Child’s Play

“It’s child’s play”, how often do we use these three simple words to describe something that we think is so easy to do?

While we might think that play is something easy to do; for many children, parents and health professionals in hospitals and other healthcare settings it takes real ingenuity, creativity, dedication and much care and attention to achieve the space, time and opportunity to play.

The long shadow of Covid

The end of Covid restrictions will be a highlight for many this year. A survey this year by the National Association of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) and the Healthcare Play Specialist Education Trust (HPSET), found that sadly only 22% of health play specialists reported playrooms to be fully open. Nearly 80% said play opportunities and resources are still curtailed compared to pre-Covid levels.

Our own research showed that 83% of healthcare settings that receive Starlight services have no budget for play and of those that do, 70% report an annual budget of less than £500. It’s fair to say that post-Covid access to play during illness and treatment continues to be far from “child’s play”.

The Right to Play

A child’s right to play is often too easily overlooked. Our Policy and Public Affairs team was established just over a year ago, and NHS England has asked Starlight to co-chair a special taskforce.

Together we will develop and progress programmes of work on the accreditation of health play specialists, and national guidance and practice standards for health play services. We are determined to work in partnership to develop the culture of play.

Trying stuff out

The year started with Covid restrictions and we’ve ended the year really feeling the impact of the cost of living on the donations we receive. But the Starlight team has never been more ready to find solutions, try out new things and make sure the voices of children and play professionals are heard.

  • We worked with Leeds Children’s Hospital to deliver one of the largest studies in the UK on the use of Virtual Reality in play in hospital
  • We found different ways to give even children with the most complex needs access to technology for play
  • We created playful environments in hospital spaces even when playrooms remain closed
  • We recognised the play professionals who are leading the way for play in healthcare with our much coveted play awards

Happy Times

There have been many special achievements this year. Perhaps closest to my heart is bringing families together for much needed time to play in safe and caring spaces.

From breaks in carefully adapted cottages to football training days and seasonal parties, I know that we have helped families to make memories that really matter, happy times to cherish and some respite from the anxiety of illness.

The crafting table at the recent Starlight Christmas Party will forever be in my heart, by creating my very own snowman and watching in awe at the creative brilliance of children when they were playing – their parents were pretty good too

With your support making the experience of illness and treatment for children and their families, alleviating their fear, anxiety and trauma, really can quite literally be child’s play.

Happy New Year & Thank You.