by Laurie Chartorynsky, The Toy Association

The Toy Foundation (TTF), the industry’s leading charitable entity to help kids in need, recently announced new ground-breaking research on the role of play in trauma-informed care. The research is part of a multi-phase initiative between the Foundation and Nemours Children’s Health System to create a play-based intervention program for children experiencing life-threatening illness, injury or painful medical procedures.

The Toy Book caught up with Jean Butler, TTF’s executive director, who discussed the findings of the study and why toys and play are critical for pediatric patients and their families. Butler also shared details on the initiative’s plans for a pioneering play intervention program.

Why did the Toy Foundation feel that partnering with Nemours to provide a play-based program like this was important? How does this initiative coincide with the Foundation’s mission?

Jean Butler: The Toy Foundation has been committed to bringing the crucial benefits of play to children in need (and to providing joy and comfort to these children). Our partnership with Nemours represents the next step in our journey to expand our reach by bringing the healing power of play to sick children and families living through incredibly stressful circumstances. We are thrilled to partner with such an esteemed leader in the pediatric health care system and look forward to using toys, games, and other playful ‘tools’ to bring healing and happiness into these children’s lives.

What were some of the major findings from the research?  

Jean Butler: Our new research is the first qualitative study of its kind to examine the incorporation of play into trauma-related care. According to the findings, play can be used to intervene in potentially traumatic situations and modify how kids perceive these experiences by providing distraction, reducing anxiety, delivering information, helping to process emotions, and fostering feelings of control. Essentially, play is a vital element of the hospital experience for children – helping to restore normalcy and provide comfort for patients and families.

The research has been well-received by the medical and academic community and will be published in the February issue of Psychological Services on “Trauma Informed Care for Children and Families.” It will also be presented at several major medical conferences this year. We are extremely excited that our research is being published to help get the word out as to why play is so critical in this setting.

How will the research benefit pediatric patients and is there opportunity for the toy industry to participate?

Jean Butler: Our findings confirm that a play-based intervention program can be an excellent way to alleviate traumatic stress reactions in children facing life-threatening illnesses, and to provide an outlet for families during their hospital stay. With the qualitative research phase now complete, TTF and Nemours will collaborate on developing an intervention program using play materials and related resources designed to support and comfort children experiencing stress reactions due to their hospital stay. The play-based intervention program is expected to be tested in select Nemours hospitals later this year.

We will be looking for big-hearted companies to contribute toys and games to our intervention program, so stay tuned for more information.

The Toy Foundation has provided nearly $225 million in brand-new toys to over 25 million deserving children through its signature program, The Toy Bank. To learn more about The Toy Foundation and its partners visit ToyFoundation.org.