Career in Child Life

Introduction to Child Life

Start here if you are learning about the field of Child Life for the first time. Learn more about the history of the profession, educational requirements, where Child Life Specialists work and much more.

Exploring the profession

Volunteer opportunities

If you are interested in a career in Child Life and need practical exposure in the field, please visit Volunteer Services. Volunteering offers an opportunity for the student to work directly with patients and families in the hospital setting. Other venues for volunteering with children include church groups, camps, local schools and youth related events.

Job shadow opportunities

Child Life and Expressive Therapies offer students an opportunity to participate in a shadow experience. Shadow experiences are offered the first and third Wednesday of the month (January-November). Go to our information on observers and job shadows to download the required form.

Note that a program sponsor needs to be identified before the form is submitted. Please contact to request a sponsor.

Child Life internships

Internship opportunities are available for individuals senior level or graduate students who have completed child life coursework requirements and are ready to begin the internship process.

Deadlines and acceptance dates

Fall semester:

  • Application deadline: May 5
  • Initial offer date: 2nd Tuesday of June
  • Acceptance date: Following Wednesday

Winter/spring semester:

  • Application deadline: Sept. 5
  • Initial offer date: 2nd Tuesday of October
  • Acceptance date: Following Wednesday

For more information, send us an email.

Bachelor’s prepared candidate

A bachelor’s prepared candidate seeking an internship in child life must meet all of the following requirements prior to submission of the application:

  • Majoring in child life, child development or a related field of study
  • Minimum of an overall 3.0 GPA
  • Child Life Course Verification Form
    • Required for students enrolled in a non-child life course of study
    • Documented grade of B or higher
  • Completion of a Child Life Coursework Review
  • Verification of 150 documented hours of experience working with children in a non-hospital setting
  • Verification of 150 documented hours working with children with special health care needs (hospital or practicum setting under the supervision of a child life specialist preferred)
  • Completion of a Medical Terminology Course or a Human Anatomy Course
  • Valid CPR Certification
  • Documentation of a background check
  • Written essay including personal statement, goals and objectives for internship experience

Master’s prepared candidate

In addition to the above criteria, a master’s candidate must provide documentation of the following:

  • Completion of a Human Anatomy Course (documented grade of C or better)
  • Additional 150 hours of experience working with children in a non-hospital setting (300 total)
  • Verification of a minimum 50 hour practicum experience under the supervision of a CCLS (200 total). Please include a copy of the practicum evaluation in the application

Responsibilities of a Child Life intern

The student works under the supervision of a Certified Child Life Specialist to develop clinical skills in therapeutic play techniques, preparation, procedural support, assessment and education. The focus is on the whole family-with recognition that the child and family are placed at the center of care.  Additional learning opportunities assist the student in building knowledge and understanding of competencies outlined by the Child Life Council.

The child life student is responsible for:

  • Serving as an advocate and voice for patients and families with all members of the healthcare team
  • Recognizing the family as an individual unit, incorporating age, developmental level, previous medical experience, family support system and cultural considerations in assessment and intervention
  • Planning and implementing therapeutic play activities for patients on an individual basis and in a group setting
  • Having an understanding of the medical condition (including potential needs and limitations of the individual patient) when developing a comprehensive plan of care
  • Assisting the patient in understanding and accepting the hospital experience and maintaining a healthy attitude toward illness
  • Sharing observations of patient’s behavior and interactions with the child life supervisor and other members of the health care team
  • Attending and participating in educational in-services presented by child life staff/invited speakers
  • Incorporating information learned from Child Life Council resources (EBP statements, Code of Ethical Responsibilities, and the Child Life Mission, Vision and Values) to guide practice and provide interventions for patients based in research and the use of evidence


Print out, fill out and return the following forms to complete your application:

Required readings (

  • The Handbook of Child Life
  • Meeting Children’s Psychosocial Needs across the Healthcare Continuum

Recommended readings (

  • Psychosocial Care of Children in Hospitals
  • Child Life in Hospitals: Theory and Practice
  • Helping Children Cope with Stress
  • A Pediatric Bill of Rights
  • Coping in Young Children: Early Intervention Practices to Enhance Adaptive Behavior and Resilience
  • Official Documents of the Child Life Council
  • Making Ethical Decisions in Child Life Practice
  • A Child in Pain: What Health Care Professionals Can Do
  • Child Life Council Evidence Based Practice Statements

The following are recommended readings but are not available through the Child Life Council:

  • Helping a Child Through Their Parents Serious Illness(Kathleen McCue)
  • How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish)

Child Life Practicum

Kohl’s Child Life and Expressive Therapies offers a six-week, 100-hour practicum experience. The practicum is offered during the summer semester beginning the first Monday in June. This experience provides an introduction to the role of the child life specialist within the hospital setting. The goal of the practicum experience is to create the foundation needed for a successful transition into a formal child life internship. Student learning opportunities include:
  • Planning and facilitating therapeutic play opportunities for the pediatric patient and his/her family
  • Observing the child life specialist during formal preparation sessions and common medical procedures
  • Collaboration and communication with the multi-disciplinary health care team

Minimum requirements

  • College level junior (must have completed the second semester of junior year)
  • Enrolled in child life or child development-related course of study
  • Minimum of an overall 3.0 GPA
  • Unofficial transcript (include a transcript from each institution attended)
  • Resume
  • Documentation of a minimum of 50 hours working with children with special health care needs
  • Proof of current immunization record, CPR certification and background check
  • Two Kohl’s Child Life and Expressive Therapies reference forms (see below)

Program objectives

Through observation, evaluation and partnership with the child life team, the student will:

  • Use theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom setting and implement into daily practice
  • Engage in opportunities that allow for increased communication skills with patients, families and members of the health care team
  • Participate in experiences that will allow for continued ability to assess children (infant through adolescence) focusing specifically on the impact of pain and illness on the pediatric patient
  • Provide the student with the ability to self-evaluate experiences and develop continued goals for learning


  • Weekly journal
  • Developmental Assessment (one of each of the following: Infant, toddler, pre-school, school-aged patient, adolescent)
  • Observation and assessment of two of each of the following : medical play session, surgical preparation, procedural support
  • Plan and facilitate a special event
  • Self-evaluation and evaluation of experience
  • Participate in learning opportunities ( in-services, journal club) as appropriate


Deadlines and offer dates

  • Application deadline: Postmarked by February 15th
  • Offer date: 3rd week of March
  • Acceptance date: the following Tuesday

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Please note: As we strongly believe that students should gain a plethora of experience, those who complete a Child Life Practicum at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin will not be eligible to apply for the internship program.