Thankfully, (touch wood!) we have never yet had to make a trip to the emergency department or visit hospital for anything serious with our two girls. However we have made several visits to our small local hospital over the past couple of years to see a specialist nurse for my eldest daughter along with the routine vaccinations, health checks and occasional trips to the GP which all children experience from a young age. Being naturally laid-back myself, I have never made a big deal about these things and it seems to have rubbed off on my children, who haven’t been anxious on these occasions. But what if they needed to visit the hospital for something more serious; a blood test perhaps or even an operation?
This is the problem mum, Helen Sadler, came across when her own daughter was due to have an operation aged just 18 months. She created a handmade book featuring a toy monkey photographed in the actual hospital rooms her daughter would experience and now her idea has become an essential resource for families with children visiting hospital. Aimed at primary aged children, the books and activity packs are designed to inform and reassure children, providing them with a positive attitude towards their their hospital visit and helping them to feel more relaxed about the experience which can subsequently aid their recovery.
My 3 and 5 year old girls and I were given the opportunity to take a look at a selection of the Monkey Wellbeing resources: Two books Monkey has an operation and Monkey has a blood test, a children’s guidebook to healthy living, Monkey visits the emergency department activity guide and some stickers.The girls were really keen for me to read the books to them at bedtime; they were colourful and appealing and they liked the monkey character. Each page features Monkey in different locations throughout the hospital, meeting various healthcare professionals, experiencing new feelings and seeing new things. The books are very honest, using the proper words for people and equipment, the kind of technical language which we may be tempted to avoid with young children but helps them become familiar and at ease with what they will encounter on their visit. There is also plenty of focus on positives such as why everything is happening and fun little things like meeting new people and having a snack when the procedure is finished. Once we had finished reading they were keen to keep the books to look at in their bedroom.The activity pack was equally popular. The girls loved putting together their own 3D, cardboard ambulance and putting all the stickers, which lead you through the booklet, in the right place. Throughout, we looked at all the words and pictures together while talking about why you might need to visit the emergency department and what might happen if you had to go there. There were also plenty of other activities included, suitable for a range of ages with or without adult help, such as a maze, wordsearch, matching activity and more. The girls were both kept entertained for a good while, I even had to drag them away to go to bed! This would be perfect to keep a child busy while waiting to see a doctor.Both living and working with children, I am well aware that most children will experience a hospital visit at some time during their childhood and I believe the more children know and understand the better. For my children, after trying the resources and talking about them, I hope they have gained some understanding about what hospital is like and and will be a little more prepared if we do ever have to visit any time soon. And if they were going to make a visit for a specific reason, I would definitely be using these resources to help prepare them for their stay.
You can find out more about Monkey Wellbeing here: http://www.monkeywellbeing.com/