The Power of Play: Child Life at Arkansas Children's

In this podcast, we talk with Brianna Shannon and Sarah Frantz, two child life specialists at Arkansas Children's, about the importance of being a child life specialists.

During your visit to the hospital, child life specialists can assist in reducing your child’s anxiety and promoting positive coping. This may be accomplished through diversion during procedures by focusing your child’s attention on something fun and relaxing, as well as ensuring your child has a developmentally appropriate understanding of their procedures and hospitalization. Our hospital embraces family-centered care and encourages family support during visits. Child life specialists will work to promote a positive coping experience for patients.

Preparing for Upcoming Procedures

If your child is scheduled to have a procedure, a child life specialist may help prepare and teach you and your child what they may experience. The purpose of procedural teaching is to reduce anxiety and let the patient explore and ask questions about their upcoming procedure in a safe setting. Specialists may use medical play, teaching dolls, medical equipment, and pictures of the rooms and people your child will see to prepare them for sensory experiences of their upcoming procedures. Patients may participate in a pre-operative tour of the hospital, encouraging your child’s understanding of the hospital setting. For more information on pre-operative tours, please contact the child life department.

Medical Play

During your child’s visit to the hospital, they may encounter a variety of medical equipment for the first time. Child life specialists use medical play to help your child learn about the hospital and express feelings related to the medical setting. Using real medical equipment and engaging in play, your child can gain a sense of control and understanding. Medical play encourages children to explore the purposes of medical equipment and to take an active role in their health care experience.

Play is a safe and familiar activity for your child to participate in during stressful times such as hospitalizations or during medical procedures. Child life encourages your child to continue playing at bedside and in activity rooms located in the hospital to promote recovery, normal development, and independence. Medical procedures are not allowed in activity areas; therefore, children see playrooms as safe places.

Please note, if your child is on isolation or has had a fever in the last 24 hours, he or she may not be able to attend activity rooms. Activities and toys can be borrowed for your child to play with in his or her room.

Siblings and Visitors

Siblings and friends provide important support and encouragement for families during your child’s hospitalization. Siblings and friends may be visiting a hospital for the first time, experiencing new sights and emotions. Child life specialists are available to prepare minor visitors (age 17 years and under) prior to visiting patients to reduce potential anxiety and offer a safe setting for questions about the patient and his/her condition. PLEASE NOTE: due to the COVID 19 pandemic, visitors under the age of 18 are not allowed.

For the safety and well-being of our patients, we ask all visitors to be healthy when visiting the hospital.  All visitors will be asked to complete a wellness screening and should not have a cough, runny nose, congestion, fever or diarrhea. If you have any of these symptoms, we ask that you stay home until 48 hours after symptoms stop. Please note, additional visitor restrictions may occur during flu season to reduce the risk of spreading contagious diseases.

For more information on visitor policies, please visit our Visitor Rights and Responsibilities.

Patient E-Cards

Family and friends have the opportunity to send patients well wishes and support with an e-card. To send a patient an e-card, follow the step-by-step instructions of selecting a picture for your card and the option to insert well wishes and thoughts. This card will be printed and hand-delivered to the patient’s room.

Arkansas Children's Hospital is dedicated to the education and further growth of child life specialists. By offering practicum, internship, and fellowship opportunities, Arkansas Children's Hospital allows students to assess and develop therapeutic interventions for children during inpatient and outpatient settings. For more information on each of these opportunities, please read below and click on the program descriptions. For any additional questions, please call the Child Life and Education department at 501-364-1412.


Arkansas Children's Hospital (Little Rock) is proud to offer a child life practicum for students to continue to grow and learn in a clinical setting. A practicum provides opportunities to observe child life interventions with hospitalized children, increase comfort within the medical environment, and increase practical knowledge of child life. The 12-week, 120-hour child life practicum is offered three times a year: spring, summer, and fall semesters.

Students will have the opportunity to observe (3) four-week rotations during the practicum experience, including one activity area-based rotation and two unit-based rotations. Students will be mentored by child life and patient activity specialists throughout their practicum experience. During the practicum, students engage in group discussions regarding observations and child development theory application, readings, and assignments to encourage further understanding of experiences and journaling to encourage reflection.

To be eligible for Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock's child life practicum, applicants must have:
  • A minimum education status of undergraduate sophomore student
  • Affiliation with an accredited college or university
  • Coursework and experience with children that leads to an understanding of growth and development across the lifespan and family theories

Child Life follows the following deadlines for practicum applications:

For Practicums Starting: Application Deadline: Applicant Notifications By:
 January (Spring)  September 5  Second Thursday in October
 June (Summer)  January 5  Second Thursday in February
 September (Fall)  May 5  Second Thursday in June

The Child Life and Education Practicum Program is currently being restructured and will not be accepting any students for the Fall or Spring semesters.


Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock internship, accredited by The Association of Child Life Professionals, is offered twice a year. Interns are given opportunities to build independent professional skills, therapeutic group play supervision skills and develop assessment & intervention skills with patients of diverse ages and varying diagnoses. Internships are available in the spring and fall semesters and are full time (40 hours per week), 15-week, 600-hour program. Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock follows the Association of Child Life Professionals recommended internship deadlines.

The internship curriculum incorporates child life programming challenges and strategies to address current health care issues. Students experience the following schedule of rotations with one clinical supervisor per rotation.

  • Two Week Internship Orientation
  • 1st Rotation: Six weeks
  • 2nd Rotation: Six weeks
  • 3rd Rotation: One week

Rotations may include but are not limited to General Medical and Surgical units, Hematology/Oncology, Orthopedics, Neuroscience/Neurosurgery, Rehabilitation, Emergency Department, and Intensive Care units (Cardiovascular, Neonatal, Pediatric, and Burn). Child life interns may be assigned rotations that include evenings, weekends, and holidays.

To be eligible for Arkansas Children's Child Life Internship, applicants must have:

  • A minimum of 100 hours of work or volunteer experience with well infants, children, adolescents and/or families.
  • A minimum of 100 practicum hours under the supervision of a certified child life specialist. Please note the Practicum in Progress form will not be accepted.
  • A minimum of 100 hours with infants, children, youth and/or families in stressful situations, healthcare settings, and/or programs designed for children with special needs.
  • Affiliation with a university. Please note that we are unable to accept non-affiliated interns.
  • Bachelor's degree in child life, child development, or a related field.
  • Completed eligibility assessment with 10 courses approved by the Association of Child Life Professionals AND/OR endorsement letter from endorsed program.
  • All in-progress forms and the child life class-completion form must be included in the application packet.


Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock offers a benefits-eligible paid child life fellowship to encourage continued growth in assessing the psychosocial and developmental needs of children and families during hospitalization and outpatient settings. During this 12-month, entry-level experience, fellows will have the opportunities to independently facilitate therapeutic interventions and design activities that encourage social, emotional, intellectual and physical growth of children. This unique learning experience will allow the fellow to gain independence as a child life specialist while receiving guidance and mentoring from experienced child life specialists working in the field.

To be eligible for Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock's child life fellowship, applicants must have:

  • A bachelor's degree from a four-year college or university in Child Development or in a related field of study
  • A minimum of three months experience including a completed child life internship

Get full details on job requirements and how to apply.

For additional information or questions regarding educational opportunities towards becoming a child life specialist, please contact Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock at 501-364-1412.

Contact Child Life

For additional information or questions regarding child life please contact Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock at 501-364-1412 or Arkansas Children’s Northwest by calling 479-725-6800.

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