Frequently Asked Questions

How much medical knowledge is required for a Child Life Specialist?

It is recommended that prospective Child Life interns take a medical terminology course in college. Doctors and other medical team members use medical terminology in the patient's charts, which Child Life Specialists and Child Life interns read to better understand how to help the patient and their family. Child Life Specialists also need to know medical knowledge when preparing a child for surgery, procedures and exams. Prospective Child Life interns should have some knowledge of childhood illnesses as well. Although not required, a course in anatomy and physiology would be beneficial.

How does therapeutic play contribute to medical care?

Children spend the majority of their time playing, which is their form of learning. While in the hospital, Child Life Specialists engage patients in therapeutic play for normalization, to help them cope and to reduce stress and anxiety. Therapeutic play helps Child Life Specialists build relationships and clear up any misconceptions children may have about the hospital. Therapeutic play can assist to normalize and desensitize the hospital experience. It can also enhance a child's creativity and allow them to express their concerns about the hospital experience.

How does a Child Life Specialist prepare children for procedures?

Child Life Specialists prepare children for procedures in a number of different ways. Child Life Specialists use teaching dolls to help children understand the different parts of their body and demonstrate the placement of medical equipment on the body. Preparation kits are used to desensitize the equipment and allow for mastery. Child Life Specialists can also photo preparation books, DVDs, and movies to explain to children the scan or procedure step by step.


How does a Child Life Specialist distract patients during a procedure?

A Child Life Specialist first assesses the developmental age of a patient, taking into consideration the patient's interests and the type of procedure. The Child Life Specialist then chooses developmentally appropriate objects that will help to reduce the stress and anxiety of the patient.

Common examples for each developmental age group but, not limited to, are as follows:


  • Music and Lullabyes
  • Swaddling the patient in a warm blanket
  • Calming voice
  • SweetEase (sugar water)
  • A parent's touch
  • Mirrors


  • Music
  • Interactive toys
  • Mirrors
  • Bubbles
  • Musical toys
  • Light up toys


  • Music
  • Interactive toys
  • Musical books
  • Bubbles
  • Light up toys

·School-age children

  • Find It books (I Spy)
  • Introduction of deep breathing and guided imagery
  • Giving the child a role in the procedure
  • Giving the child the option to watch
  • 20 Questions (Game)


  • Deep Breathing and Guided Imagery
  • Conversation
  • Giving the option to watch the procedure
  • 20 Questions (Game)

Pathway to Becoming a CCLS

What schools offer programs or degrees to become a Child Life Specialist?

There is one university in Wisconsin that offers coursework specific to Child Life, Edgewood College in Madison. This program offers a degree in Child Life. Other universities in Wisconsin only offer degrees in Human Development and Family Studies, Child Development, Psychology and Sociology. The requirements for these degrees offer classes related to child and adolescent development, family systems, learning, play, stress/coping, separation and loss. However, due to the new requirements to sit for the certification exam, Child Life degree is necessary for an internship and career. If a student is interested in a career in Child Life, it is strongly recommended to research Child Life programs in Wisconsin and across the United States.

What are the prerequisites when applying for an internship in Child Life?

The prerequisites when applying for an internship vary between different Child Life programs. Prospective Child Life interns must complete course work from a bachelor or master's degree program in Child Life, Child/Family Development, Family Dynamics, Human Development, Psychology, Sociology, Counseling or Therapeutic Recreation with an emphasis in Child Life. The Child Life program at Ministry Saint Joseph's Children's Hospital requires applicants to take medical terminology, child and adolescent development and highly recommends anatomy and physiology, Ethics, cultural diversity, parenting and family relationships, group dynamics, stress and coping, research methods, crisis intervention and death and dying. The Child Life program at MSJCH also requires students to review resources related to the hospitalization of a child prior to starting the internships.

Is a bachelor's degree in Child Life required to do an internship or to be a Child Life Specialist?

Please reference Eligibility Requirements

Are there many Child life job opportunities available?

Child Life is a very competitive field. With the expansion of hospitals and children's hospitals, there has been an increased demand for Child Life Specialists. It is very important to focus on Child Life specific coursework and to volunteer with well and hospitalized children to be a part of the competitive field. Relocation may be necessary to obtain the best job opportunities.

What age groups do Child Life Specialists work with?

Child Life Specialists work with children from birth to 18 years old. At some facilities they may treat patients up to age of 21.

What areas and populations do Child Life Specialists work in?

Common areas that Child Life Specialists work in are the emergency room, operating room, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and pediatric units. In addition to working with patients Child Life Specialists may work with siblings of patients as well. Child Life Specialist can also work in the adult units such as, the Adult Oncology areas, Critical Care Units and Intensive Care Unit. On the adult units, Child Life Specialists work with children and grandchildren of hospitalized adult patients. Other areas where Child Life may be present are outpatient clinics, child advocacy centers and in non-traditional settings such as, dentist offices, hospice programs, the judicial system and private practices.

What type of special activities does a child life specialist engage in with patients?

The type of special activities offered depends on the Child Life program. For example, every week day at Ministry Saint Joseph's Children's Hospital, children ages four to eighteen years old have the opportunity to participate in a group activity to promote social interaction and mastery. Toddler and adolescent groups are also offered on a weekly basis. Child Life Specialists assess individual needs of the patients to determine appropriate bedside activities including playing games, making crafts or spending one-on-one time together. Some benefits of these activities include normalization, increased coping and reaching developmental milestones. Ascension-Ministry Saint Joseph's Children's Hospital also provides pet therapy for patients. Pet therapy may help to create therapeutic interactions between patients and trained pets which assist in reducing stress and anxiety. A Board Certified Music Therapist provides music therapy to patients focusing on relaxation, pain management, self expression and sensory stimulation. The Child Life Specialists at Ascension-Ministry Saint Joseph's Children's Hospital also provide holiday parties including Halloween, Christmas, Easter and birthdays celebrations for patients and their families.

What are the salary ranges for Child Life Specialists?

Salary ranges will depend on location, cost of living and size of the program. The average starting salary in the Midwest range from $18-$21 per hour.

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