Celebrating Child Life Services Month

Child Life Services

What do dogs, video games and syringe painting have in common?

Ask a patient at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, and they’ll tell you these are some of the things they experience with child life specialists during their hospital stay. These essential members of the health care team are on the front line with kids of all ages to help them cope with the stress and uncertainty of illness, injury and treatment – and we’re celebrating them all in March as we kick off National Child Services Month.

Here’s a few ways Child Life Services makes a big difference for the smallest of patients at Stanford Children’s Health:

  1. Play – Even the sickest kids need playtime. Our Central Recreation Room and Forever Young Zone are “medical free zones” that allow patients and their families to participate in free play or structured activities. The Tech Zone has computers, Nintendo, Xbox and Wii and even includes a blaster-type video game developed by one of the specialists in which patients can “blast” chemo into cancer cells. According to child life specialist Alyssa Pettingill, “using play as a way to educate also allows us to learn what these kids are feeling inside that they may not feel comfortable verbalizing to us.”

    If kids can’t leave their rooms, we provide bedside activities, including the Art Cart and Books Alive, our books-on-computer program.

  2. Pet-assisted therapy – Three times a month, our Furry Friends volunteers bring dogs and cats to the hospital to visit with patients and their families. For many children, the connection with an animal becomes an important part of their coping and healing, especially if they have a pet at home.

  3. Art – Our specialists encourage kids to express themselves through design. Sometimes they even include medical equipment in their creations, such as applying bandages or paint-filled syringes to paper. Alyssa explains, “it’s helpful to familiarize the kids with the equipment they see every day and give them a chance to manipulate it, which provides a sense of control.”

  4. School – For kids requiring longer stays, we strive to help them keep up a sense of daily routine. Our child life specialists have developed a play and learning program centered around the skills and developmental needs of infants and young children up to 6 years old, and patients from elementary to high school age can continue their education right at the hospital with fully credentialed Palo Alto Unified School District teachers.

Caring for kids is at the heart of what we do at Stanford Children’s Health, and our Child Life Specialists do important work — both psychological and physical — for our youngest patients. We’re proud to celebrate Child Life Services Month!

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