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Child life

Supporting children and families

The experience in a hospital can be scary for kids, their siblings and families. Our child life team helps patients and families adjust to and cope with the hospital or clinical setting, illness or injury and the treatments involved. We provide developmental, educational, social and emotional support to children of all ages. 

COVID-19 donation update

As you know, illness and injury don’t stop during a pandemic, and neither do we. While our medical teams continue to provide life-changing care for children and families – our child life and recreation therapy teams continue to make the hospital as normal, comfortable and fun as possible. Like many children’s hospitals across the country, we are updating our policies to protect our most vulnerable patients and making significant changes to how we are able to accept donations. 

If you would like to continue your support, gifts can be made in the following ways:

  • Online
  • Mail checks – note child life in the memo
    Children’s Hospital Foundation
    2924 Brook Road
    Richmond, VA 23220
  • Mail gift cards (Amazon, Walmart and Target) 
    Child Life Department
    Box 980202
    Richmond, VA 23298-0202
  • Wish list items: If donating funds or gift cards doesn’t feel right to your group or organization, please visit our wish list to purchase items online and have them shipped directly and safely from:

Items not accepted at this time

  • Handmade items - i.e. blankets, pillows, pillowcases, preemie stuffed animals, hats, Build-A-Bear (stuffed animals purchased from the wish lists will be accepted.)
  • Items collected at toy drives or previously purchased* *Contact Sarah Deis for a list of organizations that will accept these items.
  • Large shared items – even if shipped from the vendor directly - i.e. doll houses, bikes, scooters and other ride-on items due to infection control
  • Religious items, weapons (nerf guns), ride on toys (bikes, trikes, scooters, etc.), seasonal items (Christmas), R-rated/horror movies

Our child life team:

  • Bridges the gap between home and hospital
  • Develops supportive relationships with children and families
  • Helps children and families cope with health care experiences
  • Increases familiarity with health care surroundings
  • Prepares children and families for medical experiences (surgery, blood draws, imaging, etc.)
  • Provides age-appropriate activities
  • Works closely with families and the health care team to minimize stress
  • Advocates for non-medical pain management strategies when appropriate 

Our team of 10 certified child life specialists provides coverage throughout the hospital, including: 

How child life supports families

  • Medical preparation and pre-surgical teaching: We help prepare kids of all ages for medical tests, procedures, surgeries and imaging studies. By giving the right amount of information that is based on the child’s developmental level and situation, a child’s fears of their upcoming experience can be decreased. These services also can help parents become more familiar with hospital procedures.
  • Support during procedures: Child life specialists can help reduce pain and anxiety during medical procedures by using techniques such as alternative focus and relaxation exercises. We also provide guidance to parents on how they can support their child during procedures. 
  • Therapeutic play activities: Therapeutic play activities help with decreasing pain, meeting treatment goals, learning new skills and shortening recovery time. They can occur at your child’s bedside, in the playroom or children’s garden. 
  • Support for siblings: We understand that brothers and sisters are affected by illness, injury and hospitalization too. They may need help understanding what is happening and how to work through their feelings and concerns about their sibling. We help siblings by answering questions, providing appropriate explanations of what is happening with the ill/injured sibling and clarifying misconceptions. Siblings are welcome in our playrooms and the children’s garden. 
  • Parent education and support: We will provide you with emotional support and information to help your child cope with what is happening. Understanding how children at different developmental levels may see their experiences can help parents choose how to best support their child. 
  • Grief support: We’re here for families at all stages of the health care journey. We can help with grief support and tailor our guidance based on a sibling’s age and your needs. 
  • Holiday and birthday celebrations: Being in the hospital during a birthday or holiday can be extra challenging. We’ll be sure to help recognize and celebrate these special moments.
  • Special events and visitors: We are lucky to have generous community support through special events and visitors (Rodney the Ram, sports teams, musicians, etc.). Child life specialists escort these special visitors and make sure your child is up for a visit before entering your room. 
  • Play with a purpose: Child life manages multiple play areas, including two age-specific playrooms and an outdoor children’s garden. 
  • Pain management: Our pediatric team will work to make sure your child is getting the best, most effective pain medicine for their needs, while we also offer a variety of non-pharmaceutical techniques to help reduce your child's pain at the hospital and at home