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Bins of red and yellow children's toys. The toys are on a shelf next to black-and-white toy kitchen appliances, including a sink, microwave and washing machine.

Healing, bonding and discovering through play

Imagine a bright and colourful space where children become bakers, musicians and artists through play.

For many families at Holland Bloorview, that space is the inpatient therapeutic playroom.

Beyond fun and games, the inpatient therapeutic playroom is a space for families to heal and bond together during their extended rehabilitation stays at the hospital. Shawna Perkins, therapeutic playroom coordinator with the therapeutic recreation team, shares how the playroom supports children and families, and why it’s crucial for kids to have opportunities to play.

What is the role of play in a child’s life?

Shawna: Play is what children tend to do naturally while they are exploring and discovering the world around them. They want to engage in exploring their world - they want to touch, they want to feel, they want to experiment and smell. Play offers opportunities for tangible discovery—how things work, cause and effect, and discovering their impact on the world around them.

Clients and families from the Brain Injury Rehab Team unit (BIRT), Specialized Orthopaedic & Developmental Rehab unit (SODR) and the Complex Continuing Care unit (CCC) access the playroom during their rehabilitation stay. How does the inpatient therapeutic playroom support families?

Shawna: Bottom line, I think that what we really hope to offer to families is a safe place to have fun together, a place where they can focus on their relationship, their bonding, their time spent together. We want to offer a place for these things to happen in a meaningful way, where they can take a break from the more medical side of their journey and just really sink into that relationship, that fun, that being present in the moment through play. I think that's really important to families. It's important for their healing, both for the children and also for parents or caregivers.

How has the therapeutic playroom supported kids and families during the pandemic?

Shawna: The playroom has been a really great opportunity for young children and families to come together in a safe way. It offers an opportunity to interact with other children and families and to make friends. Especially over the last two years, parents have noted that kids haven't had many opportunities to interact with other children [during the pandemic]. That's so important to them. They identify that friendship and the opportunity to play alongside others is something that is very valuable to them at this point in their journey.

What do you love most about your job?

Shawna: I like working with amazing kids and families that I get to meet every day. And I also love working on a really incredible team.

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