The Serious Bit

Leanne, Fletcher’s mummy, has a degree in primary education with a special interest in inclusion and so we know how important play is in childhood development.

Play is a crucial part of a child’s development. It is through play that young children begin to make sense of themselves and the world around them. From exploring their fingers and toes to making constructions with building blocks all these activities build up a child’s internal picture of the world.

Play is essential for healthy brain development – children start to learn and understand through play. Creativity is also developed through play – children explore different approaches, combinations and possibilities, encouraging them to think in new ways It can help to deal with stress – young children can become absorbed in their play; helping give them much needed breathing space from whatever problems there are in their ‘real world’.

For children in hospital all this is perhaps even more vital. If a child is confined to a hospital ward they need the stimulation and enjoyment of play activities even more. It supports the development of: Family bonds – affection, laughter, trust and physical closeness all help to build up the bonds between the significant adult and child. Language development – including taking turns and social skills as well as actual vocabulary like colours, prepositions and positional language etc. Hand-eye coordination, balance and general motor skills – an understanding of, and control of what their body can and cannot do.

Play is incredibly important on paediatric oncology wards to help the children understand their illness, to understand their treatment and as a distraction. Play helps to keep part of lives as normal as possible, when everything else in their lives has changed. This is where the play teams on the wards come into their own. Along with the nurses and other medical staff, the play team are a very important part of these wards, and they are incredible!