Essentially, a child life specialist’s job is to play all day! The play provided by a child life specialist always has a specific purpose.
Normalization play helps children feel more comfortable, less frightened, while at the hospital. This type of play shows kids that “just like you play at home, and at school, you can play in the hospital, too. It is a normal place.”
Developmental play helps young children work towards and maintain their developmental milestones, even while experiencing a hospitalization.
Diagnosis play helps children learn about their illness or injury through age-specific, hands-on play.
Procedural support play includes both preparatory play before a procedure, and in-the-moment support and coaching while the procedure is taking place.
Medical play is designed to help children become more familiar with medical equipment and staff, and can help children feel more confident, and less fearful, in the medical setting.
Therapeutic play helps children express and cope with the emotional experience of being at the hospital. Whether frightened, angry, sad, or withdrawn, therapeutic play can help.
Sibling support is also included in child life services, helping the brothers and sisters of pediatric patients to understand what is happening at the hospital, and helping siblings to feel included in family centered care.
The loss of a loved one is a difficult experience under any circumstance. Whether supporting a child patient and her family through legacy-making activities, or providing support to the children of an adult patient, a child life specialist can help children and their families navigate the emotionally complex reality of a death in the family.