Child Life Services

Founded in 1951, Child Life Services at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was one of the first programs in the country to recognize the therapeutic value of play for hospitalized children. It is now one of the largest programs of its kind in the nation, with more than 60 staff dedicated as Certified Child Life Specialists or Child Activity Coordinators. In recognition of the importance of human growth and development, as well as the impact illness, injury and/or disability has on children, child life staff are dedicated to helping children and families cope through:

  • Providing age-appropriate play and other activities that encourage mastery, coping and expression of feelings for both patients and siblings of patients. Types of play in the healthcare setting include:
    • Diversional/recreational play: commonly used for personal enjoyment, to combat boredom, and to facilitate normalization
    • Developmentally supportive play: supports any and all aspects of the child’s development
    • Therapeutic play: facilitates expression, coping and mastery of the healthcare experience and helps to facilitate achievement of healthcare goals
  • Increasing familiarity with hospital surroundings and preparing children and families for medical experiences
  • Developing supportive relationships with patients and family members
  • Offering orientation to new experiences, such as admission to the intensive care unit or having a surgical procedure
  • Bridging the gap between home and hospital by providing familiar activities such as play, birthday and holiday observations
  • Working closely with the family and with the healthcare team to minimize the stress of a hospital or outpatient visit and to achieve healthcare goals
  • Providing leisure education and support for community re-entry

Our programs

Play and family are important parts of a child's life. When a child becomes ill or injured, these normal activities and relationships are disrupted, often resulting in increased fear and stress. Child Life staff provides many opportunities to engage children in normal day-to-day activities, support their development and enhance their ability to cope with the hospital experience.

About our staff

Child Life specialists are bachelors or masters trained professionals with a certification in Child Life. All child life staff specializes in working with hospitalized children and understand the unique stressors that can accompany a hospital stay.


Find information about toy donations to the patients at CHOP or call our Toy Donation line at 267-426-8174.