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How Worry Eaters Help Children Manage Fears

Plush character holds worries and cuddles

Everyone Worries

We are all afraid of something. So we worry. Children and adults alike. And that’s not altogether bad. In fact, our fears help keep us safe and motivate us to do whatever we can to avoid what we fear could happen.

Whether we’re 16 or 60, taking the written test to get or renew a driver’s license is likely to make us anxious. We fret over the possibility we’ll fail. That fear motivates us to study the manual until we feel prepared. No guarantee we’ll pass, but we’re more likely to answer the questions correctly and to feel less apprehensive.

Real Versus Imaginary

Children worry too. Sometimes their fears spring from their active imaginations.  Take monsters under the bed. These fearsome creatures may be make-believe, but to the young child not yet clear about the difference between fantasy and reality, the fear is real.

Magical thinkers who view the world from a self-centered perspective, children often believe themselves responsible for events. I recall our then three year old son thinking his grandparents had bought a new car because he’d thrown up in the old one. He worried they were angry with him. In his mind, he’d ruined their car. That months had passed between these unrelated events never occurred to him.

Tools for Managing Worries

Gerd Hahn knows the feeling of losing sleep from worry overload. A creative man, he used his angst and talent to create a solution – Worry Eaters. Engaging, soft, huggable characters, their manta is “Let me carry your worries so you don’t have to.”

Their invitation is simple.

1. Write down or draw your fears and worries.

2. Feed them to me – I’ll hold them for you.

3. We’ll get through this together.

That’s a powerful message. Worry Eaters help children put a name on their worries and express their feelings. As adults we sometimes can’t put a finger on the cause of our distress. Likewise children sometimes cannot find words to explain theirs.

A trusted, caring adult, can help a child figure out and assign a name to what’s bothering him. Through the process of sharing his feelings, the child gains emotional support. By feeding his worries to a Worry Eater, the child lightens his load, creating space between himself and his worries.

A favorite Worry Eater also becomes a confidant. Whenever a child needs an ear, Worry Eater listens. Soft and huggable, Worry Eater comforts and consoles.

Not Just for Little Kids

Worry Eaters help bigger kids too. School age children face daily challenges as they grow and develop. Managing worries in a healthy way is a must. Worry Eaters, like a journal, serve to ease anxiety by encouraging kids to identify and cope with what’s bothering them. The process of naming the worry and feeding it to a Worry Eater symbolically creates space for problem-solving.

Customers have purchased Worry Eaters for their young adult children too. I recall one buying two to send daughters in law school. She figured – and you know she’s right on – those young women had plenty of worries in need of holding.

Worry Eaters in Therapeutic Situations

I credit my daughter-in-law with this idea. Having individual Worry Eaters for every little kid client is expensive. What she suggests is creating a file box with an envelope for each client. Between sessions transfer the worries to these envelopes for safe keeping and quick retrieval.

Something for Everyone

Worry Eaters help children (and their adults) express and cope with their worries in a healthy way. With two sizes and an array of delightful characters-five available both large and small-you’re sure to find a Worry Eater perfect for every worrier in your life.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play


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Multiple Benefits of Light Up Toys for Children

Meteor Storm mesmerizing spinning light show
Lifting Spirits

With darkness falling earlier and earlier, we need a dazzling light show to lighten our spirits. Meteor Storm does that and more. Spinning, bright colored lights in ever changing patterns attract our attention. Captivated, we watch the show and feel our tension slip away. We’re lighter in spirit, more joyful. Other light up toys that also enthrall are  Mini Meteor Storm and Light Show Stick. Below are some benefits of light up toys for children.

Behavioral Distraction

Because light up toys are spellbinding, a child in the midst of a full blown meltdown may turn his attention to an amazing light show and stop acting out. In this case, the light up toy helps restore calm and supports self regulation. Meltdowns can often be prevented by providing a light up toy to a child struggling with self-control. “An ounce of prevention,” as the saying goes, “is worth a pound of cure.”

Therapeutic Distraction

In another setting, spinning light up toys make ideal distractions. Consider Meteor Storm. In a therapeutic setting, it draws a child’s focus away from a frightening situation. Child life specialists use light up toys to distract children undergoing simple medical procedures, such as a blood draw or inserting an intravenous drip line. Instead of the child freaking out, she becomes mesmerized by concentric circles of changing lights spinning inside a globe. Before the fascination wears off, the procedure is finished, and the child is too spellbound to notice. Such therapeutic distraction reduces patient and parent distress, improves patients’ coping skills and ability to cooperate, and makes the procedure go more smoothly. As a result a potentially traumatic experience becomes a positive one.

Visual Tracking Assessment

Vision specialists use Meteor Storm to assess visual tracking in children who are blind and visually impaired. Those with low vision delight in holding one close to their faces, watching the bright colored lights spin while listening to the hum and feeling the mild vibration the spinning creates. Teachers frequently motivate students by setting aside time to play with a Meteor Storm once a task is finished.

Fine Motor Development

These light up toys develop fine motor skills. In addition to grasping and holding the toys, children must press and hold the switch that starts the light show. This means the child must pay attention to what he’s doing or the lights literally go out.

Gross Motor Development

Lazer Fingers, lights with elastic bands for wearing on the fingers brighten up ceiling and walls as fingers dance and arms circle and swing. Getting a move on—dancing and prancing—takes the Lazer Fingers experience to new heights. To take it to the max, add music for a multi-sensory experience.

Added Safety On Halloween

Visibility is vital to safety as children go trick or treating. These light up toys make children easier for motorists to see in the dark. And add unexpected dazzle to the door-to-door trek.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Hats Off to Child Life Professionals Worldwide

baby resting on father

March is Child Life Month, a time for raising awareness of the psycho-social needs of pediatric patients and their families and celebrating the child life professionals who support those needs. Illnesses and injuries are always frightening. Diagnostic testing and treatments are too. That’s when the presence of a child life professional makes all the difference.

Educated in child development and how illness and injury impact children, child life specialists offer evidence-based, developmentally appropriate support. By providing information, procedural preparation, distraction, and therapeutic play, child life specialists help children cope with the uncertainties and fear that accompany being in hospital. Children experience less distress and are better able to manage their feelings as a result.

Child life specialists advocate practices that minimize distress. They encourage parental presence with guidance, comfort positions, and distraction during procedures. Comfort positions provide both physical and emotional comfort. Remaining calm is easier when a child is physically comfortable and emotionally supported. Procedures go more smoothly, children experience less pain, and what began as a frightening experience becomes easier for everyone to deal with.

Recently our micro-premie granddaughter benefitted from a medical staff aware of comfort positions. Experiencing a problem requiring readmission to NICU, she entered through the emergency department. During admission, she lay contently against her father’s chest. Once in an exam room, staff suggested he lie down on the bed with her on his chest – the perfect comfort position for her exam and initial treatment. Transport maintained that position on the trip to NICU. Parents and child alike were comforted by the compassionate care provided. An unexpected, frightening experience became manageable.   

Our family salutes child life professionals worldwide. Your efforts have transformed attitudes and practices for the benefit of children and their families, and we’re grateful.

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Distracted? Distracting? What’s Distraction?

What’s A Distraction?

When hearing the word distraction, what comes to mind? According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, distraction has three distinct meanings. The most common refers to anything that keeps us from giving our full attention to something else. Often we view that “something else” as more important than whatever or whoever is interrupting us. Sometimes it is. Others absolutely not. The definition is ambivalent. The situation determines what’s a bane and what’s a blessing.

If I’m concentrating on writing a blog post and constantly being interrupted, the interruptions are keeping me from focusing my full attention on my writing. That’s a hindrance. On the other hand, child life specialists use distraction toys and techniques to divert a child’s attention away from a frightening or painful scenario. Such distractions reduce stress and increase the child’s ability to cope. Similarly, distractions help prevent or minimize emotional meltdowns in children.

Recreation or Agitation?

Additional definitions, “diversion or recreation” and “extreme agitation of the mind or emotions,” reflect the same polarities as the primary meaning. Perhaps if we embrace this duality of meaning, we can avoid extreme agitation by allowing ourselves a brief diversion. Breathe deeply. Find a quiet place – preferably outdoors – and simply sit. Take a walk. Balance is crucial to our well-being.

C. S. Lewis wrote “Children are NOT a distraction from more important work. They are THE MOST important work.” Most parents would agree, at least in principle. Our most important work is rearing our children. Doing so is our privilege and our responsibility, and we take that seriously.

Being responsible parents means providing for our children: clothing, food, shelter, health care, and education. To accomplish this, we engage in other important work – that of earning a living. If we’re not mindful, our jobs can drive us to distraction. We’re called upon to create boundaries and establish equilibrium among myriad important tasks including our most important one.

Create A Diversion

Interrupt the cycle by creating a diversion. Spend time in a leisure pursuit with your children. Switch off electronic devices and play. What play means to you and your children will depend on ages, stages, interests, and available resources.

With holidays approaching, consider baking, making cards, or decorating butcher or craft paper for one-of-a-kind gift wrap. Explore service opportunities in your community and choose one to brighten the holidays for others. Perhaps read aloud a favorite holiday story or sing familiar songs at a retirement home. What’s important is being together, sharing experiences, making memories. Creating positive experiences for others shows our children the importance of kindness. They learn such lessons best from watching us. Whatever words we use, our actions speak louder.

Now back to the word of the day – distraction. Be mindful of interruptions to your most important work and use recreation and leisure pursuits to avoid being driven to a state of mental distress. Breathe deeply, slow the pace, and savor the moment.

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Standish Foundation: Hope, Healing, Happiness

We’ve all heard the adage “one thing leads to another.” That happened when I was putting together the posts on certified child life specialists pursuing their passion in nontraditional ways. One guest, Morgan Livingstone, urged me to contact Andrea Standish and invite her to write about Standish Foundation for Child and Family Centered Healthcare. Following her advice, I emailed Andy who graciously agreed to share her story, including a field report showing how implementing simple, effective, and sustainable practices creates positive change not only for children and their parents but also for healthcare professionals.

“There is no profit in curing the body if in the process we destroy the soul.”   -Samuel Golter

These words inspire the work of Standish Foundation for Child and Family Centered Healthcare where we aim to dramatically change the hospital experience for kids and their families.

 In 2010, I started the Standish Foundation for Child and Family Centered Healthcare. The organization was named after my husband Michael Standish in recognition of his long-time support of my passion to help ill children and their families. As a certified child life specialist and educator, I’ve worked extensively to support the rights and needs of ill children and their families. My work has taken me to fourteen countries, and I hope to spend the rest of my life working to introduce sustainable child and family friendly healthcare practices globally.

 It’s simple really. We love kids and believe kids shouldn’t suffer. At Standish Foundation, we work to minimize the pain and suffering of hospitalized children.

Hospitals can be intimidating and medical procedures can be scary – especially for children. A hospital stay can be filled with stress, fear, anxiety and pain. But it doesn’t have to be filled with suffering.

Standish Foundation for Child and Family Centered Healthcare empowers medical professionals with training, mentoring, and resources to effectively deliver child and family-centered care. We help hospitals provide hope and healing to children and families.

 Our team is made up of volunteers who live and work in 12 countries and range from eight to 68 years old. We are patients and parents, nurses, psychologists, pediatricians, child life specialists, music and art therapists, play therapists, and professors.

 We believe that health care free of suffering is a right for all, not a privilege for a few. We honor and help implement healthcare standards in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

You can learn more about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, by reading FACT SHEET: A summary of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Among hospitals partnering with the Standish Foundation is Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. This field report shows the positive impact of using Comfort Positions and distraction techniques during procedures and play before and after.

Our goal for this trip is to work with the nurses, nurse managers, and doctors to help develop their practices and policies on the use of “Comfort Positions.” These positions incorporate the parent into the procedure and include other best practices for reducing stress for the child.

 Comfort Positions were developed by Mary Barkey, CCLS and Barbara Stephens, CRRN and involve the use of sitting and hugging positions rather than restraint. Parents are invited to hug/hold the child or at least be very close by while the procedure is being performed.

 The staff at AVH are known for their kindness and compassion. Adding Comfort Positions to their practice is a logical next step. We’ve spent the week working with staff.  A new play area is set up, a social worker is here, and we’re ready for the clinic to open.

 Many of the children we are seeing are having a blood sample taken or IV/Cannula inserted. This may seem simple to an adult, but for a child, it is terrifying. Most of these children have been undergoing treatment for a while – they know what’s coming. For many, it was scary last time, so why would it be different today?

 Today, patients are playing before and after their procedure. Comfort Positions are used and the child is sitting in the parent’s lap or sitting up in a chair. They are soothed and distracted, and then praised and validated after the procedure for doing a good job.

 There were very few tears, a lot of laughing, smiling, and playing. In fact, a curious physician came into the clinic because he hadn’t heard any crying. He was delighted and said he hadn’t imagined that the few changes would make such a great impact for children, parents, and staff.  Everyone was happier!

 This is a great testament to the importance of PLAY! The sweet children here in Jerusalem inspire us with their warmth and playfulness. We are to happy to be a part of this team effort with the patients and parents, nurses and social worker. 

Wishing you hope and joy,


Learn more about the work of Standish Foundation and ways you can support their efforts to bring child and family-centered healthcare to hospitals worldwide. Donate online or contribute items from their wish list. I like their Ways to Help Us list. How often are we offered non-traditional ways to offer our support?  While not everyone has frequent flier miles or hotel points to share, we can review the website, share their story on social media, and add our prayers.

There’s even a way to get the kids involved. Standish Foundation welcomes new and gently used Beanie Babies. Organize a Beanie Baby Drive. You’ll not only be collecting Beanie Babies. You’ll be sharing the story of the Standish Foundation and its goal of minimizing pain and suffering among hospitalized children worldwide. And, on a personal level, you’ll be modeling the generosity of spirit you want to blossom within your children.

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Celebrating Child Life in Kenya

Morgan Livingstone, a certified child life specialist in private practice in Toronto, Canada, is a steadfast champion for global child life programs. She dreams big, really big, and works tirelessly to nurture child life in Kenya. As Child Life Officer for World Eye Cancer Hope, she partnered with Sarah Ellen Mamlin, director and chief child advocate at Sally Test Pediatric Centre, to grow a thriving, locally staffed, locally sustainable child life program. WE C Hope Brings Child Life to Kenya gives us a chance to tour the hospital and hear staff members share their perspectives on the benefits of child life to the children in Kenya.

*last day in Eldoret 2014

Morgan shares her story

 My journey growing a locally sustainable child life program in Kenya started with my work at World Eye Cancer Hope, formerly The Daisy Fund – a UK/Canada/USA charity and Kenyan NGO focused on the medical and support needs of children and families facing retinoblastoma (RB).

Meetings with clinicians, RB survivors, and community leaders in Kenya in 2006, identified the need for a national strategy to improve RB survival in East Africa. In 2007, members of a global team from Canada and the UK traveled throughout Kenya, including Kisumu, Mombasa, Nairobi, and Eldoret, shaking hands, making friends, and assessing sites for “growing” a locally sustainable child life program. I was looking for a “child life” site, a place to incubate child life practices with an existing child-focused staff, space for a playroom, and very visionary hospital leaders willing to “dream big” with us. When I heard about a playroom in Eldoret, I emailed a proposal to provide annual child life training and clinical supervision to grow a full child life program there to Sarah Ellen Mamlin, director and chief child advocate of the Sally Test Pediatric Centre at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. Our inaugural child life training took place during summer 2008, when I pilot tested child life practices and theories within Kenyan healthcare.

Since that initial weeklong intensive, I’ve continued providing engaging, hands-on, rigorous annual trainings for the team, covering child development, the history and value of child life, essential child life theories and practices, from child life research to medical play, procedural preparation, pain management, and play. Learning to work on multidisciplinary teams to support specific populations and situations from burn and oncology patients, including young children and families confronting retinoblastoma diagnosis and treatment and children facing loss of a body part to palliative care and bereavement support. Providing infant massage and child life in the NICU. Supporting siblings and MORE!

What’s most important to remember is this extensive, incredible child life work involves local Kenyan child life health workers providing child life supports to local Kenyan children within the existing public healthcare system. I’m there to teach local staff ways to translate child life concepts and implement child life supports and strategies in Kenya. I’m not there to do the work for them. Creating locally staffed, sustainable programs is the real goal for global child life.

The team received their first international certification as infant massage instructors in 2011, when I brought Andrea Kelly from the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM/WINC) to Kenya to provide training for 17 hospital staff, including the entire child life team and members of the World Eye Cancer Hope (formerly Daisy Fund).

With all this great training, I could see that the team was ready to begin planning to write the child life certification exam. With all the requirements, I knew this would take great planning to make it locally sustainable and economically viable. With some serious fundraising completed in 2013, Judith Duncan a retired professor from Cambrian College joined us in Kenya to provide the Children and Youth in Healthcare course – required by the Child Life Council for eligibility for the child life certification exam. This incredible course was well received and attended not only by the great child life team from the Sally Test Pediatric Centre but also by a doctor and nurse from Nairobi, a community nurse from Kisumu, and two play therapists from Tanzania.

We have also been able to include other staff from the Sally Test Pediatric Centre – that’s right, there are MORE amazing people involved, including child life assistants, teaching staff, infant staff that provide love and care to abandoned babies, a librarian, and a seamstress who makes clothes and uniforms and teaches interested parents a valuable skill!

With outside funding from a generous donor, a new children’s hospital was built in 2015, on Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital’s campus. This new pediatric hospital, the Shoes 4 Africa hospital, opened in the summer of 2015, and the dynamic team of child life health workers and their assistants provide enriched, play-based, creative activities and child life programming both at the bedside and in the new playrooms on each ward.

As this incredible child life program gained greater and greater visibility  in Kenyan healthcare, we knew certification was essential to validating this new profession in Kenya. In early 2015, I started discussions with the Child Life Council about hosting the child life certification exam in Kenya. Through a lengthy long-distance process, I helped complete all the relevant paperwork for the eligibility assessment for each child life health worker, and with the help of some local and global fundraising, we were able to move forward with the certification exam in Kenya in September 2015. Due to technical issues beyond anyone’s control, the exam did not go smoothly. Our second attempt in late 2015 experienced similar technical challenges. Despite these hurdles, there are now two certified child life specialists in Kenya! Focusing on the positive, we celebrate these certifications and continue to advocate for further testing for the remaining team members in  Kenya.

Remaining positive and focused on the long term goals is essential for me in continuing to grow child life in Kenya. Our strategic plan for the next few years balances maintaining hopefulness with being realistic with our timelines. Two skilled child life health workers offer child life supports in the NICU, including group sessions with the mothers.

The team and I will be working with Dr. Sherwood Burns-Nader from the University of Alabama to complete a child life research study. We remain focused on developing and building the child life i

Internship program that will enable us to properly train staff from other Kenyan hospitals, healthcare centers, and hospices interested in implementing child life in their institutions. Other long term projects include offering the required child life course at Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya, and building an appropriate technological infrastructure and staff to support future child life certification exams in Kenya.

I encourage skilled child life specialists from Western programs interested in child life in Kenya to share or donate child life resources and materials, both new and used. Even simple presentations and posters for specific patient populations that can be adapted to the Kenyan child life program are valuable. Help us raise awareness of the Sally Test Pediatric Centre and the Kenyan child life program by sharing the video on social media and visiting the web pages. Donations help us cover the costs for running annual and ongoing child life programs – consider making a donation – every bit helps! 

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Child Life Mommy Shani Thornton

In honor of Child Life Month, PlayopolisToys invited four child life specialists pursuing their passion in nontraditional ways to share their stories. We’re beginning with Shani Thornton, MS, CCLS, who relates how she came to her profession and has adapted her practice to balance two passions: child life and mommyhood.


When you find your passion in life, you will do anything to nourish it.

I stumbled across the child life profession when I was working as a recreation therapist assistant at a children’s convalescent hospital in San Diego. I loved my job, but had an overwhelming feeling that there was something more that I was suppose to do. I began my research, took on additional tasks at work and interviewed my colleagues about their medical positions. Nothing was standing out to me, until I heard about child life. That was it! It resonated deeply within me, and I was on a mission to become a Certified Child Life Specialist.

Fast-forward a few years later and I had reached my goal by providing child life services within a hospital setting. I loved my job, but I also fell in love with something else, my newborn son.

So, how can I balance these two passions of mine?

Thinking outside the box I developed a child life and parenting website/blog called It provided me an outlet to share resources on a large platform.

Just as you advance yourself in a work place, I began to do the same in my setting. I set new career goals and strengthened my skills by filling gaps in service.

child life mommy logoMy first project was creating a children’s preparation book about a wellness visit, including vaccinations and a blood test. There was nothing available in the market that used social story photographs and had the language of a child life specialist. It’s Time For Your Checkup: What to Expect When Going to a Doctor Visit was developed and made available on Amazon in paperback and digital format. It was quickly an added resource to many websites, including Autism Speaks and the Child Life Council.

I also took on an adjunct teaching position for the Graduate Child Life Program at Bank Street College of Education. My co-teacher and I changed the face-to-face therapeutic play course to the program’s new online format. Using creativity and our knowledge of social media and blogging, we are able to connect and scaffold our students across the country.

As I have found the rhythm in balancing parenting full-time and child life, I was able to take on my largest professional goal thus far, private practice. Providing in-home child life services to families struggling with life’s challenges has rooted me back to the hospital experience of patient work. Engaging with children, supporting parents, and providing therapeutic interventions is what really fills my child life cup.

There is a large gap in service with supporting programs and families in the community, and child life specialists are beginning to step outside hospital walls and apply our skills in various areas. I believe the future of the child life profession lies in expanding both community-based settings and globally.

Grab a favorite beverage and settle in at The resources for both child life professionals and parents are plentiful. The posts present information, insights, and personal experiences in a conversational tone. When she writes about her life, she writes from her heart, sharing her feelings openly and honestly, showing us that feelings require acceptance. Bookmark Child Life Get to know Shani by reading My Life. And follow her blog. Connect through social media at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I promise you’ll find your time well spent.

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Celebrating Child Life Worldwide


March is Child Life Month. If you’re scratching your head and wondering what Child Life is and why we’re celebrating, you’re likely not alone. If, however, you’re in the know, let the festivities begin. Everyone knows  PlayopolisToys likes celebrations. That’s why we’ve been looking ahead and urging fellow citizens of play to plan ahead for celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday, reading to kids on Read Across America Day, advocating for music in our public schools, and making way for kid-centered crafting, all activities child life specialists value.

Now we’re turning our attention to celebrating those who support the psychosocial and developmental needs of children confronting traumatic or overwhelmingly stressful events in their lives, particularly ones involving health and hospitalization. Traditionally hospital-based, child life specialists use play to build rapport, educate, prepare patients for procedures, and help children develop effective coping strategies. Play is essential to the well-being of all children. Losing one’s self in play relieves stress and gives kids a sense of normalcy. Because children express their feelings and work through problems while playing, child life specialists provide opportunities for self-expression activities. Through this play, specialists also gain insights into specific concerns of individual children.

Explore Learning from Child Life Specialists. The pin That’s Child Life is a must. This five minute video produced by the Association of Child Life Professionals, shows the services the profession provides and the benefits not only to patients and their families but also to nurses and doctors committed to treating the whole person, not just an illness or injury. The board is brimming with information and ideas. So grab a cup of coffee and linger awhile.

And follow our blog as we interview four certified child life specialists who have charted new territory by bringing services to non-traditional settings throughout the United States, Canada, and beyond. To paraphrase Dr Seuss, “Oh, the places these people have gone” to support children and their families in traumatic and overwhelmingly stressful situations.”

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Benito, You Can Do It!

Meet Alan Quiñonez who knows that kids can’t fight cancer alone. Using his talents for storytelling and illustration, he has written and illustrated Benito, You Can Do It!, a series of bilingual, English/Spanish, picture books for children diagnosed with cancer.  The key character is Benito, a nine year old Latino, who has just learned he has cancer. The first volume, The News, focuses on the impact of a cancer diagnosis and provides information that helps children and their families understand the disease and the jobs of various players on his medical team.

This is accomplished through the arrival at the hospital of Benito’s favorite cousin, Pancho, a childhood cancer survivor who shows Benito a photo album documenting his journey. Sharing the album allows Pancho to provide important information and essential emotional support. His presence offers “living proof” of positive outcomes. This heartwarming insider’s account informs and comforts, and that’s precisely what children with cancer and their families need.

Alan ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to complete publication of The News. Reaching his initial goal of $8,800, and  his stretch goal of $10,000. All dollars beyond the initial sum support research and production of the next book in the series.

With a cancer diagnosis, the child begins a journey into the unfamiliar, and that is scary for child and family. Questions arise. What happens now? Who will take care of me when I’m in the hospital? Alan will provide child friendly answers in the second book in the series, explaining different types of treatment and life at the hospital.

Because a cancer diagnosis profoundly affects siblings who are often left behind, the third book will help siblings explore their feelings. This is key to their emotional well being as everyone struggles with the challenges of childhood cancer.

Imagine being a child returning to school with no hair and worrying about how classmates will react. The fourth volume will offer tools for meeting just such a challenge.

Benito, You Can Do It! is the result of thorough research and consultation with families at the nonprofit Latinas Contra Cancer in San Jose, CA. Alan interviewed Spanish-speaking families with children undergoing treatment at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital as well as their physicians, nurses, social workers, and child life specialists. He also spent countless hours getting to know the children during facilitated play activities.

Having previewed The News, I can tell you this is a delightfully illustrated, clearly written story offering encouragement and information to children who’ve received a cancer diagnosis.  Every child benefits from having his questions answered and feelings validated. Benito, You Can Do It! does both skillfully and with love.

blog-post-benito                                             Digital art courtesy of Alan Quiñonez

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“…because kids can’t fight cancer alone!”

Talking to kids about cancer is hard, whether we’re explaining a cancer diagnosis to a child or sharing information with the child’s siblings, cousins, and friends. Paul and the Dragon is a 25-minute video that combines humor with truth to provide essential information on a complex topic and encourage family and friends to communicate. ACCO will send a free copy, upon request, to any family who has a child with cancer.

As the ACCO website points out, “When a child is diagnosed with cancer, life is changed forever. The child is put into an unknown world filled with hospitalizations, people in white coats taking blood, giving “pokes,” and administering treatments that can include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Children often feel sick, frightened and alone. Family routine suddenly includes balancing life at the hospital with life at home. Parents must juggle work while caring for their sick child and other children in the family. They must also communicate what is happening to their child who has cancer. Often feeling like the world has turned upside down, they too feel frightened, confused and alone.”

Paul and the Dragon helps children understand the frightening world of childhood cancer in a safe way. Through watching Paul’s battle with his dragon, children with cancer come to understand that scary things will happen as they fight their “cancer-dragon.” And they learn that doctors, nurses and even blue “medication-men” and purple “chemo-blobs” that sometimes make them feel sick are really there to help them beat their cancer.


Started by parents of children with childhood cancers, ACCO continues to be an organization primarily lead and run by parents and survivors, people who’ve walked the walk, as the saying goes, and stand ready to support those doing so now.

Families only need to join ACCO to gain access to its wealth of information and support. Membership is free.

Others may purchase these informative publications and thoughtful products for children and adolescents with cancer online.


 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play