Play team

We are very lucky at Peterborough City Hospital to have one of the largest Play Teams in the country for a General Hospital. 

We have a Health Play Specialist Co-ordinator, four Health Play Specialists and three Play Leaders. We work across the whole of the Children’s Unit covering Amazon Ward, Rainforest Outpatients, Jungle Assessment Unit and the Emergency Department. 

We have also started to expand our service to the Orthopaedic Clinic and the Head and Neck Department. There are many different ways in which we use play to aid children and young people and their families whilst in hospital.

Play team staff playing wheres wally

The importance of normalising play should not be overlooked; it has a hugely positive impact on all concerned. By providing activities and resources that are familiar to and liked by the child automatically makes the environment much less intimidating.


For a parent to see their child content and playing has an immediate calming effect on them also as their child will automatically appear less urgently ill.

What the child gets out of what is often assumed to be ‘just playing’ is phenomenal. Children and young people can use play as a way to work out and work through emotions and fears.

They can go over situations and experiences until they make more sense to them.

They can use play as a way to communicate how they are feeling and what their concerns are; it is a fantastic communication aid.

Play can also be a way to get the siblings involved in treatment, decision making and generally avoid having them feel left out.

It can be a way to get the parents involved too. Parents often feel that they have lost their role and feel that they can’t do anything to help; they know how to play with their children.

Preparation has been found to be incredibly valuable and helpful for children and young people having procedures done. Preparing them, and their families, gives them a sense of control over the situation. They know what to expect, which is often far better than what they were thinking and nothing comes as a surprise. They are, therefore, far more compliant and happy.

We provide preparation for   

  • MRI scans     
  • Lumbar Punctures  
  • CT scans    
  • Cannulations
  • X-rays
  • Blood tests    
  • Ultra sounds
  • Dressing changes   
  • General Anaesthetic
  • Local Anaesthetic
  • NG tubes
  • Drain removal
  • Sutures
  • Suture removal

And anything else that a child may be anxious about!

The level of preparation will depend on the age and stage of the child or young person. The tools we use are; photographs of the areas and what certain people and resources look like, play with resources that shall be used, for example, cannulas, talking the child or young person through what will happen when, going to the areas of the hospital that they will be going to, listening to the sounds of the machines and giving them the opportunity to create a plan of how they would like it to go.

Play can also be very beneficial to help children and young people post procedure. They may need encouragement to eat and drink which could involve a sticker chart and prizes or a teddy bear’s picnic, for example. They may need encouragement to get moving after surgery; the Wii works wonders here! Or enticing them out of bed with a favourite game or activity. They may have to stay in bed and therefore keeping them happy whilst immobile becomes the aim, so activities taken to the bed and adapted for the position they are in is what is called for. They may be upset about situations that have occurred and therefore require further work and preparation before further procedures can take place. Listening to the child is key, working out the issues and then using play and plans to overcome them.

We are very lucky to have many resources at our disposal; painting, craft activities, games, baby toys, toddler toys, older toys, puzzles, DSs, PSPs, Wiis, DVDs, TVs, Play Stations, Air Hockey, Garden, Sensory Room, Soft Play Room and Classroom (with teacher).

Most of what we have has been kindly donated by the people of Peterborough.

Depending on the age and stage of development of the child we have various distraction techniques that we can employ;

  • Bubbles   
  • Interactive books
  • Interactive toys
  • Singing   
  • Reassuring/soothing
  • Encouragement
  • Searching books eg ‘Where’s Wally’
  • Conversation
  • Guided Imagery
  • Sensory resources