“Play is integral to a child’s development.”

“Play is integral to a child’s development.”

14 December 2021

Rebecca Biggs is Clinical Lead for Children’s Therapies at St Mary’s Hospital. The multidisciplinary children’s therapies team consists of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and play specialists who each play a crucial role in supporting children throughout their hospital journey. In support of our Time For Play Appeal, Rebecca explains the vital importance of play in a child’s recovery.

Hospital can be a frightening experience for a seriously ill child. They might be in pain, feeling unwell or in unfamiliar circumstances and surroundings. In a clinical environment, without the familiarity of play, children can sometimes feel isolated and alone.

The Children’s Therapy team at St Mary’s Hospital works with children and young people who are admitted to hospital for a variety of reasons. They may have had an accident or be living with a long-term complex health condition.

During this distressing time, we use play as a therapeutic tool. Daily play activities range from painting and drawing, playing games and music. Creating a space for fun and creativity helps children make sense of their hospital experience and provides them with space to be themselves.  We use play to help children engage with and achieve their goals in therapy.  Using play motivates children to get out of bed for the first time or take the tentative first steps in rehabilitation after a life changing injury.

"Play is so much more than a distraction – it’s a vital building block in a child’s recovery."

Rebecca Biggs, Clinical Lead for Children's Therapies

Using play and therapy interventions gives children and their families a better experience in hospital. Play helps to reduce pain and can also support a child’s emotional recovery. Activities help to support a child or young person’s emotional wellbeing, drawing them out of themselves so they can work through their emotions in a safe, secure environment. Children can sometimes be unable to get out of bedand their mental health can suffer – but when a child opens up with a specialist, they can feel less isolated and scared.

During play sessions, children can also be offered some choice in their care. They can decide what they’d like to do that day – whether it be music, art, or simply some space to themselves. Having some semblance of normality and ownership in an environment where they have limited choice makes a real difference to children and their families.


Play is also integral to children and young people’s learning and development. During a child’s time in hospital, they’re unable to attend school as usual, so play helps them to develop reasoning and fine motor skills. If a child in hospital for a long time and is unable to play, this could hinder their development.

Play is so much more than a distraction – it’s a vital building block in a child’s recovery.