A lot has been done in an effort to make hospitals less of a scary and bewildering place for young children. Remember Jeff Koons' Balloon Dog makeover of a radiology exam room in the Advocate Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL (below)? That was part of a program sponsored by Kiehls and the nonprofit organization RxArt to make children's hospitals a little bit friendlier. Personally, I have a hunch that all this hospital room dress-up signifies a more serious flaw in the initial phases of hospital design, and we'd be better served by addressing children's needs from the very start instead of adding colorful, cartoony band aids long after construction has already been completed.
There are other solutions too, of course. One of the best and simplest approaches comes from Hikaru Imamura, a recent Eindhoven grad who was featured on Fast Co. Design as a notable entry in their Innovation Awards program. Since sick children still have to spend hours, days, weeks etc. being ferried in and out of hospital rooms and from one contraption to the next, Imamura thought it was better to quell their fear by helping them understand what all the big scary machines do, especially since Koons can't put his balloons dogs in every hospital in the world. Imamura's solution is a charming and rather refined set of wooden toys that replicate CT scan rooms, X-ray machines and echocardiographs, all staffed by friendly bears.
"I thought it's more important to make things that attract children's interest as stuff to play with. As a result, I made toys that had simple devices such as light or sound, instead of representing the details of machines or having high-tech devices."
If children understand the procedures, not only are they more at ease, but knowing what to expect before hand makes the technicians' jobs easier, too. Imamura also created an accompanying book to walk kids through the different toys. Currently, she's collaborating with a university hospital in the Netherlands on two more toys, an MRI and operating room.
Jeff Koons' hospital room in the Advocate Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL