Child Life Program

Child Life Specialists (CLS) help pediatric patients and their families cope with the fears, anxiety and stress that illness, procedures and treatments can cause.  

The Role of the Child Life Specialist

Child Life Specialists are trained healthcare professionals with expertise in child development who work with children and families in hospitals and related settings. We aim to help children feel more comfortable in the hospital setting. We help children and their families navigate the emotional and mental challenges of illness, disability and chronic conditions.

Caring for Your Child's Patient Experience

Here at UVA, we want you to feel confident, not only in your child's medical care, but in the support we provide for your whole family’s emotional and psychological needs.

Whether this is your child’s first hospital experience or not, Child Life Specialists are here to help your child:

  • Understand the meaning and scope of a diagnosis, illness or treatment
  • Express stress, anxiety and other emotions about hospital experiences
  • Find time and space to play with toys, games, arts and crafts
Preparing for Treatment
children playing in the Battle Building

We'll help your child mentally prepare for procedures with medical play. This play, with special dolls and games, gives kids a fun and safe way to get familiar with hospital equipment and process their fears. We also use age-appropriate methods to:

  • Explain the reason for the procedure
  • Describe what to expect, including what they might see, hear and feel
  • Introduce coping strategies to use throughout the procedure
  • Accompanying the child and their caregivers to the procedure area for ongoing support
Celebrating Together
children's hospital patients with Cav Man

We strive to give children an environment with some elements of normalcy, comfort and fun. Our patients benefit from year-round experiences recognizing holidays, celebrating birthdays and marking other important moments.

We also welcome special visitors who volunteer to entertain, distract and engage children through group activities, arts and crafts, music and more.

See Our Photos on Instagram
Finding Space
children drawing together

While a child undergoes care, families may spend more time at the hospital than at home. At UVA, children, teens and families can enjoy playrooms and lounges dedicated just to them. Sofas, chairs and age-appropriate activities provide a comfortable, non-medical setting. 

We have spaces for:

  • Young children, with toys, books, games, crafts
  • Teens, with computers, games, books
  • Families, with patient education materials and resources
Supporting the Whole Family

A child in the hospital affects the whole family. So, we:

  • Work closely with siblings of pediatric patients to help them understand, process, and deal with their sibling’s illness
  • Give bereavement support to parents and siblings in the event of a death

Get Involved

Your supports allows us to provide this program free of charge. You can:

We all cope in different ways. Donations of specific items help us create an environment where children can explore their feelings and express themselves.