This intervention also had three phases occurring at the same time as the behavioural intervention [12]. Phase I provided verbal and written information about the paediatric admission unit services and policies. Phase II consisted of: (a) verbal and written information about the general paediatric unit and its policies; and, (b) a parent–child activity having ‘control’ activities, such as reading a story not related to hospital stay. Phase III of the control programme consisted of a telephone call 2–3 days after discharge during which mothers were informed that they should contact their primary healthcare providers if their children were having any problems or unusual symptoms. They were also asked to comment on their children’s hospital stays during this telephone call (see Additional file 1; control script).

The games and stories of the interventions were different for the age groups. The hospital in which the study was conducted has an open general ward for children, which made it impossible to separate participants from the different arms while on the ward to prevent them from observing different games and activities of the other intervention.

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