Art projects that help children in hospital get better faster

Research has shown that children respond to therapy better in environments that make them happy and feel engaged.

Two recent projects for children’s areas in hospitals tap into this, with top character design duo Tado creating vinyl decorations for Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s new hydrotherapy pool (above) and interactive play designer Chris O’Shea producing a Kinect-based installation at the Royal London Hospital’s newly redeveloped play space.

Both projects began with discussions between the creatives and the medical staff who would be working with the children, including play specialists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. Tado’s brief was to bring the pool and surrounding areas to life, with the duo's bright, hip characters being as appropriate for pre-school patients as for more culturally aware teens.

“The only requirement was that it was a happy and calm area,” say Tado. “[We used] colours that complimented the walls with little bits of bright contrast just to add a little bit of zing, but not to be too distracting for the kids – especially in areas such as the gym where assessments and therapy work take place.”

As well as placing their characters on the walls, they also placed some on the ceiling, so they could be seen as children with mobility disabilities are brought into the room and lowered into the pool using a hoist.

Placement of characters on the ceiling put them in the field of view of children who needed to lowered into the pool using a hoist, as well as other children with mobility issues.

Chris’s Woodland Wiggle game is played on a giant TV screen that sits within a playroom featuring equally outsized stuffed toy animals and chairs (below). It uses a Microsoft Kinect motion and visual capture device that’s connected to a Mac and the screen to bring children into a series of woodland scenes based around the animals.

The game had to be accessible to children with different levels of mobility, so while Chris could have used the system map the full-body motion of children – he instead limited it to arm motions to trigger events in the game’s story.

“The idea is that even if you move just a small amount, it will trigger something,” he says. “If you’re in a bed and put in front of the screen, you could wiggle your hand and it could trigger an instrument. Or if they could reach up with their arm as little bit, they could paint with their arms.

“We [tested the game] with a girl with quite severe learning disabilities. She was transfixed when she could see herself moving on-screen and then she was waving her arms,” Chris adds. “Her teachers said that was the most they had got out of her all week in terms of her physical movement. I knew it was on the right track when they said that.”

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