Playroom Design Made Easy

 

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Auckland, New Zealand

In my career as a child life specialist and educator, I have seen many hospital playrooms throughout the country and across the globe. In my mind’s eye, I have an idea of what makes a playroom wonderful, combining the best parts of every playroom I have ever seen. My imaginary perfect playroom is a large open space, filled with natural light, a warm, cozy atmosphere, comfy furniture, child-sized sinks and work areas, and a working kitchen. The toys are within reach so that all children can

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Mural in Mexico City

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Playspace in Mexico City

play freely. There is a well stocked medical play corner. There are safe spaces for infants to have tummy time and room to crawl. There are climbing bolsters for toddlers and a wheelchair accessible playhouse for preschoolers and young school-aged children. There are riding toys and sensory play tables. Ping pong and pool tables are there for teens and caregivers to gather around.

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Czech Republic

The best part about this imaginary playroom is that it is staffed with child life specialists, or hospital play specialists, who have been trained in play theory and play techniques, including the child-centered approach and the Floortime approach. They have also undergone training in racial literacy, and speak many languages. There is cleaning personnel on staff who disinfect toys and surfaces as needed. The playroom has daily programming that includes expressive art. medical art, and medical play. Outdoor playspace is available for children and families facing lengthy hospitalizations.

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Japan

In order to make my fantasy one step closer to reality, I designed the Vilas Playroom Assessment Rubric VIPAR to guide hospital staff in creating new play spaces or revamping existing ones. I recently updated it with the help of Meagan Roloff from the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP). It is a fillable pdf document that you can download and use to assess your current playspace, or give you ideas for how to design new space. Many hospitals have funding from big corporations to build dramatic and eye-popping play spaces in hospitals. But it isn’t always about the glitz. Sometimes it is the simplest of things, like the sensory room filled with homemade sensory toys in Japan, the custom designed foot high cushioned wall to protect an infant/toddler area from exuberant older kids in New Zealand, or a set of wooden blocks for children to create their own miniature worlds. A doll bed and medical supplies to encourage medical play in Iceland. A wooden playhouse whose door can accommodate a wheelchair and IV pole in New York City. And often, it is about the policies, programming, and training of the staff that make the space a truly child-centered place of healing.

Think outside the box and see where your imagination takes you. And please, drop me a line to let me know how it turns out — I would love to see more photos from around the world!

 

 

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Bethlehem

 

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Iceland

 

 

NEWSFLASH! VIPAR Playroom Assessment Rubric now in fillable form

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I am excited to announce the release of a fillable pdf format for the VIPAR, a new tool for your child life/hospital play toolkit. You can now fill out the VILAS Playroom Assessment Rubric (VIPAR) on your computer and print it out. The VIPAR is an assessment form to help you make your playroom the best it can be. There is a dream playroom in all of our imaginations. Time, space, budget constraints and infection control guidelines aside, we all know what we would provide children and families if we were able to do so. The  VIPAR (Vilas Playroom Assessment Rubric) (click on bold green type to access) is intended to present the best possible scenario, and to measure how your playroom is meeting the needs of all pediatric patients and families at your hospital. Child life specialists, hospital play specialists, and administrators can use this rubric as a quality checklist to assess playroom design and operation.

This rubric is several years in the making and has been test driven by many Bank Street College alumni. They kindly tried it out in their playrooms and provided me with feedback to improve the document, making it as accessible and flexible as possible.

Tara Horan reports that the rubric gave her staff  “feelings of empowerment to make positive changes.”

Kelsey Frawley shared, “Another AHA moment was the cultural competency piece. I think as specialist’s we are taught to BE culturally competent, not judge, ask questions, be aware of differences, but incorporating it into a room is something I have not thought of. The developmental appropriate piece really stuck out. It is something we have struggled with as a site and recently have committed to revamping. Kate Shamzad states “In fact, it inspired us to order a wall mirror to be installed in the infant/toddler section of the hem/onc room.”

I owe them and others many thanks for their input. But the VIPAR is and should be a work in progress. So please give me feedback if you use it at debvilasconsult@gmail.com. The form will soon be available on the Child Life Council’s website at the Play Center located in the Resource Library.

Free New Child Life Tool for Bettering Hospital Playrooms

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I am thrilled to announce the release of a new tool for your child life toolkit. It is an assessment form to help you make your playroom the best it can be. There is a dream playroom in all of our imaginations. Time, space, budget constraints and infection control guidelines aside, we all know what we would provide children and families if we were able to do so. The  VIPAR (Vilas Playroom Assessment Rubric) is intended to present the best possible scenario, and to measure how your playroom is meeting the needs of all pediatric patients and families at your hospital. Child life specialists and administrators can use this rubric as a quality checklist to assess playroom design and operation.

This rubric is several years in the making and has been test driven by many Bank Street College alumni. They kindly tried it out in their playrooms and gave me feedback to improve the document, making it as accessible and flexible as possible.

Tara Horan reports that the rubric gave her staff  “feelings of empowerment to make positive changes.”

Kelsey Frawley shared, “Another AHA moment was the cultural competency piece. I think as specialist’s we are taught to BE culturally competent, not judge, ask questions, be aware of differences, but incorporating it into a room is something I have not thought of. The developmental appropriate piece really stuck out, it is something we have struggled with as a site and recently have committed to revamping.”

Kate Shamzad states ‘In fact, it inspired us to order a wall mirror to be installed in the infant/toddler section of the hem/onc room.”

I owe them and others many thanks for their input. But the VIPAR is and should be a work in progress. So please give me feedback if you use it at debvilasconsult@gmail.com

It is pretty easy to use. Score each category based upon observation and investigation. Add together the 18 category scores to reach a total. Use the key at bottom of rubric to interpret total score.

It can be helpful to underline or highlight specific items to be improved within each category. Once a score is obtained, determine which improvements are within your department’s ability to improve. Set goals and deadlines for improvement. This rubric is not intended to make you feel that your playroom is substandard in any way. The hope is that it will guide you towards making some small or significant changes that will improve the quality of play available in your hospital.

Click below link to access and download the pdf.

VIPAR Vilas Playroom Assessment Rubric