Therapeutic Play at St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute

The St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise, ID recently completed a major expansion and renovation of its Pediatric Oncology Clinic. But when the dust settled, all eyes turned to the outdoor children’s play area, which had served as a staging area during construction.

“We looked outside and thought, ‘We need to do something about the outdoor space!’” says Kim White, Child Life Specialist.

White says that the hospital had an outdoor area where people could sit but it was not conducive to therapeutic play, especially for children with compromised immune systems. The area was made entirely of cement, with built-in cement blocks where people could sit.

“Young people and cement…” says White. “Not a great combination. The kids wanted to jump onto and off of the cement, of course. They’re kids!”

  • Playground Before
    Boring Concrete Play Patio

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  • Playground After
    Fun Therapeutic Play Space

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So an idea was born: create an inviting, colorful outdoor play space where children in treatment could play safely.

White had heard about PLAYTIME’s products from a co-worker and reached out to the company to get the ball rolling.

“We were very pleased with the safety features offered by PLAYTIME, especially the flooring,” says White. “Many of our patients are more prone to bleeding and infections as a side effect of their treatments and we wanted to provide opportunities for active play in as safe an environment as possible.”

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The coatings on PLAYTIME’s soft play elements have been tested and ASTM (G21 and E2180) certified antibacterial. All PLAYTIME play areas are ADA compliant and inspected by a safety specialist. Additionally, PLAYTIME outdoor playground equipment meets all product requirements of ASTM F-1487 – Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specifications for Playground Equipment for Public Use.

With a price tag of $300,000 to remove all that concrete, prepare the area for a new play area and create a new play experience with PLAYTIME, the hospital launched a playground fundraising campaign.

“PLAYTIME gave us a sample lady bug and I carried that, and samples of the flooring and artists’ renderings, around with me for six to eight months as I was talking to people about the project,” says Celeste Keller, Director of Major and Planned Giving for the St. Luke’s Health Foundation. “Everyone said, ‘What can I do?’”

In fact, Keller says that the fundraising took on a life of its own with myriad grassroots efforts throughout the community, including bake sales, hot cocoa sales, an Indian food sale, an improv night at a local high school, a dance performance and even a “no-shave November” campaign.

“By the end of the year, we hit our goal,” says Keller.

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Construction ramped up and the play area opened in July 2016. The before-and-after pictures look like entirely different spaces. The new PLAYTIME-created play area boasts a woodland theme to match the interior theme of the hospital and includes soft, rubberized flooring and shiny, squishy soft play elements that are certified antibacterial.

“Kids are now using the play area as a bartering tool,” says Keller. “They say, ‘I’ll go do my treatment if I can go play first.’ Our nurse practitioner said it’s good for the kids to feel like they have a sense of control during treatment.”

Keller also says that, as one of only five centers in the nation with a dedicated pediatric oncology physical therapist, the play area will also help with therapy and recovery.

White adds, “Play is a child’s work! Providing play opportunities to our patients and families is a way to normalize a child’s medical experiences and to foster coping through a very difficult time. As child life specialists, we strive to minimize the stress and trauma of medical experiences and play is a critical component in that process.”

She adds, “We are thrilled to have such a beautiful outdoor play space and our patients and families are loving it!”

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