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Play areas

Child playing with toy

Play areas are in each outpatient area and on every inpatient unit at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

At St. Jude, we have play areas in each outpatient area and on every inpatient unit. Most of these areas are open 24 hours a day, except for a few in outpatient areas that close in the evening. From time to time the play areas may be closed. This can happen when staff are cleaning the areas. The play areas can also be closed because of sickness within our community.

You and your child may visit these areas as you wait for appointments or when your child is inpatient.

Volunteers schedule activities throughout the week. Child Life specialists also offer therapeutic activities in these areas.

Safety guidelines

For infection control reasons:

  • Outpatients may not visit inpatient play areas.
  • Inpatients may not visit the outpatient play areas.
  • St. Jude provides individual packets of crayons, modeling clay, and other similar materials for each child.
  • Children may not use bubbles, chalk, clay, or sand in the play areas.
  • Children may not use cloth toys in these areas. The only exception is cloth teaching dolls. They are used for one session before being thrown away or given to the child.

For everyone’s safety:

  • A parent, volunteer, or staff member must supervise children in play areas at all times. The only exception is the teen room. Only teens and Child Life staff may enter that room
  • No one may eat or drink in the play areas. Some patients may be on restricted diets or unable to eat before tests.

The play areas are a safe place for children. Medical staff are not allowed to come into the play areas to conduct exams or give medicines. Instead, staff may ask the child to go to an exam room, procedure area, or patient room. The only exception is if an emergency occurs in the area.

If your child is in isolation

Patients who are in isolation may not visit the play areas. Their siblings and visitors may not visit the play areas until isolation precautions have been removed.

During isolation, a volunteer or staff person can bring toys or activities to your child’s exam room or inpatient room.

Cleaning toys

All toys in the play areas are cleaned each day.

  • Volunteers and staff wear gloves and are trained to use an approved sanitizing cleaner.
  • The toys are air dried or washed in the dishwasher between uses.
  • Toys are not returned to the play area until they are dry.
  • Toys that have been in a child’s mouth or that look soiled are placed into dirty-toy bins. These toys are cleaned before the next use.

Dirty-toy bins

Dirty-toy bins are in each play area. Please place toys in these bins if:

  • The toys have been taken to a patient room
  • Your child has played with the toys
  • A child has put a toy in their mouth
  • A child has sneezed or coughed on the toys

Please do not remove toys from the dirty-toy bin. A volunteer or staff person must clean each toy properly to prevent the spread of infection.

Key Points

  • St. Jude has play areas in each outpatient area and on every inpatient unit.
  • Most play areas are open 24/7, except for a few in outpatient areas that close in the evening.
  • The hospital has infection control and safety guidelines for play areas.
  • Toys are cleaned often, and dirty toys are placed into certain bins.


Reviewed: July 2022