Playtime at the hospital for preschoolers aged 3 to 5 years

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This page is about play for preschoolers staying in the hospital.

Key points

  • Play is how children learn to interact and be social with others, and learn about the world around them.
  • It is important for a child to play while they are in the hospital; it can help them reconnect with their home life, distract them from pain and worry, and it can help them get used to new people and things they will see at the hospital.

Play is about much more than fun

For a child, play is more than fun. Play is how children learn, especially when they are very young. While playing, children learn how to interact and be social with others. They also learn about the world in general.

Being at the hospital is disruptive to a child's life. Play is one way to reconnect a child to their home life. The more a child can play, the happier the child will be. Happiness promotes recovery.

Play for pre-schoolers age 3 to 5

Play has other benefits. Play can distract a child from pain and worry. Play can also help a child get used to the new people and things they will see at the hospital. For example, a child who has played with a toy stethoscope is less likely to be afraid when a doctor or nurse listens to the child's heart. Through play, a preschooler may come to understand about their condition and the steps the doctors and nurses are taking to promote healing.

As a child becomes more comfortable with the people and procedures around the hospital, they will become more cooperative.

Many hospitals have child life specialists who run play programs and play with kids. Ask your child's nurse about this.

Toys for preschoolers

Here is a list of some hospital-friendly toys and games that preschoolers might enjoy:

  • kaleidoscope
  • toy cars and trucks
  • water and sand toys
  • tents
  • large cardboard boxes
  • Duplo (large Lego)
  • blocks
  • dolls and stuffed toys
  • play sets such as farms, doll houses, garages, airports, toy medical kits and toy housekeeping equipment
  • books
  • puzzles: 10 to 30 pieces
  • simple arts and crafts that involve basic cutting, pasting, colouring, painting, clay and Play-doh
  • playing with musical instruments such as a xylophone or tambourine, listening to music and singing along with music
  • dramatic play, dress-up and imaginary playmates

Safety alert

Avoid toys which are sharp or too heavy for a child. Avoid toys that are poorly made and may come apart, break or splinter. Avoid dolls with wire skeletons.

Toys should be painted with non-toxic paint. They should be large enough that a child cannot swallow them accidentally.

Children should only use scissors with supervision.

Ask your child's nurse about bringing electronic toys to the hospital.

Last updated: March 4th 2010