Our play team


Play facilities are available in all children's areas of the Royal Free London.

Play is vital to the continued development of children and young people. It is a normal part of childhood and an important part of emotional and physical well-being.

From the earliest age play helps children to learn, to make friends and develop relationships, and to have fun. When children and young people are admitted to hospital, play helps them to adjust to a potentially stressful situation.

Play specialists are trained to help children prepare for coming into hospital by showing them what will happen during an operation or medical procedure using dolls or other toys. This is really useful when a child is worried about a test, treatment or surgery.

Play can help to take the patient's mind off things when they are in hospital, and through play, the team can see what the patient is feeling.

Child-friendly hospitals recognise that children are not the same as adults and that communication for children should be age-appropriate and child-friendly. Our staff:

  • consider the ‘whole child’, not simply the illness being treated
  • treat children as children, and young people as young people
  • are concerned with the overall experience for the child and family

Play in hospital helps children to…

  • understand why they are in hospital and what will happen
  • cope with illness, being in hospital and their treatment
  • regain confidence, independence and self‐esteem
  • express their feelings
  • recover more quickly

Play creates an environment where stress and anxiety are reduced, encourages family involvement and is a useful aid in assessment and diagnosis.

Adolescent room

Play specialists provide...

  • distraction from invasive procedures
  • play led care plans, either in the play room or by beds and in cubicles
  • access to play for all children on the ward
  • arts and crafts activities

Our play specialists visit each child everyday, help prepare children for surgery, liaise with doctors, nurses, teachers and the wider team, and ensure all toys are fully compliant with health and safety and infection control.

Play has been proven to speed recovery times and facilitate a return to normal activity.

Find out how our play specialists can help.

Top and middle image - our playroom. Bottom image - our adolescent room.