An interactive teddy companion is going to help reduce anxiety and stress in children

​It can be a stressful experience for a child to have a blood test or get a Band-Aid removed for hospital procedures. Getting a teddy companion that the child has the task of helping through the same procedure as they are going through can help reduce the child's anxiety and make the experience less stressful, shows a new project from BørneRiget.
Recent studies show that the pain children experience even during small procedures is often underestimated by healthcare professionals. In particular, procedures involving needles and removal of Band-Aids, stress the children and make them insecure.

At Rigshospitalet, efforts have for a long time been made to prevent retention of the children under such procedures, and as part of this, the project group behind BørneRiget has in cooperation with paediatrics units at Rigshospitalet and H.C. Andersen Children's Hospital in Odense designed and tested a new method to help the children get through the difficult procedures using play.

A digital platform, a teddy bear translator and a teddy bear that the child has to take care of while undergoing the same treatment that the child will go through shortly after can be a useful method for reducing children's anxiety and stress during treatment, shows a new project.

My teddy companion

The solution consists of the teddy bear, Theo or Thea, and a 'teddy bear translator', i.e. a digital bracelet that measures the child's stress level by means of sensors. The teddy bear and sensor are connected via a custom-designed iPad app with a virtual teddy bear that the child can interact with.

The virtual teddy bear reflects the child's stress level in real time, measured through the bracelet. If the child is afraid, the teddy bear looks scared and vice versa. The child is supposed to calm the teddy bear down using the physical teddy bear and games on the iPad designed to reduce stress and develop the child's coping with the situation.

Teddy Bear Translator​iPad​

Before a procedure like a blood test, the child will receive the physical teddy bear, the bracelet and an iPad showing a sleeping teddy bear. The child must then "wake up" the teddy bear in the app by putting on the bracelet and turning it on.

The child’s first task is to choose with the teddy bear which remedies to use during the procedure, for instance tourniquet, Band-Aid, “magic cream” etc. Inside the procedure room, the clinician and the child will review the remedies the child has chosen in the app and actually find the remedies.

Next, the clinician and the child perform the procedure on the teddy bear, e.g. a blood test. This way, the child is aware of what is going to happen and at the same time is responsible for helping the teddy bear get through the procedure.

During the entire course the child keeps the bracelet on. The stress measurements from the bracelet are transmitted in real time to the app, where they are visualized through the virtual teddy bear that reflects how the child is feeling.

The child now has the task with the clinician of getting the teddy bear to calm down if it is scared - by stroking, comforting and talking to the teddy bear. The preliminary tests have shown that this has a calming effect on the child and helps the procedure to progress easier and faster.

Plans for further development

The first prototype is now developed and tested with good results. In the new year, BørneRiget and the collaborators will seek financial support for further development of the solution, which will contain more stress-reducing activities and allow the solution to be offered to more patients, including in Rigshospitalet and H.C. Andersen Children's Hospital at Odense University Hospital.

In the longer term, the physiological data collected through the bracelet will provide the basis for research in the area of children and stress reduction.

The bracelet could potentially also be used to measure the effects of other tools and interventions designed to reduce stress, thereby contributing to the creation of a more evidence-based practice around the educational tools used in the hospital.

The project is part of BørneRiget’s principle of integrating play throughout the entire course of treatment. BørneRiget has developed and tested the solution in collaboration with the Department of Anaesthesiology and the Department of Paediatric Surgery at the Juliane Marie Centre and H.C. Andersen Children's Hospital at Odense University Hospital. The project is funded by BørneRiget and Rigshospitalet's ChildrenAdolescentsProgram.

For further information

Innovation Consultant from BørneRiget, Elisabeth Ginsberg, is supervisor of the project and can be contacted for further information: