Lawren-Play Specialist

Did you see Claire House’s Play Specialist Lawren Harris feature as part of Archie and Stanley’s story on Children in Need? Here she explains a little more about her job.  

Watch Archie & Stanley’s story

As many parents know, play helps their little ones to explore, imagine and express themselves.

But this essential part of childhood shouldn’t just stop because a child is seriously ill or receiving treatment.

Thankfully, whether it is preparing a child for a daunting operation or ticking off a final bucket list wish, the Claire House Children’s Hospice play team are on hand.

Play specialist Lawren focuses on providing fun, distraction and reassurance to children during their time at the Wirral hospice.

“It gives them the chance to smile, release emotions, feel stimulated and just literally have fun which is something all children love to do,” says Lawren.

She adds: “With play, we can turn negative experiences into more positive ones and make situations less distressing. So something as simple as being silly can distract a child while they are having medication.

“We also use tools and resources to help them feel less scared about hospital visits and more prepared about their treatment or operations.”

‘Dream team’

Lawren, 27, is one of three dedicated play specialists at Claire House who provide play as part of a child’s care.

The team use many different forms of play, from sensory, messy and outdoor play to music, relaxation and computers such as Eye Gaze technology and having fun on the iPads.

But they don’t just support those children undergoing a stressful procedure, their work benefits the whole family including bereaved brothers and sisters.

“Siblings gain a good relationship with us when they are playing and offload their feelings without even knowing they are doing it,” explains Lawren.

“We can use play for stimulating purposes too. Just simple activities like reading a story, baking cakes or engaging a child in arts and crafts can help a child to concentrate and is great for purely enjoyment purposes too.”

‘Creating magical moments’

Lawren, from Birkenhead, says the activities help take pressure off parents and create memorable moments the family will cherish forever.

She recalls a time when, for a dying child’s bucket list wish, the hospice ‘Hub’ – immersive therapy or light room – was transformed into an underwater experience, complete with projections, a bubble machine and inflatable sea creatures.

She says: “Family members pushed the child’s portable bed, which made the images appear to splash. We finished with some reflexology and projected Finding Nemo. The session was magical.

“A few days after the child sadly passed. Although it was sad, I felt we made an incredible memory for the family which will always stay with them.

“Play can bring the family together. To know we have made a difference to a child means so much. When you see the outcome, benefits and smiles, it is worth every second spent.”

To donate to Claire House call 0151 343 0883 or you can donate online here.