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Child Life

The Child Life Department at Hopkins Children’s works as a part of the health care team to provide children and families with effective coping skills before, during and after hospitalization. Our aim is to enhance the emotional and social well being of your child and family throughout your health care experiences. 

 Child life 2015-2016

Child Life Department Mission Statement

“We, as child life professionals, strive to reduce the negative impact of stressful or traumatic life events and situations that affect the development, health and well-being of infants, children, youth and families. We embrace the value of play as a healing modality as we work to enhance the optimal growth and development of infants, children and youth through assessment, intervention, prevention, advocacy, and education” Child Life Council (2011)

How a Child Life Specialist Can Help Your Child and Family

Child life specialists typically work as members of an interdisciplinary team, which may include physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, teachers, parents and others. Collaboration with the team allows child life specialists to advocate for family centered care by focusing on the psychosocial needs of the family through:

  • Reducing children’s fears and anxieties associated with the health care experience using therapeutic and supportive play activities
  • Creating emotionally supportive playroom or bedside environments.
  • Providing preparation, familiarization and support for children undergoing tests, surgeries, and/or other medical procedures.
  • Supporting siblings or other children who may also be affected by a child’s hospitalization or health care experience.
  • Directing pre-admission hospital tours, providing resources and consultations with outpatient families.

Learn more about the services the child life department provides.

Where to find a Child Life Specialist

At Hopkins Children’s Center, Child Life specialists work with children of all ages, from newborns to adolescents, and throughout the hospital – from outpatient clinics and the emergency department to inpatient units and pre-op and radiology areas. Meet the child life staff that can help you.

Additional responsibilities
  • Supervise and train child life students and volunteers.
  • Coordinate donations and seek sources for program funding.
  • Educate the public-at-large on the needs of children and families.
  • Child Life-sponsored activities include special events such as Hospital Bingo, art and cooking shows, visits from entertainers, regular visits from the Big Apple Circus clowns, and animal assisted activities/therapy dogs.
The Importance of Play

A normal activity of childhood, play helps children develop a sense of mastery in a challenging setting and can enable him or her to exert some control in a difficult environment. Child Life specialists are skilled in leading play that helps children cope and heal. Play can provide a relief from the unpleasant aspects of the health care experience.


The Helen Schnetzer Child Life Department was first established at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1944 and was designed to help bridge the gap between home and hospital environments. It grew out of a volunteer program under the guidance of Onica Prall of the Hood College Child Development Department and housed in the Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children, Hopkins Children's predecessor. Learn more about Hopkins Children's Child Life history.

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