital

  • Reading books to prepare for hospital environment and experiences
  • Medical collages
  • Medical play with medical equipment and doctor kits
  • Syringe painting and juice races
  • Making art projects with medical equipment (Band-Aids, tongue depressors, gauze) undefined


Adolescents is a time for independence and pushing the limit. Adolescents tend to believe they are indestructible (“It would never happen to me”) and are exploring changes with their bodies and their feelings. Peer acceptance is very important and relating to their peer group is detrimental to their self esteem. Fears adolescents can experience include are any physical changes to their body or self image, privacy as well as loss of independence and daily interactions with peers.


  • Music, movies and clothing from home
  • Board games, video games, cards
  • Journal writing
  • Computer play and peer interactions

Play in the Hospital

  • Peer groups and activities
  • Exploring medical equipment
  • Journal writing
  • Listening and honesty
  • Teen lounge or space without young children