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What is a Child Life Specialist?

Did you know that most pediatric hospitals in Canada employ Child Life Specialists? Even still, many people aren’t familiar with the role. In a nutshell, we help children and families to cope with being in the hospital. We do this by making sure kids have access to play, first and foremost, so that they can continue to engage in their normal developmental “job” of playing. We prepare them for procedures using developmentally appropriate language and explanations, we teach and rehearse coping strategies, provide distraction and support during procedures, support families in their coping, support siblings to understand what is happening, advocate for patients’ needs, and on and on. It’s a job that’s as varied as the families we meet. Our role can range from planning special events so that kids in the hospital can engage in community events such as trick-or-treating, that they would otherwise miss out on, to preparing and accompanying children to visit their sibling in the ICU. It can be incredibly difficult and rewarding work.

To be a Child Life Specialist, you need to have a degree related to Child Development, specific Child Life coursework, 600 hours of supervised clinical internship, pass a certification exam, and complete professional development hours to maintain certification. It takes a lot of work to learn how to play effectively! I am kidding of course. Though it looks like we do a lot of play, (and we do!), our psychosocial assessments and interventions are often critical to a child’s medical and support team.

Amanda and I met at the hospital where we both work as our shifts overlapped on weekends. Together we decided to use our knowledge of child development, therapeutic art and play, grief and loss, to create gifts that are supportive to the unique needs of children and youth during difficult times - and With Love Grief Gifts was born! Every item that we have chosen is intentional and has a specific therapeutic benefit. We hope that they can help you to support children and youth to cope wherever they may be.

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