Little girl looking at the mural art The walls may not talk, but they can tell stories. Picture This!, a novel project from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, uses vibrant, interactive murals to encourage learning and ignite imaginative discussions between children and parents in primary care exam rooms.

“The murals spark conversations between children and parents, build imagination, and serve as an assessment tool for pediatricians,” says Danielle C. Erkoboni, MD, a pediatrician in CHOP’s Care Network, who spearheaded the project with two colleagues: Melanie Hoynoski, CCLS, CTLS, a child life specialist, and Steve Wilmot, Associate Vice President, Primary Care. “The murals also create more opportunities for our clinicians to model the type of interactions that help children thrive.”

The concept of Picture This! began in 2016, when a team from CHOP — funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation — worked closely with artists to create fantastical large-scale murals to be displayed on walls in public areas and patient waiting rooms in pediatric offices. The project’s scope changed in 2020, when COVID-19 struck. Pictures were reduced to poster size and laminated so they could be displayed in each exam room and easily cleaned. They were also redesigned to feature Philadelphia-specific themes, activities and places.

The posters are currently hanging in 38 exam rooms in the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pediatric Care Center in West Philadelphia, with plans to expand them to all pediatric practices throughout the CHOP Care Network in the next 12 to 18 months.

Reactions to the posters have been positive from patients, parents and clinicians. The posters incite natural conversations and provoke children’s innate curiosity. Kids like talking about what they see. Parents can use the posters to guide conversations, encourage children to identify the silly or unusual, and test children’s knowledge of colors, numbers and objects.

“I see a doggie!” exclaims 2-year-old Zoie with glee as she points to it on the poster. “And he’s running away with hot dogs!” Zoie’s mom, Codie, says the murals are a wonderful addition to primary care. “They are so diverse and fun! It’s great seeing how many things she can find and identify.”

Art as a learning tool

Pediatricians, nurses and child life staff also praise the posters as a way to:

  • assess children’s developmental milestones like learning colors and shapes,
  • encourage creative thinking about what they see and what might be happening, and
  • assess any mental health or learning issues that may need additional support.

“The murals are like big, beautiful storybook pages on the wall,” Erkoboni says. “The pictures also include a QR code that parents can use to access additional interactive content while in a patient room or back home.”

The mural project also partners well with the existing Reach Out and Read program, which provides a new book to each patient from birth to age 5 at their well visit each year.

Erkoboni adds: “Picture This! and Reach Out and Read help reinforce that learning through play is always visible throughout our space.”

— Lyn A.E. McCafferty

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