Group medical play for reducing stress and improving mood in children going to visit the pediatrician
Play contributes to children's cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being and offers an ideal opportunity for parents and other adults to engage with children. Specific forms of play can provide an effective venue for personal development and increased well-being for hospitalized children. Medical play refers to specialized activities that have a medical theme and are developmentally supportive and appropriate for children as well as facilitate the emotional well-being of pediatric patients. The purpose of this research is to examine the effects of group medical play involving a medical collage activity (versus no structured activity) on the behaviors of small groups of three-to-five year olds' visiting their pediatrician. For the medical collage group, small groups of two or three children were asked to sit together around a small child size table in the waiting area of a pediatric clinic. Each child received a tray with medical materials (e.g., tongue depressor, gauze, band aids, syringes without needles), medical tape or glue to attach the materials, and a sheet of paper. A child life specialist was present in the room to address concerns or answer questions the children raised about the medical materials. However, the medical collage activity was child-directed; that is, the adult did not provide the children with direction on how to complete the collage. For the control group, small groups of two or three children were recruited in the waiting area of the same pediatric clinic on alternate days. The children were not given materials for a medical collage, nor encouraged to play, but were free to interact with each other or play with any of the standard manipulatives available in the clinic waiting room (e.g., books, wire bead/rollercoaster toy). The findings of this study show that compared to baseline levels, the children in the medical collage group became more alert and displayed higher levels of activity and vocalization immediately after the medical collage activity. This suggests that the medical play collage may be a good tool to use to help children open up while in a medical setting.