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Child Life Therapy

Helping your child cope with their healthcare experience

About Child Life

In the Child Life Therapy Department we acknowledge that illness and hospitalisation may cause stress and anxiety for children and their families. We aim to minimise stress and teach children coping strategies and resilience to support them through their healthcare experience(s). Interventions include:- therapeutic play experiences/activities, developmental play, medical play, education and procedural support.

Procedural Preparation

Child Life Therapists educate and prepare children for their treatments and procedures, particularly where children may become highly anxious and stressed. A variety of resources such as photographs of treatment areas, books, visits to treatment rooms and medical play are used.

Procedural and Treatment Support

Child Life Therapists assist anxious children with coping ideas and strategies to help them through procedures and treatments. Distraction techniques are used during procedures to help children focus their attention on something relaxing and engaging, such as bubbles, listening to music, visual imagery or interactive touch books. Relaxation and deep breathing techniques are also used in procedures.

Importance of Play

"Play is one of the most important needs your child has. It is one of the ways children learn and it also helps children cope with upsetting things that happen in their lives" (NAPCAN). It helps to build positive relationships and trust for any anxiety support needs that may arise. Developmental play activities provide a positive distraction for children from their hospital experience, and assists in minimising stress and anxiety. Developmental play promotes growth and development, normalises the environment for children and promotes self esteem through feelings of success and fulfilment.

Medical Play

Medical play involves the use of hospital and medical related toys and resources in children's play. Children have the opportunity to 'role play' their hospital experience, using play medical kits and dolls. This type of play is beneficial to children as a way to explore their feelings and emotions associated with their hospital experience.

Play medical kits with dolls/puppets are also used to educate children about their illness and prepare them for upcoming treatments. This empowers children with the knowledge about their healthcare experience in a safe and non-threatening environment.

Therapeutic & Expressive Activities

Children in hospital may not express their feelings as easily as they may at home or in a familiar environment. Therapeutic and expressive activities allow children to be creative and express their feelings in a safe and non-threatening environment. Therapeutic and expressive activities may include play dough, water play, painting, and collage.

The Child Life Therapists also offer guided expressive art activities such as mandalas, worry dolls, dream catchers and medical collage.

Promoting Self Esteem

Child Life Therapists use individualised resources and activities to promote children's positive self esteem. Positive self esteem is important in helping a child cope through procedures and treatments, as it boosts their confidence and feelings of empowerment.

Examples of these resources and activities are:

  • Sticker charts to assist in medicine taking, behaviour management, treatments and procedures.
  • Feelings charts to encourage expression of feelings in a safe and non-threatening way.

Child Life Therapy Volunteers

A group of volunteers work specifically in the Child Life Therapy Department. These volunteers work on the wards under supervision and guidance of the Child Life staff and may offer recreational activities for children.

Multi-sensory garden

The Multi-sensory garden is a private garden available to children and their families. The garden consists of a winding path with lots to discover, such as water features, plants and wind chimes. It is a place for relaxation, exploration and a place to smile.


We encourage children and families to visit the playroom on their ward, when they are able and permitted to leave their room. The play room offers children a friendly space with activities that may ease some anxiety about being hospital.

Our Staff

  • Sandra Pengilly
  • Therese Baker
  • Amanda Williams
  • Cathy Quinn
  • Natalie Melrose
  • Lisa Carnovale
  • Robin Hope
  • Sharon White
  • Janet Burke
  • Christina Parkinson
  • Gy Wen Ho
  • Mary Pilkington

More information

This document was updated on Wednesday, 9 March 2011.

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