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How Play Can Be a Remarkable Tool to Help Pediatric Patients Cope and Heal: New Innovative Research


Toys and play are critical to the healing process for children who are experiencing life-threatening illness, injury or painful medical procedures, and for their families, according to research by The Toy Foundation (TTF), the industry’s leading charitable entity to help kids in need, and Nemours Children’s Health System.

The new research is the first qualitative study of its kind to examine the incorporation of play into trauma-related care for pediatric patients. The research is part of a multi-phase initiative between the Foundation and Nemours to create a pioneering play-based intervention program for children in the hospital setting and beyond.

The findings reveal that engaging and interactive play can be used to alleviate potentially traumatic situations and to modify how kids perceive these experiences by providing distraction, reducing anxiety, delivering information, helping kids to process emotions, and fostering feelings of control. Essentially, play is a vital element of the hospital experience for children – helping to restore normalcy and provide comfort for patients and families during their stay.

The trailblazing research has been recognized by the medical and academic communities – the findings were published in the February issue of Psychological Services on “Trauma Informed Care for Children and Families” and will be presented at several major medical conferences in the U.S. this spring.

“The Toy Foundation has been committed to bringing the crucial benefits of play to children in need, and to providing joy and comfort to these children,” said Jean Butler, executive director of The Toy Foundation. “Our findings confirm that a play-based intervention program can provide an effective means to ease traumatic stress reactions in children facing life-threatening illnesses, and offer a much-needed outlet for families during their hospital stay.“

With the qualitative research phase now complete, TTF and Nemours will collaborate on developing a revolutionary intervention program using resources designed to support and comfort children experiencing stress reactions due to their hospital stay. A pilot program is expected to be tested in Nemours hospitals later this year.

Added Butler, “Our partnership with Nemours, an esteemed leader in the pediatric health care system, represents the next step in the Foundation’s journey to expand our reach by bringing the healing power of play to sick children and families living through incredibly stressful circumstances. We look forward to developing an intervention program to further advance trauma-informed care through play.”

The Toy Foundation has provided nearly $225 million in brand-new toys to over 25 million deserving children through its signature program, The Toy Bank. To learn more about The Toy Foundation and its partners visit ToyFoundation.org.