Playtime at the hospital for toddlers aged 1 to 3 years

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Play gives toddlers an opportunity for learning and social development and it may also help to alleviate stress. Find out about play activities for hospitalized toddlers.

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.

Why play is so important for toddlers

For a toddler, play is more than fun. Play is how they learn, especially when they are very young. While playing, children learn 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 toddler with family and maintain home life experiences. The more a child can play, the happier the child will be. Happiness promotes recovery.

Play can distract a child from pain and worry. Play can also get a child used to the new people and things they will see at the hospital. For example, a toddler who has played with a toy stethoscope is less likely to be afraid when a doctor or nurse listens to the child's heart.

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 provide developmentally appropriate play programs and can offer resources to your family.

Toys for toddlers

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

  • push and pull toys
  • balls and bean bags
  • toy phones
  • plastic animals and people
  • large cars and trucks
  • stuffed toys
  • bubbles
  • hammer and peg toys
  • blocks, boxes, cups to stack, stacking rings and any other stacking toys
  • water and sand toys
  • picture books
  • simple puzzles: large wooden or plastic puzzles with four to 20 large pieces are best
  • simple arts and crafts such as chunky crayons, large sheets of paper, finger or tempera paint, blunt-nose scissors and modelling clay
  • play involving music, such as a CD player, sound-matching games, bells, wood block, triangle, drum, recordings of children's music and dancing to music/rhythm
  • imaginary or pretend play such as dress-up, hand puppets, tea sets and peek-a-boo

Safety alert

Toys should be non-toxic and non-flammable.

Toys should not have small or sharp parts.

Watch to make sure your child does not put small objects in their mouth.

Check with hospital staff about electronic toys.

Last updated: September 28th 2009