Child Life program: Supporting children and families in the hospital

Hearing that your child needs to be in the hospital, whether for a short visit or a longer stay, can be overwhelming. Child life specialists can help to reduce stress and anxiety and make the healthcare experience a positive one for the whole family.

Meet our Child Life team

Our Child Life team has been providing psychosocial support to children and their families at Edward Hospital for over 10 years. Our clinically trained and certified child life specialists are experts in child development.

We understand how different ages and developmental levels respond to the unknown and stressful aspects of medical challenges and hospitalization. Our team’s goal is to help children and parents cope successfully as they navigate the hospital environment.

How our Child Life program can help

By collaborating with the patient’s entire healthcare team, our child life specialists enhance care and empower families. We identify challenges that may interfere with healing and create strategies to overcome them using an individualized, child/teen-friendly approach. We also provide extended support to the patient’s parents/caregivers and siblings.

For example, child life specialists assist by:

  • Helping patients who are newly diagnosed with a disease, such as diabetes or cancer, understand their condition and make it less overwhelming
  • Comforting young patients during an unexpected visit to the Pediatric Emergency Department
  • Providing sensory stimulation, normally received at home, to babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Child Life services

The Child Life program at Edward Hospital offers evidence-based, developmentally appropriate services, including:

  • Medical education and distraction/therapeutic play. Our team provides education to young patients and their families about the patient’s diagnosis and treatment/procedure, and we use age-appropriate books, medical materials/equipment, therapeutic play, distraction and other techniques.

  • Procedure preparation and support. Child life specialists meet with patients and families prior to a surgery or a procedure to offer support and develop a coping plan. Our team uses materials to engage and distract, based on the patient’s age, such as light spinners, find-it books, quiz games and more. Additionally, they provide assistance and reassurance during IV insertion, nasogastric tube insertion, chest tube removal, CT and MRI scans without sedation, lab draws and PICC line insertions. View our flyer for age-based suggestions about how to prepare your child for an upcoming test/procedure, including what to bring to the hospital.

  • Normalizing the environment. Children cope best with stressful situations through play, so our team adapts the hospital environment to promote coping. We provide toys, games, books, and arts and crafts for patients to use in their rooms. Our team offers alternative play areas to counter time spent in the bed (e.g., chair/table, blanket on the floor, highchairs, swings, playroom). For longer hospital stays, we help create schedules to structure a patient’s day.

  • Family support. Our team meets with parents/caregivers and siblings to provide additional coping strategies, disease education and support groups when needed. Through the years, our team has participated in a variety of events that bring our families together, such as the CureSearch Walk (for childhood cancer) and Take Steps (Crohn's & Colitis Foundation).

  • Additional program support: We make referrals to outside organizations, such as Make-a-Wish, Bear Necessities, Cal’s Angels, Team Nicholas, Songs of Love, and Icing Smiles. Our NICU babies and patients receiving treatment for cancer participate in the Beads of Courage program.

How to access the Child Life program

If your child is scheduled for a test or procedure and you'd like further support, please contact our Child Life program at 630-527-3133 or consult with your child’s pediatric nurse navigator (630-527-KIDS). Parents can also ask their child’s doctor for a referral to a child life specialist.

Interested in supporting our Child Life program?

The Child Life program relies on support from families and organizations in our community. If you’d like to give to our Child Life program, donations of stuffed animals and toys (all new with tags still in place), new children’s books and young adult novels/series sets for our teen book cart are greatly appreciated.

For questions or to schedule a drop-off, please contact our Child Life program at 630-527-3133 or email us.

For monetary contributions, please contact Edward Foundation directly at 630-527-3954, donate online or learn more here.

Volunteer your time

Volunteers are an important part of our Child Life program. As a volunteer, you will help heal the "spirit" of the patients in our care. Here are some of the ways in which you can assist as a volunteer:

  • Holding and rocking babies
  • Playing games/reading books
  • Distributing activities (books, toys, arts and crafts)
  • Supervising activities in the playroom
  • Offering parents much needed breaks
  • Providing attention to visiting siblings
  • Assisting with special events
  • Cleaning toys
  • Keeping play areas neat and organized

To learn more about how to volunteer, please contact our Child Life program at 630-527-3133 or email us.