New coloring book eases the hospital experience for kids

Children's Hospital patient with family © 2010 UC Regents
UC Davis Children's Hospital patient Victor Gonzalez checks out the coloring book with his parents.

Posted May 19, 2010

Kids being treated at UC Davis Children’s Hospital can experience a number of emotions all at once: anxiety, worry, fear — and boredom. After all, how much fun is it to just sit around all day long in a hospital bed?

To keep pediatric patients entertained, educated and engaged, specialists with the hospital’s Child Life Program have produced a new 18-page coloring and activity book. Primarily for patients aged 3 to 11, it also is available online to any child who wants one.

The coloring book came about when Child Life specialist Courtnee Hoogland and a former coworker decided it was time to update an older, out-of-print coloring book. When the coworker, who had begun the project, moved on, Hoogland took over.

“It just seemed natural that I would take it on,” she said. “The ‘Breanne and Bunny’ coloring book was a bit outdated, and I felt the kids in our hospital deserved something fun, fresh and helpful.”

Hoogland completed the project with funding from UC Davis Volunteer Services and the help of two colleagues, Janelle Wei and Diana Sundberg. One thousand copies were printed, and kids began receiving the book in April.

Courtnee Hoogland © UC Regents“The ‘Breanne and Bunny’ coloring book was a bit outdated, and I felt the kids in our hospital deserved something fun, fresh and helpful.”
— Courtnee Hoogland

The project was — and continues to be — fun because it encompasses two core components of what a Child Life professional does, Hoogland said: “Preparing kids and minimizing the surprises that they’ll experience when in the hospital, and helping them cope with the hospital through normal kid activities – like playing and coloring.”

In the book — called “Welcome to UC Davis Children’s Hospital” — a cheerful little monkey named Davis explores the hospital with readers and answers common questions, such as:

About the Child Life Program

The Child Life Program at UC Davis Children’s Hospital provides a positive environment for young patients so they can continue grow and develop while receiving medical care.

The program staff utilizes play, music, art and education to help the children cope with their health-care experiences and to minimize the stress and anxiety of hospitalization for young patients and their families.

Among the techniques the specialists use are medical play puppets to explain certain procedures. They can also accompany children to medical procedures or surgery to provide reassurance. The Child Life team also runs a playroom with daily activities and crafts and weekday music and art groups. A school teacher is on hand for children who need to keep up with their homework.

For more information, visit the program’s website.

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Along with ready-to-color pages, the book includes word searches, mazes and other games, along with advice on how families can prepare for the hospital experience. All of the illustrations were created by Steve Dana, senior artist with Mediaworks at UC Davis.

A child receives the book from a nurse or Child Life specialist upon admission and, so far, about 50 have been distributed. It also is available on the children’s hospital website as a downloadable PDF, so families can print it at home at any time.

“We have some monies left for additional printing,” Hoogland said, “but once that is gone, we will have to find a different funding source to continue providing the coloring book to kids.”

The new coloring book is just one of many ways UC Davis helps minimize the stress of hospitalization. The pediatric playroom offers daily activities and crafts, and the teen room for patients age 11 and older has a computer, a Wii, books and games. But the need is ongoing. The department maintains a wish list of items that can be donated to provide entertainment and support to children and their families while hospitalized.

“The items on the list are the most popular with children and will help them pass the time and cope with the hospital environment,” said Hoogland. “They also can help them celebrate major milestones like birthdays and the end of treatment.”

Coloring book © 2010 UC Regents
The new UC Davis Children's Hospital coloring book.

The wish list offers age-appropriate donation suggestions for infants up to teenagers (the children’s hospital cares for kids up to age 18). Suggestions include developmental toys and rattles for the very young, and CDs, DVDs and video games for teens. Donations for family members who may have traveled long distances to be at their children’s bedsides during treatment are also needed, including gift cards to purchase phone services, gasoline or groceries.

“UC Davis Children’s Hospital is very grateful for all the donations that supporters have provided over the years for young patients, especially those who have spent a substantial amount of time receiving treatments or recovering from injuries,” said Jacquelyn Kay-Mills, development officer for community giving and Children's Miracle Network at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. “Gifts bring smiles to their faces and help them through what is likely one of the toughest times of their lives.”

The coloring book PDF and wish list can both be found on the children’s hospital website. For assistance or more information about wish list items, contact Kay-Mills at 916-734-9192.