Child Life Specialist Helping Little Boy

Child Life

Whole child development and coping skills for stress

Child Life Specialists focus on the optimal development of the whole child while promoting coping skills for hospitalization and potentially stressful experiences. They have unique education and practical experience that allows them to implement individual preparation, support, distraction, and comfort strategies designed to significantly reduce your child’s anxiety and greatly increase their comfort before, during and after injections, minor procedures, and routine appointments. Child Life interventions promote coping and adjustment in circumstances that might otherwise be overwhelming for the child.

Procedural preparation

Many of the experiences your child may encounter in a medical setting are new and unfamiliar, resulting in fear and anxiety due to the unknown. Child Life Specialists use a variety of techniques to reduce anxiety and help children positively cope with their hospitalization.

  • Procedural preparation: Child Life Specialists provide developmentally appropriate education to help children prepare for their hospital experience through procedural preparation books, medical play, and education on positive coping techniques.
  • Distraction: If your child’s mind is focused on something fun, they are less likely to focus on potentially painful experiences like minor procedures. Child Life Specialists use age-appropriate tools and techniques to provide procedural distraction to reduce anxiety and help create a positive medical experience. 
  • Medical play: Children’s lives revolve around play. They learn through play, express themselves through play and experience joy through play. Play exposes a child to new information in a comfortable, non-threatening way. Medical play is used as a teaching tool to rehearse medical procedures and diagnoses in order to identify misconceptions, promote mastery to help the child regain his or her sense of control, and allow expression of feelings. Through medical play, children have the opportunity to give voice to fears and misconceptions about their hospital experience that they may not be able to express verbally.

Supportive care for all ages


Having a family member in the hospital can be stressful on the whole family. Child Life Services focuses on family-centered care, providing support and services to the entire family. Siblings can experience stress and anxiety for a variety of reasons while their sibling is being hospitalized. They may fear for the well-being of their patient sibling, experience anxiety by having to adapt to a new routine such as needing to stay with other family members while their sibling is hospitalized, jealousy due to the patient sibling getting more attention from their parents and fear they may “catch” what their sibling has. Child Life Specialists can provide a variety of services to help alleviate the stress siblings may experience. The team can also provide procedural preparation and medical play for siblings to help eliminate misconceptions and promote familiarization with the care the sibling patient needs.

Child Life Services offers a sibling program for families in the RNICU every Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. This allows siblings to visit the hospital and see where their new baby brother or sister is and interact with other children who are going through similar experiences. While siblings are completing therapeutic activities, crafts and play, both parents are able to spend quality time with their baby in the RNICU together. To participate, register your child(ren) up at the RNICU desk weekly. 

Children of adult patients

For children of adult patients, Child Life Services can be consulted to help prepare the child to see their family member for the first time since their hospital admission or help explain a new diagnosis using age-appropriate language.

For teens

It can be stressful being hospitalized as a teen. You may feel like you lose your sense of independence, you don’t get as much privacy as you would prefer and you may feel disconnected from your friends since you are not able to go to school or participate in your usual activities.

At UM Health-Sparrow, we encourage teens to play an active role in their care and treatment. We invite you to speak for yourself and be involved in care decisions whenever possible. We work hard to respect and maintain your privacy. We encourage you to stay connected with your friends through texting, Skyping, and other communications.

At E.W. UM Health-Sparrow Hospital, there is a teen lounge on the pediatric unit where you can hang out, watch Netflix, play video or board games, or just relax. There is also an activity center with air hockey, foosball, and shuffle board. Both areas are great places to meet family or friends when they come to visit. 

Clinical Services

Child in Hospital Bed with Mom and a Surgeon

Surgery Orientation Program

Child Life Services offers weekly pre-surgical tours to help prepare children and teens for their upcoming out-patient procedure.Tours consist of visiting the Pediatric

Related Programs

Child Life Wishlist

Child Life Wishlist

The Child Life team would welcome donations of the following items.
Child Life Internship

Child Life Internship

We accept interns and practicum students three times a year. Students will gain experience in Pediatrics, Pediatric Intensive Care, Emergency, and Pre-Op.