The different uses of play

  • Category: 6th Conference Milano 1999
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Play and Play specialists

Milano Congress Day - November 13, 1999

This is just a brief report, in order to give an idea of the many subjects covered on this day. The proceedings of all presentations have been published in a brochure and can be ordered from the Coordinator.

Partnership in Care: Family Involvement in Nursing Care of Sick Children

Anne Casey, RSCN, MSc, Royal College of Nursing, UK

Anne Casey strongly and convincingly advocated the advantages and benefits of partnership between families and hospital staff in caring for the child. She developed 4 standards to value and assess family needs and wishes, as well as to encourage family involvement. She also stressed the importance of communication between staff and the family to come to satisfactory solutions for all parties involved.

The meaning of play for the healthy child and the hospitalised child

Grazia Honegger Fresco, educational psychologist, Italy

The importance and meaning of play for children of different ages and all stages of development, in all situations of living, and of course also for sick children, was outlined Grazia Honegger Fresco in great depth. She also put emphasis on play as a means of communication for the child, for overcoming fear and pain, or as a relief from traumatic experiences. Having seen the wonderful atmosphere in a number of hospital playrooms where children are allowed to “play-out”, she warned on the consequences of banning play for children from the street, from home and even school.

Preparation for hospitalisation in hospital and in school

Françoise Schmid-Pugin, pre-school teacher, Switzerland

Playing with children is Françoise Schmid’s day-to-day profession. In addition she is engaged since many years in so-called hospital preparation afternoons which are held regularly at the Basel children’s hospital.

She outlined how children can be prepared appropriately for a hospital stay through play in pre-school or primary school or at home. She also explained the system of lending out to teachers hospital play bags, and its contents. Accompanied by information materials, and illustrated books, the bag includes original hospital equipment and disposable materials, which the children can use for “Let’s Play Hospital”.

Why play - who plays? The facilitating role of the Hospital Play

Alison Webster, Hospital Play Manager, UK

Alison Webster explained to the audience the professional scopes of the Hospital Play Specialist, a profession which in most European countries does not exist in this specific form. She opened her speech with the following definition of play: Provision of a welcoming, child-centred environment. Listening to develop trust with children and their families. Advocacy of the child’s holistic needs. Yielding adult language to allow the child’s voice to be heard. She described the play specialist’s involvement in pre-admission programmes, post-procedural play, and free play. She concluded by listing the benefits of the unique role of the Hospital Play Specialist: Provision of environment - Understanding - Time - Developmental support - Detection - Accurate information - Shared play dialogue - Developing coping strategies - Reduction of fear - Healing aspects of play.

The use of dolls in healthcare settings

Yvonne Becher, Playright, Hong Kong

The invaluable and fascinating role of the doll as a play tool during the whole development of a child, as well as in the special circumstances of a hospital stay were the focus of Yvonne Becher’s address.

The different types of play activities with dolls in hospital, for therapeutic play, preparation, distraction, as well as post-procedural play, and the recommended competence level of the staff were another subject.

Some of the idiosyncrasies of doll play in hospital in Hong Kong with a view to its predominantly Chinese community were outlined. She also mentioned that careful consideration should be given to the use of anatomically correct dolls, which in her opinion are very often a less than pressing need.

Yvonne Becher’s address was illustrated by an impressive selection of original dolls used in the hospital where she works.

Other subjects

The afternoon program was dedicated to children with special needs for play, such as

  • Rehabilitation of children affected by cerebral palsy (Adriana Anderloni),
  • Play for the training of the asthmatic child (Giulio Cocco),
  • Age appropriate activities for adolescents in hospital - a much neglected area in most countries.(Helen Russell-Johnson),
  • Report by the French architect Emmanuel Coste on the recent realization of a play area in a Day Hospital especially designed for the needs of children. Unfortunately the project could be presented as 3D-CAD sketches only. Apparently the hospital did not allow photographs of the “real thing”, once the hospital was in working condition.
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