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Child life department

Child life professionals at Children’s Minnesota work closely with children to help understand their medical care and minimize stress through medical play, relaxation, mental imagery, and special events and activities. Child life professionals are trained in child development and are part of the multidisciplinary care team. They partner with the whole family, including siblings, to foster a positive and supportive care experience.

Here are some people you may meet from the child life department while at Children’s Minnesota:

Certified child life specialists (CCLS)
Certified by the Association of Child Life Professionals, child life specialists have professional training in child development, human development, art therapy, psychology, family development or child life at the bachelor or master’s level. Child life specialists provide therapeutic developmental and educational activities to help children better understand and cope with their medical care experiences.

Child life associates
The child life associate’s primary responsibilities are to provide patients with play and age appropriate activities that promote growth and development. They have a two or four year degree and a background in child development or psychology.

Music therapists (MT)
Music therapists use the clinical applications of music to facilitate movement and physical rehabilitation, engage patients and families in their treatment, and provide an outlet for creative and emotional expression. Certified through the Certification Board for Music Therapists, music therapists have a bachelor or master’s degree.

Healing arts coordinator
At Children’s Minnesota, we believe that the creative arts can assist in the healing process and enhance the overall health care experience for patients and families. The healing arts coordinator connects patients and families to the healing arts program and may engage in activities that provide positive distractions and encouragement through art. The coordinator has an extensive background in arts programming for children and a bachelor’s degree.


Play is integral in helping children and teens understand and cope with their medical care. We support play by creating and maintaining play areas throughout the hospital for children as well as designated spaces for teens. We also provide play materials at the bedside along with other creative outlets for expression such as art and music activities and special visitors.

Medical play can enhance a child’s understanding of his medical care and encourage expression of thoughts and emotions. Both group and independent play is encouraged.


Everyone handles new and unfamiliar situations better with some information about what’s going to happen. Children and adolescents are no different. Child life specialists prepare patients and their families, including siblings, for health care experiences. Some examples include:

  • Providing developmentally-appropriate information about what to expect.
  • Encouraging questions and the expression of emotions.
  • Developing trusting relationships with health care professionals.
  • Utilizing age appropriate, interactive education materials.


Families are the most important source of support for children and adolescents. Child life staff partner closely with families throughout their health care experience to help identify techniques to manage pain and anxiety that are unique to their child or adolescent’s strengths and interests. Age-appropriate distractions such as bubbles, light-and-sound-toys, tablets and mental imagery are used to re-focus attention during a stressful experience. Comfort positioning techniques are also used as part of Comfort Promise.

Support also includes understanding the emotions children and adolescents have when they are sick, or in circumstances of grief or death. Child life staff  promote healthy methods of emotional expression, encouraging patients to channel their feelings through play, dialogue, arts, crafts, music and other forms of expression.

Additional child life services:

Play spaces for siblings are designed for brothers and sisters of hospitalized patients to provide a safe, fun space with supervised child care.

The Child Life Zone is a dynamic state-of-the-art therapeutic space filled with activities and special events for our patients and families on the St. Paul campus.

Youth Advisory Council is a dedicated group of patients who offer creative ideas and perspectives to help improve the Children’s Minnesota patient experience.

Healing Arts Program integrates the arts with architecture, landscape and programming to create inspirational and transformative healing journeys for the communities we serve.

Animal assisted activities (pet therapy) through our PAWH program normalizes the hospital environment, supports a human-animal bond, encourages conversation and interaction, and brightens the days of patients, families and staff.

Child life internships Children’s Minnesota offers a full-time, 16-week (600 hour) child life specialist internship opportunity to undergraduate students in their senior year and to those in Master’s programs.  The internship, eligibility requirements and application process follow the recommendations of the Association of Child Life Professionals.

Storyland garden sponsored by the the Children’s Hospital  Association, is a 6,000 square foot rooftop garden.  It provides an opportunity for patients, families, visitors and staff to relax, enjoy fresh air or be more physically active.

Horticulture therapy is offered through volunteers from the Ramsey County Master Gardener program and provides therapeutic planting activities for patients and families. This is only available in St. Paul. For more information contact 651-220-6141.

Children’s Minnesota partners with Dakota County Technical College for students in their Associate in Applied Science – Child Life Assistant program to complete their required 70 hour field experience.  To learn more about the Child Life Assistant program, contact DCTC at 651-423-8398.

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Contact us

Child life services are available at several campuses. Child life services may also be offered at WestHealth and Two Twelve Medical Center as a partnership with their emergency services.