Child Life on Pediatric Inpatient Units

Child life specialists on the inpatient units help address a child's specific coping issues, such as preparing for surgery, adjusting to getting a new diagnosis, or living with a chronic illness. 


Child life specialists provide activities for distraction and to help make the hospital feel a little more like home or school.  These activities can include building a birdhouse for distraction or having a tea party to encourage a child to drink after surgery.  Child life specialists also maintain the activity rooms, making sure they are safe and developmentally appropriate toys are available for all children.  Child life specialists sometimes host group activities or parties in the activity rooms to promote socialization among children and their families.  For many children, it is much easier to cope with hospitalization, a new diagnosis, or a chronic illness when you realize other children know exactly how you feel.

Preparation and Accompaniment

Child life specialists prepare and accompany children for procedures in the treatment room or throughout the hospital.  Preparing a child for a procedure usually means letting them act out the steps of the procedure on a medical play doll so they know exactly what he or she will experience.  As part of this process of accompaniment, child life specialists model coping techniques including positioning for comfort, distraction, or guided imagery to help support a child's coping during a procedure.

Normal Growth and Development

On the inpatient units, child life specialists provide education and resources to parents and other family members who may have concerns about their child's development or how hospitalization may impact their child's development.  Child life specialists work with parents and model games and activities they can do with their child.  For children experiencing a lengthy hospitalization, child life specialists will engage the child in activities that strengthen developmental skills and teach new ones.


Besides providing services to the child who is in the hospital, child life specialists also work with brothers and sisters.  Child life specialists educate siblings on different diagnoses and treatments used to help their brother or sister get better.  Child life specialists also help siblings figure out their role in helping their brother or sister get better, such as decorating the hospitalized child's room, making feel better cards, or helping out at home.  In addition, child life specialists are a resource to parents about the needs of siblings and interventions to support their coping.