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Mighty Blog

Play with a purpose is key for child life specialists

By Cassie Wilke MA, CCLS, Kirsten Granberg BA, CCLS and Rachel Calvert, MS, CCLS

Play is the universal language for children. It is how they communicate, master skills, explore their environment, and is a large piece of their development.

Child life specialist and patient use a doll to learn about procedure.Child life specialists understand the importance of play, which is the core of the child life profession. We facilitate medical play, which involves using medical materials or has health-related themes where children are able to “play” out their feelings or anxieties regarding medical experiences.

Pediatric patients have much to learn about what a new diagnosis or piece of equipment means for them. The language used and amount of information shared is tailored to each individual child’s developmental age (not always matching chronological age), learning style and other factors.

These feelings are an appropriate response to a child’s medical experience and are supported by child life specialists. We use it to help promote mastery and control over the healthcare environment, prepare or process a medical experience, assess misconceptions, and increase coping.

Children are able to cope better with required procedures with preparation. This needs to be provided in ways they can understand. Child life colleagues work in individual service areas throughout the Children’s system.

As child life specialists, we love to play with a purpose!Child life specialist and patient play with Batman doll to learn about procedure.

Laura Stokes