Child Life strives to promote optimal development of children and adolescents, to assist families in maintaining a normal living pattern, and to minimize for children and their families the psychological trauma that often comes with hospitalization. As part of your child’s interdisciplinary treatment team, Child Life provides opportunities for a child to gain a sense of mastery through play, to continue on the path of learning and to boost their spirit and self esteem through self expression.
The Child Life staff consists of one Child Life Specialist and approximately 25 volunteers who work throughout the week. The Child Life Specialist provides support for children within pediatrics: pediatric critical care, neonatal, burn unit, outpatient clinics, radiology and the emergency room.
Our Child Life Specialist provides support by helping children understand and express their feelings about the sometimes overwhelming or even frightening experience of being hospitalized. Therapeutic play, art projects and pet therapy help children to identify and address specific fears or misconceptions about their health care experience. The Child Life Specialist also provides assistance as the family prepares for scheduled procedures (we also offer pre-op tours; see below). The child life specialist is an advocate for each family as well as a facilitator for staffings with social work. The Child Life Specialist provides the child and family with support to promote normal growth and development, both during the hospitalization and as you prepare to return home.
Your donation of a toy can help children during their hospital stay. Learn more about what toys we need.
Child Life Volunteers
A specially trained Child Life Volunteer can be a child’s new-found friend. Under the supervision of the Child Life Specialist, the volunteer provides playroom supervision or play one-on-one with a child who is restricted to bed rest.
The volunteer also gives parents the peace of mind that their child will be a bit less lonely or frightened when they must leave the bedside to “take a break,” to care for their other children or to fulfill outside responsibilities. These volunteers visit, read, watch movies or play with the child. They are happy to assist the family, whenever they are available.
We recognize that illness and hospitalization are stressful events in the lives of children and families. By using age-appropriate education and activities, we try to minimize stress and help children and their families cope positively with their healthcare experiences.
Our Child Life Program includes:
- Providing age appropriate play, creative art therapy and other activities that encourage coping and expression of feelings.
- Helping children become familiar with the hospital and prepares them for medical experiences
- Teaching children about new experiences (such as admission to the intensive care unit or having surgery)
- Provide familiar activities (birthdays, holiday celebrations)
- Teaching new recreation activities and provides support for returning to home and school after a hospital stay
Through the Child Life Program, children and their families also receive hands-on tours prior to hospitalization so that they can familiarize themselves with their surroundings. To learn more about the program and its services, call (708) 216-3161.
What to bring to the hospital
We encourage parents to pack age appropriate toys and games for their children to play with during their hospital stay.
- For infants, bring a favorite blanket, rattle or pacifier
- For Toddlers, pack a favorite book, blanket, stuffed animal
- For Preschoolers, bring puzzles, books, stuffed animal, and toys
- For school-aged children and teens, a hand-held video game system, toys and movies. It is also good to bring homework.
Child Life Play Room and Resource Room
Michael Carta Teen Room
This area provides an oasis of fun and electronic media for teens. The teen-friendly space features two flat-screen TVs, a Wii, an Xbox and Playstation video game systems.
The Music Therapy Program serves children with particularly acute needs who lack a full range of social and emotional stimulation due to extended hospitalizations. The children are encouraged to play a violin or harp and learn about what the instruments are made of and how they function.
Radio Echo (Every Child Has Opportunities)
Radio Echo is a nationally recognized working radio station at Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital. Patients, their families and staff participate in all aspects of the station's programming. Radio Echo volunteers bring live and recorded games and entertainment to your bedside through TV Channels 54 and 55.