The child life staff at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics help make every child’s health care experience a positive one. They work with children and adolescents to minimize the stress children can feel during hospital stays or visits to the clinics, emergency rooms, radiology, or surgery areas.
This work is crucial to a child’s emotional health because medical settings can be a new, unfamiliar world for children and teens, with the potential for them to develop fears and misconceptions. We build on children’s strengths, using many techniques to help them adjust to their medical experiences.
- Children's - Minneapolis
- Children's - St. Paul
- Children's Clinics - Woodwinds
- Children's – Minnetonka
Child life professionals
Our certified child life specialists have a bachelor’s or master’s degrees in fields such as child development, education, and child psychology. They specialize in working with children in health care settings, and address the child’s need to understand and cope emotionally with the medical experience.
Our child life activities associates have associate or bachelor’s degrees in development. They focus on a child’s needs for play to support normal growth and development. All child life staff members see patients in playrooms, waiting areas, and patient rooms.
Why playing is so important
Play is the cornerstone of expression in childhood and a normal part of everyday life. The child life department provides opportunities and appropriate toys and activities to encourage children to play. Often through play, a child can relax enough to express feelings or fears about medical experiences.
Child life staff members maintain specially equipped playrooms that are safe, stress-free places for patients to play. Playrooms are the center of activities, including visits from zoo animals, bingo, and other special events.
Playing with medical materials helps a child gain a sense of control. Child life specialists supervise medical play and help children become familiar with hospital equipment. As the child’s creative imagination unfolds, the medical equipment and experiences become less frightening.
Additional child life services
Child life staff members:
- Conduct pre-surgery tours and preparation for children scheduled for surgery.
- Teach relaxation and mental imagery techniques to help children control pain, handle anxiety, or cope with medical procedures.
- Provide support for a patient’s siblings.
Facilitate support groups for children facing a chronic or life-threatening illness or experiencing a family loss.
- Conduct classroom visits to help students understand a classmate’s illness and health care.
- Collaborate on a closed-circuit television system with live programming.
- Coordinate pet therapy visits.
- Facilitate joint programming with community organizations.
Special facilities for children
In addition to the playrooms, child life staff members maintain other special rooms to help hospitalized children feel at home. Children’s – Minneapolis and Children – St. Paul have libraries with books and audiotapes. Special facilities in the clinics, emergency rooms, short stay units, and day surgery centers give children a place to play. Teenagers’ recreational needs are met with movies, video games, computers, and a teen lounge on each of the two main campuses.
It is crucial to involve the entire family in order to ensure the best possible outcome. Our staff works closely with parents and guardians to provide support and understanding of what the child is going through. We also provide information and support to siblings to promote their ability to cope with the situation.
A note to parents
Call our staff if you have questions about your child’s behavior or adjustment before or after a hospital or medical experience.
Child Life internships and supervised exposure experiences
We offer student internships and opportunities for students to learn more about the child life department and hospitalized children. If you have questions about future internship opportunities, please call the child life department in Minneapolis or St. Paul at the number listed below.
Special assistance for physicians
Physicians admitting a child may call the child life department in advance for information on preparing the child for hospitalization. For information call:
- (651) 220-6465 for Children’s – St. Paul
- (612) 813-6259 for Children’s – Minneapolis
- (952) 930-8600 for Children’s - Minnetonka
- (651) 232-0986 for Children’s Clinics – Woodwinds