What is a child life specialist and what do they do?

Who We Are: Child life specialists are experts in child development who work to ensure that life remains as normal as possible for children in a healthcare setting.

What We Do: Our Mission is to make the healthcare experience easier for pediatric and adolescent patients and their families through education, preparation, and play.

How We Can Help: Child life specialists work together with patients, families, and the healthcare team to provide the services that meet the unique needs of each child and family.

Procedural Preparation: Child life specialists help children and their families understand and explore what they will see, feel, hear, smell, and taste during a procedure. When children and their families learn about what is going to happen, they are more likely to cope with stressors associated with procedures.

Procedural Support: Child life specialists help patients develop a coping plan to increase a sense of control and predictability. Children can choose activities such as blowing bubbles, taking deep breaths, thinking about their favorite place, playing a game on a tablet, and other activities that will help them cope during a procedure. Child life specialists can coach parents on how to support their child through procedures.

Medical Play: Child life specialists use hospital buddy dolls and medical supplies to give patients and siblings opportunities to explore and process their healthcare experiences. This promotes understanding and decreases fear and anxiety.

Play: Child life specialists help children cope with the stresses accompanying health care through play. Play allows children to express feelings, make sense of their world, develop new concepts, increase social skills, and take responsibility for their actions through meaningful experiences. Play is fun; it allows opportunities for kids still be kids and helps them continue normal growth and development.

Memory Making: Child life specialists can help families create keepsakes or plan special activities. This can be done for a birthday, holiday, the end of treatment, or end of life.

Sibling Support: Child life specialists teach siblings about the healthcare needs of their brother or sister to decrease stress related to having a sibling in the hospital. Child life specialists play with siblings to address their social and emotional needs. Child life specialists can help siblings connect with their hospitalized brother or sister by providing activities for parents to take home.

Life-Changing Events: Child life specialists help patients and their families navigate difficult conversations that occur as a result of accident, illness, and death. Child life specialists also provide support to patients, siblings, and parents through times of grief and loss.

Therapeutic Conversations: Child life specialists help children find ways to express fears, concerns, and frustrations that arise as a result of hospitalization. Child life specialists validate feelings, address misconceptions, and advocate for the needs and wants of each child.

Child Life Specialist Qualifications

A Certified Child Life Specialist has completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in child life, child development, or a related field, and an internship in a hospital setting. In addition, each child life specialist is required to pass the certification exam administered by the Association of Child Life Professionals and must complete annual professional development hours in order to maintain certification.


The Forever Young Zone (FYZ) is the hospital’s playroom. Activities are coordinated by a child life specialist, and implemented with the help of volunteers, to create a fun play space where children and families can spend time while at the hospital. The playroom welcomes patients and siblings with their nurses’ permission. To contact the playroom, please call 801-662-3761.