Boy in hospital bed playing with toys.The Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) and The Toy Foundation (TTF) have selected St. Louis Children’s Hospital as a recipient of a $25,000 grant to help purchase safe, mobile sensory toys, activities and equipment for our Child Life Services team to better support our patients with behavioral health and sensory processing disorders.

A hospital stay is often a stressful experience for children and their families. Opportunities for play can help relieve this stress, improve a child’s well-being and enhance treatment outcomes. The Children’s Hospital Play Grant Program projects are designed to improve pediatric care at hospitals — particularly in underserved communities — and strengthen the social, emotional, physical and educational development of children whose needs may otherwise go unmet.

Last year, with this same grant, the Child Life Services team created safe activity kits for behavioral health patients who came to the emergency department. These kits included items like stress balls and card games that promoted positive coping and allowed for play and distraction while minimizing risk to themselves or others.

Building upon that success, the team recognized a need for additional sensory items like noise-canceling headphones and liquid timers that could help this same patient population gain cooperation and calm their bodies.

This year we hope to offer complete kits to the behavioral health population, as well as provide sensory-friendly equipment and activities for any of our patients with sensory processing disorders admitted to the hospital or visiting for an appointment.

“The Child Life team at St. Louis Children’s works with patients and families to develop ways to cope with fear, anxiety and separation from friends and family by using play, music, art, recreation and education techniques. Hospitals can be very overstimulating — with lots of loud noises, bright lights and new people — so we want to be able to help meet patients where they’re at and utilize these sensory items as tools to help patients feel more comfortable in the hospital environment.” – Melody DeWeese, child life specialist and special events coordinator at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital was one of 19 children’s hospitals and the only hospital in Missouri selected for the grant. See the full list of recipients of CHA and TTF’s Play Grants for 2022/2023.