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Child Life

Child Life specialists

Coming to our medical center, whether for a stay, a day surgery or ongoing treatment at one of our specialty clinics can feel overwhelming and even scary to our young patients. Children and teens of all ages can feel stressed or worried during their visit. The unfamiliar environment, loss of control, fear of pain and lack of routine are among the most common anxieties young patients feel during a health care encounter. The Child Life specialists at Cook Children's are here to help.

Making Magic

Child Life specialists work with kids and families to make their visit to the medical center easier and more comfortable. We offer your child and your family an opportunity to express and work through any fears and concerns you may have. We'll also provide an explanation about what's going to happen during your visit and work with parents, brothers and sisters and other family members who may be involved in your child's daily care.

As a part of our commitment to family-centered care, Child Life specialists work with your child's health care team to advocate for and ensure your child's and your family's needs are addressed in the most nurturing atmosphere possible.

The Child Life program at Cook Children's offers a variety of services, all designed to make your experience at Cook Children's the best it can be. Our services include educating, preparing and supporting your child through tests and procedures, as well as coping with any life challenges you and your child may face.

Child Life services

Our Child Life specialists and activity coordinators also provide meaningful play and recreational opportunities for patients and siblings visiting the hospital to promote growth, development and some much needed fun. Best of all, the services are available for free. Child Life services include, but aren't limited to:

  • Activities and toys for families to engage in while they are in their hospital room
  • Developmentally appropriate teaching about diagnosis, treatments and life changes
  • Opportunities to desensitize and explore real medical equipment through play (medical play)
  • Preparation for medical exams, procedures and surgeries
  • Assistance with coping strategies, distraction and/or support during stressful events
  • Support to siblings and other family members visiting a patient
  • Celebration of birthdays, milestones, holidays and essential life experiences
  • A visit to a child's school after life-altering injury or chronic illness to help classmates understand and make it easier for the patient when returning to classes
  • Developmental assessments and referrals to community resources
  • End-of-life support to patient and family as well as bereavement support for family members
  • Child Life Zone is a treatment-free fun zone where kids, teens and family members can go for games, art, music, reading and relaxing
  • CARPE (Creative Artist in Residence Programme) connects patients to the art of healing through creative expression
  • Provide information about hospital amenities

The importance of play

Play is serious business at Cook Children's for patients of all ages, as well as brothers and sisters—and parents too. Child Life staff provide play opportunities to:

  • Improve mood and relieve stress
  • Encourage understanding and self-expression
  • Promote normal development
  • Increase social interactions
  • Gain control over the environment
  • Have fun

Play can bring comfort and joy to a child facing the difficult challenges of a hospital stay, illness or injury. Through play, children express fear and anxiety, share their misconceptions, learn and practice skills and roles and explore solutions to problems.

Play opportunities are available in the playrooms found on each inpatient unit, or can be brought to the bedside of children and young people who aren't able to leave their rooms.

Many of our specialty clinics also have Child Life specialists available, and all Cook Children's patients visiting the medical center are welcome in the Child Life Zone as long they have their doctor's approval.


Volunteers play a crucial role in supporting the Child Life program within the medical center's inpatient and specialty clinic areas. Child Life volunteers engage in appropriate developmental play and activities with patients at the bedside, inpatient playrooms and specialty clinic waiting areas. Child Life volunteers also assist with the important role of toy cleaning in order to eliminate the chance of infection. Child Life volunteers partner with our Child Life staff to help make a stay at Cook Children's more comfortable for our patients and their siblings and families.

Are you interested in becoming a Child Life volunteer? Learn more about volunteering and submit an application.

Our Child Life team

Cook Children's boasts one of the largest child life departments in the country, with over fifty staff members, including certified Child Life specialists, activity coordinators, board certified music therapists, artists, educators, clowns and more. Child Life is a highly valued program at Cook Children's and our Child Life specialists serve on many hospital-wide committees, task forces and councils, ensuring that there's always a focus on our patients and what's best for them.

Child Life specialists are educated in child and human development; they have at least a bachelor's degree, and in many cases, a master's. They complete a semester of practicum, a 480-hour highly selective clinical internship, and must demonstrate theoretical and practical knowledge to pass a certification exam. Once certified, they're required to maintain certification by participating in professional development and continuing education. The knowledge gained on the way to becoming a certified Child Life specialist is used to build therapeutic relationships that help patients and their families balance daily life and the health care experience.

Contact us

Our Child Life specialists are available for you. To contact a Child Life specialist, call 682-885-4048.

Are you a child life student or interested in learning more about how to become a Certified Child Life Specialist? Please visit the student opportunities page for more information about our programs for child life students.