Dad creates educational board game bed sheets for hospitalized children

By Sophie Lewis

/ CBS News

After visiting a friend's sick child in the hospital, Kevin Gatlin had an incredible idea — to create a way for hospitalized kids to learn and have fun while stuck in bed all day. Now, his company, Playtime Edventures, is entertaining kids all over the country, regardless of their circumstances.

The idea to make game-themed bed sheets came from a visit to the hospital, but was sparked by a family tradition. "Because of space, my wife would use our son's bed as a desk," Gatlin, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina, told CBS News. "They would do homework, play games or just watch movies. But, it wasn't until I visited a friend whose son had been hospitalized for a long period of time did I realize that there was very little stimulation for kids confined to their hospital beds and rooms."

Gatlin's mother is a retired teacher, and she suggested making the games on the bed sheets educational. Gatlin enlisted the help of three teachers, a child physiologist and a family doctor to create Playtime Therapy Bed Sheets, which "provide kids a place where they could play, learn, sleep and heal." According to Gatlin, it took more than two years to design the sheets, which have over 50 interactive games printed on them.

The educational bedsheets can help to brighten kids' hospital visits. Kevin Gatlin

Each part of the bedding supports different types of learning. The pillows feature images and sentences that encourage kids to create stories. The flat sheet features giant board games, positive affirmations and colorful shapes.

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The fitted sheet is covered in mazes, word finding puzzles, games like checkers and tic-tac-toe, four different languages, math, grammar and geography.

"I wanted the sheets to have so many things for kids to do that they would never get bored playing with them," Gatlin said. For game pieces, kids can use ordinary objects like coins or paper, or printable cut-outs from the Playtime Edventures website.

Donating has always been an important part of the company — Gatlin's first order of bedding was donated to the Charlotte Salvation Army for Women and Children. Now, people all over the country buy the bedding to donate to children's hospitals and hospices, shelters, juvenile centers, orphanages, group homes and summer camps. Bed sheets can even be purchased at a reduced cost and directly donated to hospitals and shelters.

Gatlin said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from both parents and hospital staff. "I'm truly happy my bedsheets have provided a valuable service to those who deserve it," he said. "The blessings in life come from giving not receiving."

Gatlin still has a few more ideas on how his bed sheets can reach even more people. "I would love the opportunity to speak with the Red Cross and Fema about providing our bed sheets during natural disasters," he said. "Seeing families confined to shelters with nothing to do — I believe our bed sheets could provide some distraction during those hard times."

Playtime Bed Sheets by Kevin Gatlin on YouTube

First published on May 1, 2019 / 7:50 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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