About Specialist Play Activities

The Children's Trust Blogger

For a child, play is much more than just a way to have fun. It’s a way of exploring the world around them, developing new physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills in the process. This is particularly true for children with brain injury as it enables them to relearn these lost skills in a fun and engaging way. Our play team (part of a multidisciplinary team around the child) deliver timetabled play sessions to children that are undergoing rehabilitation following a brain injury. They also deliver distraction work when the children are undergoing medical procedures, organise parties, trips and activities and arrange after-school and weekend group activities.

The three main types of play used at The Children’s Trust are:

Messy play

Jasmine at The Children\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Trust
Jasmine during a messy play session.
A favourite messy play activity is using syringes to splatter paint onto a piece of paper. This is great for children that don’t have the mobility or dexterity to use a paint brush. It is multi-sensory and fun. It also gives the child something to take away which is important for some children so that they feel they have achieved something.

Sensory play

Children with brain injury making use of a new sensory room
A sensory room at The Children's Trust's National Specialist Centre.
An example of sensory play includes using items collected during a scavenger hunt around The Children’s Trust  grounds. From this, a sensory table can be created from leaves, pine cones, and other natural items. The children can then use the items to re-awaken their senses – crunchy, soft, prickly, smelly, different textures etc. The benefits of sensory play include helping them to re-engage with their senses and encourage memories which provide links to their home and the outside world.

Physical play

Rhea, during rehabilitation at The Children's Trust, plays with a yellow ball supported by her physiotherapist
Rhea, during rehabilitation at The Children's Trust, plays with a yellow ball supported by her physiotherapist.
Children are encouraged to engage in games such as table cricket which involves rolling a ball down a ramp whilst another child tries to hit it with a small cricket bat. An activity like this improves hand-eye coordination and builds physical stamina. It is particularly good for children that have been in hospital for a long-time. This is a fun group activity which encourages them to think about strategy while improving social  interaction and communication skills.

Lillie’s playtime

Lillie was a bright and outgoing three-year-old who loved to chat and play.
A play therapy session at The Children's Trust. Health Play Specialist Keren paints with Lillie.
Leisure & Activities Co-ordinator Keren gets messy with Lillie.
However, her life completely changed following surgery for a brain tumour. Lillie lost significant mobility throughout the left-side of her body resulting in physical discomfort and anxiety. At The Children’s Trust, Lillie received a specially tailored rehabilitation plan including Play Activities to reinforce her recovery. Lillie became scared and anxious every time she needed her nebuliser so the play team provided Lillie with a tracheostomy bear that had its own nebuliser to ease Lillie’s anxiety and support her well-being.  This helped her overcome her fears and she was soon happy to use her own nebuliser when needed. Lillie loved playing and regularly attended Glitter Group, our musical theatre group run by the play team, which improved her social interaction and revisited her love for dance. In addition  to being great fun, this improved her balance and coordination. With each session, she showed increased confidence and dexterity.

Further reading

Play is just one tool from a range used at The Children's Trust to support children and families to achieve their goals and maximise their potential in order to enable them to participate in their community. Residential neuro-rehabilitation at The Children’s Trust is provided by a team of people placing the child and family at the centre and everyone has a part to play. Find out more about neurorehabilitation.