How Starlight Gaming Supports Children's Mental Health

At Starlight, we know that happy kids heal faster ⁠— which means to help them feel better physically, they need to feel good mentally. This is why we focus on creating programs that aim to help support and improve the mental health of hospitalized kids. We call these qualities our pillars of happiness and healing.

When kids maneuver video game characters through twists and turns while playing on the Starlight Nintendo Gaming Stations and Handhelds, they feel less stressed and anxious. Fear from staying in an unfamiliar place decreases and kids feel happier. Kids don’t feel so alone when they can challenge their family or a hospital staff to see who can win in a familiar video game.  

In these ways, Starlight Gaming meets multiple of our Happiness and Healing pillars, helping hospitalized kids navigate the challenges of hospitalization.  

Read testimonies of how hospital staff have seen Starlight Gaming, through its different pillars, transform hospitalized children’s emotional and mental wellbeing. 


“The Starlight Gaming station was used as an incentive for a particularly difficult patient who needed some positive reinforcement and bedrest. The patient was given a sticker chart to earn playing time on the Starlight Gaming station. When he redeemed them for play time, his demeanor changed completely to being joyful, happy, and playful. He engaged in play both alone and with the child life specialist which helped him connect to staff. The Starlight Gaming station helped with both behavior regulation and normalizing the hospital environment through play. We are so glad to have this option available for patients.”
–Rebecca Martin, CCLS, UnityPoint Health Methodist


“The Starlight Gaming station has been a meaningful source of entertainment in our infusion clinic. Over the winter holidays, we had several siblings accompany patients to appointments since they were off of school, and we watched one set of brothers (who typically don’t get along), play and laugh with each other throughout their whole stay while using the Gaming station. Their mom was so grateful, and we were happy to see them share a positive experience together.”
–Kellie Matters, CCLS, Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill


“Starlight Gaming stations not only instantly brighten up a child’s room but also makes it possible for us to connect with children and help foster an atmosphere that is child focused. These aspects may seem small, but they help families feel a sense of trust when there is a display by staff to recognize the unique needs of their child.”
–Erica Magnuson, CCLS, UCI Health

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"This program continues to make a huge difference in relieving anxiety in our patients and giving them back a sense of normalcy in their lives.”
–Velma Workman, Community Development, Hoops Family Children’s Hospital

Emotional Support

“There was a child that was very fearful when his mother underwent emergency surgery. The staff engaged him with the gaming activities. He immediately dried his tears and became distracted in the Starlight Gaming station. When his mom was brought back to her room from surgery, he was thrilled with his game and couldn’t wait to share with her.”
–Dorinda Hock, Director of Maternal Child Health, Anaheim Global Medical Center

Pain Management

“We had a patient who was extremely nervous being in the hospital environment and even more nervous about the pain associated with getting a nasogastric feeding tube. He has several issues, which has made his hospitalization even more difficult. He voiced wanting to play on a game system because that is what keeps him calm and can ‘keep his mind off of all that is going around him right now.’ When child life brought the game system into the room, he got very excited and went straight to playing Minecraft and has remained calm and focused ever since.”
–Kelli McElhone, Grant Specialist, Covenant Children’s

To feel better and aid recovery, kids with serious illnesses need access to Starlight programs like gaming. Happy kids heal faster.  

You can be the difference in supporting children’s mental health during difficult hospital stays. 

Donate today to a Starlight program to deliver happiness to a hospitalized child.
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