How can we keep our little ones stimulated while in hospital?

Posted on 1st May, 2020, under Research

As a Children in Hospital volunteer, I asked a three-year-old, ‘would you like to paint”‘. His mother said, ‘oh wow, I am sure he would love that, he has never painted before’. His dad said, ‘oh it is okay, you don’t need to bother, he will make a mess and you are busy’. I assured the father that it would be no bother and when the parents agreed it might be a good distraction from being in the hospital, I took out some art materials.

Creative Arts

We used paper, different colour paints and some craft materials. I find that blank sheets of paper allow children to use their own creative abilities without being guided by other artists impressions of what art is. After many pieces of art had been created the child added some feathers and funny eyes to some of his pictures.

Creative Children

The three-year-old was engaged in this activity for 40 minutes, great concentration for one so young and in a new environment. As he painted he was also learning and developing in ways such as; Cognitively, when pouring paint he was exploring volume and quantity, and learning how to create green by mixing yellow and blue etc…; Emotionally, he used his five senses, sight, smell, sight, hearing, taste, (yes he did manage to lick the brush), he also appeared relaxed and happy, he was not for that moment in the hospital rather he was a creator of art; Socially, he chatted to himself, and his parents and myself as he worked.

Parents and family

Both parents enjoyed watching their son make pictures. Although initially dad was concerned (for me) of the mess it might to tidy up after him, nevertheless, he allowed his son to carry on having fun because he could see the excitement and interest he had in painting. The parents shared that it was also fun for them to see him so absorbed in what he was doing that he didn’t even mind when they took a few minutes to go and have a cup of tea.

Professional Development

As I reflect on this experience, I understood that this family really cared about their son. I realised that I had forgotten that not all families have equal opportunities to help children explore and learn through the arts and this is not because they do not want to, there are multiple barriers that limit our ability to expand and engage in developmental and fun activities with our children. However, in this climate, when we are all trying to make sense of our new way of living, it is a perfect time to spend playing, creating, and getting messy together as families.


So, let’s see what paintings we can create during COVID-19 to save for our little ones because this moment in time will be a part of our future history and storytelling. Finally, I would love to hear about what arts activities you might engage in with your little ones?


Lyons, D. (2012). Creative Studies: for the caring professions. Ireland: Gill and Macmillian.

Catherine (Kitty) O'Reilly
Catherine (Kitty) O'Reilly Collage

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