How Can Kids’ Mental Wellbeing Benefit From Enriching Play?

Pediatric patients experience significant improvements in mental and emotional wellbeing through engaging play. By participating in fun and enjoyable activities, children can better cope with or become distracted from the pain associated with hospitalization. Play in the hospital setting can even spark friendship and connection between patients, staff and family. 

Discover how the impact of play improves Finley’s wellbeing during his hospitalizations and subsequent path to recovery.

Meet Finley 

Finley spent three months in the children’s hospital NICU after being born prematurely. In his first month of life, he experienced a stroke which led to cerebral palsy, affecting his balance and causing muscle tightness. 

Now, an active 12-year-old, Finley loves to play. He loves all things sports. He competes in para-swimming, para-track and field, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair basketball.  His team is ranked #1 in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association and recently won their first national title. Finley is currently in a two-year rehabilitation regimen with multiple therapy sessions at Dell Children’s Medical Center to regain his leg strength and endurance after experiencing spinal surgeries in 2023 at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. 

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Therapy can be challenging for Finley, especially when he is feeling immense pain and has limited movement. During his physical therapy, the Starlight Virtual Reality Headset helps Finley manage his pain and gives him a positive distraction from his limited movement. Finley has so much fun that he actively works with the Child Life and Physical Therapy teams to determine which virtual reality games he can incorporate into his sessions.

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Building relationships and socializing while hospitalized is essential to kids like Finley’s mental wellbeing. “He is a very social kid and needed a means to stay connected,” says Dawn, Finley’s mom.  

Finley can stay connected with his friends through programs like the Starlight Nintendo Gaming Station. When his friends could visit him at the hospital, they could play on a gaming station in his room.  

 “He was in a hospital bed and the gaming system gave him that outlet to hang out, have fun, and be a kid again with his friends who were coming to visit.” - Dawn, Finley’s mom 

Playing during hospitalization is a way to improve Finley’s mental wellbeing. As soon as he plays the Gaming Station or puts on the VR headset, his mood and demeanor brightens. His enjoyment and laughter spread to his family and even the hospital staff around him. 

“It was uplifting and provided a glimmer of seeing our son back to himself again when he could play the game system with his visiting friends. It also was refreshing to see him have fun with the VR during his PT sessions. His spark was back and he could have fun even while putting in the long rehab work required. It was contagious to see him laugh and you could tell the team working with him enjoyed it just as much. They all lit up being part of it with him.” - Dawn, Finley’s mom

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When kids receive the happiness and comfort of a Starlight program, their hospital experience transforms into something more manageable and fun. 

There are pediatric patients nationwide who need a way to play to persist against the challenges they face. 

Deliver happiness to hospitalized kids by donating to a Starlight program today.

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