“It is through play that kiddos express themselves, explore the world around them and discover their potential. These are the therapeutic benefits of play and three reasons why play is vital to the healing process.”
– Melissa Grialou, Manager, Therapeutic Recreation & Child Life
Therapeutic Recreation & Child Life is the program responsible for making kids who come to the hospital feel like kids. The team of specialists works to reduce stress and anxiety felt by patients, and they make it look like child’s play. While recreation therapy and child life are distinct disciplines, they complement each other. At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California they come together in the central activity area, where kids engage in structured and unstructured play each day. That includes everything from card games and art projects to karaoke and line dancing. Then, of course, there are the special celebrity visits — professional athletes, ballerinas, musicians and Mickey Mouse, to name a few.
Child Life specialists engage kids before and after surgery and during the recovery process. They introduce coping strategies and distraction therapy to put play into the child’s hospital stay. Experts in child development, child life specialists work in partnership with doctors, nurses and other health professionals to introduce age-appropriate play and education that meets the emotional, developmental and cultural needs of each patient. Child Life specialists promote family-centered care by providing support to families of kids in the hospital.
Therapeutic Recreation specialists and activities coordinators organize everything from movie nights at the hospital to patient outings to local baseball games, theater events and more. The recreational activities are designed to help patients identify the activities they enjoy and help them access them once they leave the hospital.
Because they interact with patients in so many different hospital settings, therapeutic recreation and child life specialists gain insight into how kids react to different situations and are able to devise new and innovative ways to provide comfort and encourage self expression.