Having to spend time in a hospital can be stressful, especially for young children. It may seem cold, sterile, and lack all of the comforts of home they are used to.
While many of the new sights and sounds are required to keep kids healthy, there are a few things hospitals can do to make patient rooms and common spaces more kid-friendly. Each of the suggestions below can be adapted for toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children, depending on their preferences.
Themed Bedding & Accessories
When a child first enters a hospital room for a stay, it can look very different from their bedroom at home. There are many machines with lights and sounds, the weird bed has a million buttons, and the bedding is traditionally not the most comfortable.
Creating themed patient rooms using bedding and accessories is a great way to instantly make a young person more excited about their stay. Rather than the dull, white bedding, add a Marvel or Frozen-themed bedspread and pillowcases.
Choose another room to decorate with floral bedding and add some faux plants to bring the outdoors in. Creating a theme for your children’s rooms using blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals can turn a harsh and scary place into a cozy, safe haven.
Wall Art & Décor
The blank walls of a hospital room are the perfect canvas to add some color and excitement for your younger visitors. Depending on the age of your patients, different types of wall art may be more appropriate and make them feel more comfortable. You can even use wall pictures to enhance the room themes we mentioned in our first tip for a fully immersive experience.
One of the best ways to use wall art to make kids more comfortable in their patient rooms and common areas is to show them something they’re familiar with. This could include characters from their favorite TV shows and movies, local landmarks they may have visited, or familiar travel destinations that they dream of visiting.
If making art is a popular activity for younger patients at your facility, consider creating custom wall art pieces using their work. You can custom print canvases or framed posters using the art that young patients have created to commemorate them forever and remind other patients that they are not alone.
Tasty Food Options
Traditionally, hospital food has gotten a poor reputation for lack of options due to many patients’ dietary restrictions. In the past, many institutions have only been able to offer cafeteria-style or pre-portioned meals that meet specific health requirements for patients.
Fortunately, many facilities have decided to invest further in their food services, increasing the number of options available and adding more meals that many already eat as a part of their diet. This can be beneficial for children who are generally picky eaters and have trouble with traditional hospital food.
If available, offer kids things they’re familiar with like pasta, burgers, and even ice cream for dessert. Eating properly is essential for healing, so providing kid-friendly food options can help young people get healthy faster.
Spending hours on end sitting in a patient room can get very boring, especially for young people who are used to regular entertainment. One helpful way to break up the monotony of a stay is to bring in fun visitors to spend time with children and participate in activities with them. This is also an excellent opportunity for kids to learn new things during their stay.
Many of us are familiar with hospital clowns. They have been around for years as a way to provide patients with a bit of laughter and reduce the anxiety they may be feeling. Other fun visitors could include musicians that serenade young patients, volunteers that sit with them and read them books, or impersonators dressed as their favorite superhero or princess.
Activities & Recreation
We know that spending all day and night sitting in one room can be boring for both children and adults. As adults, we’re usually thankful for the respite from daily duties, but all of this downtime can be very hard on kids.
To be more kid-friendly, healthcare facilities should try to offer as many options for activities and recreation as possible, especially at different ability levels. Some young patients will be required to stay in their rooms while others will be able to move about and spend time in common areas, so it is important to have a wide range of activities available.
Setting up a playroom is a great way to get children out of their rooms and interact with their peers to solve puzzles or play games. Provide them with the material to do arts and crafts or other interactive projects. We also recommend having activities on hand that can be transported to kids who cannot leave their room.
Create play kits with everything a child could need to do an activity in their bed, such as Legos or a paint set. Ensure all toys and activities are easy to clean between uses to avoid cross-contamination for already compromised immune systems.
Time With Nature
Plants, animals, and other activities that allow children to interact with nature can be a great way to reduce stress and promote healing. Interactions with plants and animals provide emotional support and a distraction from what is happening around them.
Many hospitals will have a dog on staff that regularly visits young patients in their rooms and spends time with them. You may also consider contacting other types of therapy animal owners, such as cats, birds, or reptiles which may excite young visitors and provide them with companionship.
Plants can also act as both a calming activity and provide health benefits for healing. Simply having a plant in a patient room can increase oxygen levels but has also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve mood. Offering kids an opportunity to do some gardening or choose a plant to pot up and take care of in their room can also provide similar calming benefits.