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Child Life at SickKids


Child Life Programs focus on the social and emotional impact of illness and hospitalization. Child Life Specialists strive to promote a positive hospital experience for children using play as a tool for socialization, preparation, expression of feelings, normalization and learning. 

Girl scoops glue with a paint brush while a staff member helps

Who we are

Certified Child Life Specialists are educated and clinically trained to support the developmental needs of hospitalized children. We provide service to all inpatient units and out-patient clinics by referral. 

We are certified with the Association of Child Life Professionals. 

What we do 

Certified Child Life Specialists help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of hospitalization. We use evidence-based, developmentally appropriate interventions which include therapeutic play, preparation for procedures and education to reduce fear, anxiety and pain. 

We provide therapeutic play programs which are designed to reduce stress and help patients cope with hospitalization. This includes: 

  • Helping prepare children for medical and surgical procedures.  
  • Providing emotional support to patients during times of stress.  
  • Working with other health-care teams to help children.  
  • Using symbolic activities to elicit patient concerns about the hospital experience.  
  • Helping to clarify any concerns about the intended treatment plan. 
  • Providing family support and education. 
  • Providing diversional opportunities for normative play. 

Learn more on AboutKidsHealth

Learn how a child life specialist can help make your child's hospital experience as positive as possible on AboutKidsHealth.

Student opportunities

SickKids provides Child Life internships for students attending the Masters in Child Life and Pediatric Pscyhosocial Care Program at McMaster University.

International education

We also provide learning opportunities for international learners and have been subject matter experts around the world. Contact the International Education program for more information.

Contact us

For further information about the Child Life Department or the programs offered please contact Kim O’Leary, Professional Practice Lead.

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