Child life and expressive therapies

A child faces many new experiences while in the hospital. Child life specialists provide a supportive environment, helping children and teens cope with their stay. Our goal is to normalize the hospital experience for patients and their families through play, socialization, preparation and support during procedures. Distraction tools such as iPads, bubbles or music are used by child life specialists to help children relax and take their mind off their discomfort.

Preparing children for procedures

Preparation and support during a procedure also are important. Child life specialists provide information about an upcoming surgery or procedure based on each child's developmental level. Pictures, books and realistic medical equipment are used to help explain to a child what he or she will experience before, during and after the procedure. Child life specialists may also provide support, distraction and relaxation techniques during the procedure itself.

Take advantage of a pre-admission tour.

Relaxation during procedures

Teaching patients how to manage their pain during procedures is an important role of child life specialists. Using distraction tools such as kaleidoscopes, bubbles or music child life specialists help children relax and take their mind off their discomfort.

Child Life specialists work closely with patients and their families on relaxation techniques to support children and help them manage their own pain.

Therapeutic play

Play is important. It’s a form of communication for children. Within the hospital setting, play provides a sense of the familiar. Child life specialists use play to help reduce stress, allow children to express their feelings and to help them adjust to the hospital experience. We offer programs for teens whose needs and communication skills are different than young children.

Our child life specialists work one-on-one with children and often use role-playing to identify fears and concerns. With this method, children act out experiences they have had in the hospital and Child Life specialists address any fears communicated during play.

Children's Hospital has several playrooms filled with games, books, toys and art supplies. All the playrooms are considered “safe” rooms where no medical procedures can be performed. Child Life specialists coordinate the activities of trained volunteers who supervise patient play activities in the play rooms and at the beside.

Special activities

Group activities are scheduled regularly. Child Life specialists plan events such as a family resource fair, State Fair and winter carnival as well as visits by special guests. Learn more about bringing your group to the hospital or how you can donate toys or create a project for Children's Hospital patients.