Importance of Play

Play is a pleasant and non-threatening way your child learns about the world. Play provides something safe and familiar during stressful times such as hospitalization or medical procedures. The Child Life Program encourages your child to continue playing while in the hospital in order to promote recovery, normal development, and independence.

Medical Play

Your child may encounter medical equipment in the hospital setting that can cause anxiety and fear. Child Life Specialists can use medical play to help your child express feelings related to the hospital. By using real medical equipment to perform procedures on dolls, the patient can gain a sense of control and understanding.

Activity Areas

Activity Rooms are located throughout the hospital, as well as an outdoor play deck outside the main playroom on the third floor. The Child Life staff or volunteers can show you which playroom meets the needs of your child's age and ability. Because no medical procedures are allowed in these areas children see these playrooms as a safe place.

  • Siblings and child visitors under 14 may visit the playroom with the patient. The adult caregiver must stay with visitors under 14.
  • If the patient is on isolation or has had a fever in the last 24 hours, he or she should not be in the playroom. Toys can be borrowed for your child to play with in the rooms.
  • The Teen Room is a place for those 12 and up.
  • The patient can come to the playroom with staff or a caregiver during non-playroom hours.

Child Life and Education Staff

Certified Child Life Specialists acquaint children and families with the hospital prior to admission, prepare children for medical tests, procedures and surgeries, provide structured play opportunities to promote normal growth and development and incorporate medical play experiences to enhance the child's understanding of medical events. 

  • Certified Teachers of the Hospital School Program ensure the continuation of the child's education. 
  • Patient Activity Specialists supervise playroom sessions, coordinate games and activities, special events and visitors for children and teens. They also provide bedside activities for patients who are medically unable to leave their room. 
  • Arkansas Children's has two artists-in-residence. Hamid Ebrahimifar and Elizabeth Weber are funded by an In-School-Residency (ISR) Grant from the Arkansas Arts Council. The ISR artists facilitate art projects that support the core curriculum, both in the classroom setting and at the bedside. Both artists educate patients and families about the process of art, while at the same time teaching them that, despite an injury, illness or disability, they can be successful at art. 

Child Life and Education Hours

Child Life and Education services are available to all inpatient care units, clinics, Ambulatory Surgery Center and the Emergency Room. Times change during the holidays, please call the Child Life and Education department at 501-364-1412.

Weekday Hours
  • Child Life Specialists: Monday - Friday from 6:00 am-  Midnight
  • Certified Teacher: Monday - Friday from 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
  • Patient Activity Specialists: Monday - Friday from 8:00 am - 9:00 pm 
Weekend Hours
  • Child Life Specialists: Saturday - Sunday from 8:00 am-Midnight 
  • Patient Activity Specialists: Saturday - Sunday from 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

Siblings and friends are important parts of the hospital experience, both for the siblings and the patient. Visiting a patient in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for the first time can be hard for children because the sights and sounds are new to them. Child Life Specialists are available to prepare young visitors before they go into one of our ICU’s (PICU, NICU, CVICU, Burn Unit). Preparation for their visit can reduce anxiety and offer a safe setting for questions about the patient and his/her condition. It is important that siblings and visitors are healthy and do not have a fever, cold, cough, or unexplained rash.

Volunteers are a vital part of the Child Life team. Volunteers work in activity areas to provide one-to-one play with the patient in a group setting. When a patient is not able to leave their rooms, volunteers can go to the patient’s room to provide age-appropriate activities and opportunities for play on an individual basis. 

Job Requirements

Employment Resources

Student Opportunities

NOTE: Due to recent health concerns (COVID-19), Arkansas Children's Hospital is unable to accept students at this time.

Expressive Arts

Expressive arts help the patient express feelings when he or she is unable to describe emotions with words. Child Life Specialists are trained to provide music interventions, allowing the patient to use music as a means of coping with hospitalization. Many craft activities in the playroom and teen room are also planned to promote self-expression.

Links Activity Web Sites

Child Life & Education Programs and Services

Programs and services provided by the Child Life & Education department help to decrease stress during hospitalization and to address the psychosocial and emotional needs of your child. Services include music therapy, hospital school, and the TAILS program plus activity rooms to meet the needs of your child’s age and ability.

Preparing for Surgery

If your child is scheduled to have surgery or procedures, a Child Life Specialist is available to prepare and teach you and your child about what he or she may experience.

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