4 October 2023

Interactive play for children’s cardiac unit

Thanks to an £8,000 investment from Southampton Hospitals Charity, children on the cardiac ward at Southampton Children’s Hospital now have interactive play to distract them from life on the ward.

Natasha Allan, Play Specialist for the E1 ocean children’s cardiac ward, says: “The ward treats children from babies right up to teenagers, with us taking referrals from 23 district hospitals as far north as Northamptonshire, and south as Cornwall and the Channel Islands.

While the ward is bright and welcoming, it can be a daunting time for children and parents as they learn more about their diagnosis and condition. That’s where the play team come in to take the children’s minds off their treatment, pain, and the uncertainly of operations.

Thanks to Southampton Hospitals Charity, we have bought an Omi Vista interactive play mat. There are real benefits for patients as it can get children out of their bed space and moving. It distracts them from the hospital environment and lets them just be kids for a while.

You can walk on the mat, roll over it with wheelchairs, and I’ve even had babies crawling across it! Using the remote, you can choose from hundreds of different projections, from ball games, quizzes, pattern making, musical instruments, literally everything can be done using any part of the body. It is accessible to everyone.

The mat came with a bag of accessories including balls, batons, beanbags to throw at items on the floor for those children who are less mobile, and also paintbrushes to change black and white images to those with colour.

The children love the activities where their action has a consequence, for example where they can splat berries, crack eggs, or pop balloon and bubbles. Parents have loved getting involved too and it is such a fun addition to the ward for our patients.

In the future when it is not in use, I’m going to set it up in the waiting area for those children who aren’t inpatients, but are waiting for clinical appointments on the ward, so they have a distraction while they wait for their ultrasound or ECG test.

Feedback has been so positive, and I can’t thank everyone enough who has supported the charity for making this possible for our ward.”

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