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Healthcare Design for Children and Youth: Positive Distractions

In addition to being away from home, treatments, procedures and an abundance of strangers can make hospitals a scary place for anyone, not to mention children. It’s vital that a healthcare facility designated for youth prioritizes positive distractions, like play spaces, visual stimulation, and technology, in addition to efficiency and operational purposes in the design process.

These elements serve as a powerful counterbalance to potentially painful procedures, consultations and wait times that can come with a hospital stay, and should be infused at all stops along the patient’s journey.

Three Types of Positive Distraction

Interactive Spaces
Play that involves the child’s imagination, whether it’s a toy, craft, or performance, keeps young ones engaged, preventing their minds from wondering about or dwelling upon their circumstances.

Outdoor climbing structures and foam-padded play areas release pent up energy once the child starts to feel well enough to participate. While inside, painted floor games, like hopscotch, provide an added distraction element that uses almost no physical space.

Visual Stimulation
Lighting, artwork and outdoor views can be fun or calming diversions for young patients. The use of LED and fibre optic lights turn patient-room ceilings into starry vistas at night, mimicking the serenity of the outdoors. Murals and other artwork should be purposefully designed with captivating visuals to create a story that will transport young minds to another place. In procedural spaces, calming art and visuals can ease anxiety and act as a calming distraction for patient and family alike, when tensions are high.

Internet connectivity, i.e., computers and on-demand entertainment, allows children to engage with the world via social networks, facilitates education, and can be a helpful distraction during long waits or procedures.

Virtual elements, like video projection of a fish tank that responds to the hand gestures and movements of those interacting with the screen, serve to capture the attention. Aesthetically appealing slideshows of nature accompanied by audio are a whimsical way to transport a young mind to a place outside the confines of the healthcare facility.

Design and décor elements that grab attention can help lighten the mood and distract from the needles, IVs and the sometimes-long road to recovery.

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