Hospital Play

The wellbeing of children and young people who are patients in hospital or community settings such as children’s hospices, can be supported by the provision of play. Play and appropriate therapeutic play strategies should be embedded within the child’s care plan and seen as a vital and routine part of a child’s admission.

As play is vital to a child’s healthy growth and development it is acknowledged that when children undergo medical and surgical procedures, ensuring access to play is maintained carries even greater significance.

The National Association of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) sees the following as important pointers for supporting the child when utilising play in any health care setting (when it is facilitated by a qualified and registered Health Play Specialist).


  • creates an environment where stress and anxiety is reduced
  • helps the child regain confidence and self-esteem
  • provides an outlet for feelings of anger and frustration
  • helps the child understand treatment and illness, as through play children are able to effectively learn the sensory and concrete information they need to prepare for hospital procedures and treatment
  • aids in assessment and diagnoses
  • speeds recovery and rehabilitation.


To train as a Health Play Specialists it is necessary to firstly hold a recognised and approved level 3 childcare related qualification. The only programme of study leading to professional registration and a licence to practice in health care settings is the ‘Foundation Degree in Healthcare Play Specialism’.

The course is run over two academic years and attendance is one full day per week. It comprises of both academic and assessment of practical skills undertaken in the workplace. If learners are not working in a healthcare setting whilst undertaking the course, they will need to complete a minimum of 200 hours practical experience in a healthcare setting under the supervision of a registered Hospital Play Specialists.

The text for this page was provided by Sandra Dumitrescu

Information sheet

This information sheet aims to describe the role of the health play specialist in terms of supporting the play process to enable sick children to adapt to the health care setting and become more participative in the care they are receiving, and it explores the different types of play interventions used to support children and their families to better understand illness and treatment.

The information sheet also explains the importance of providing play opportunities and spaces for children in hospital or community settings such as children’s hospices.

Download Hospital play | view online

Other sources of information on hospital play:

National Association of Hospital Play Staff (NAHPS)
Hospital Play Staff Education Trust (HPSET)

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