Power of play for rural kids in hospital

  • Captain Starlight with young boy
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Starlight Children’s Foundation
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At Starlight, we know the power of play. It’s not only integral to the healthy development of children, but it can help reduce stress, pain and fear while kids are in new and overwhelming environments like hospital.

Although Captain Starlight makes special rocket trips to regional hospitals, not all children around the country have equal access to programs that support play. Starlight Express Rooms, where kids can escape highly medicalised environments, only exist in major paediatric hospitals and we know there are many kids in rural and regional locations would benefit from the positive distraction Captain Starlight brings.

Planet Starlight exists to bridge this gap.  

Planet Starlight is an online platform with out of this world fun for kids in hospital, no matter what time it is or where they are in Australia. The Captain Starlight program has been transcribed into an online format, prioritising interactivity, that allows the play to be led by children. Each weekday, Captain Starlight hosts four interactive and entertaining shows. Every show responds to the kids watching in real time, meaning the fun is always fresh and the kids feel seen and heard. When Captain Starlight isn’t live, there are games and activities like the Earth Museum of Awesomeness, where kids can upload and share their creations.  

The platform also allows Starlight to bring unique and exciting experiences happening in capital cities to children around the country. One of the highlights of 2023 was having Ed Sheeran on a Planet Starlight livestream when he visited the Women’s and Children’s hospital in Adelaide. 

“Planet Starlight has given rural children access to much needed distraction and child friendly play in a bland, yucky, boring, hospital setting. Planet Starlight has allowed nursing staff to provide children with a valuable resource that is changing the way rural children can access services that are available to children in major children hospitals.” - Paediatric Clinical Nurse Educator 

Planet Starlight isn’t just virtual entertainment though. This year, we were able to bridge the gap for regional kids even further with a Surprise Pack experience thanks to a generous donation from Amazon. 150 Lego Packs were sent to kids in 11 regional and rural hospitals along with QR codes. The codes directed kids to a purpose-built, exclusive landing page where they could build their Lego set along with Captain Starlight. 

 “I had an autistic 10-year-old last night, quite unwell with pneumonia. His mum warned me that he often had anger outbursts and was super stressed that he might have one. I gave him one of the packs and his eyes lit up! He was super excited seeing how he could scan his iPad and see the Captain building. His mum could not believe how well behaved he was and stated that I’d become his best friend. It really put a smile on my face, not only did this help calm the child, but the mum also who had been under a lot of stress herself, was relieved.” – Paediatric Clinical Nurse Consultant 

The program makes it easy for health professionals to engage with children and support them to log on to Planet Starlight with QR codes, lanyards and collateral.  

“I was walking through resus yesterday and we had a very sick bored child and it was 1pm, I had my handy QR code on my swipe card and it was great to get his parents to use the device and the live show was on, we then had a happy and entertained child.” - Paediatric Clinical Nurse Consultant 

If you’d like collateral to support children in your service connecting to Planet Starlight, contact Starlight at 1300 727 827 or [email protected].    

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