Get Ready to Play!

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Okay, so call me a nerd. Few things bring me more joy than teaching a subject that I love with a colleague who has even more passion and enthusiasm for the subject than I do. I have had the pleasure over the years of co-teaching with many wonderful and talented colleagues – Betsy Wilford, Elizabeth Laureano, Edna Garces, Karen Marschke-Tobier, Caitlin Koch and Jon Luongo, to name a few. In each of those situations, whether it was Sunday school, a therapeutic nursery school, graduate school, in another country, or at a conference, I became a better teacher within the partnership than I ever would have been alone.

And now, as I prepare for my upcoming gig at the Child Life Council’s 34th Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida next week, I celebrate the colleagues that I will be teaming up with. 

Our first panel presentation, Global Collaboration: Teaching & Learning Around the World, will spotlight the work of 4 individuals from 4 countries, how their work with children and adults compares, differs and intersects. Besides myself, we have:

Maria Fernanda Busqueta Mendoza: In 2006, Maria created the Pediatric Psychology Department at Hospital Español de México (Mexico City), later renamed as: Pediatric Psychology and Child Life Department. She has been the director since its inception.

Maria became a child life specialist in 2009 after completing an internship at Texas Children´s Hospital in Houston, and she has been a certified child life specialist since 2013.

Maria is a national and international lecturer in the field of pediatric psychosocial care, and represented her country as a delegate at the CLC International Summit in 2015. She works in collaboration with 2 local Universities in Mexico City and coordinates a Hospital Psychology Course to train psychology professionals interested in working in the health care field.

Maria supervises and train students during internship rotations and volunteer service within the Pediatric Unit of Hospital Español.

Maria “Marifer” teaching nursing staff at the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation (BASR) 2014 and supporting children and families on a medical mission to Palestine 2013

Jiri Kralovec: In 1991, Jiri co-founded (together with his wife Marketa) the Klicek Foundation – a charity aiming to offer practical help to families with seriously sick children; among the Foundation’s main focuses are family-centered care, children’s rights, hospital play and children’s hospice care. Since 1996, he has been working as the Klicek Foundation’s full-time coordinator.

Originally studying philology at the Philosophical Faculty of the Charles University in Prague, Jiri later qualified as a general nurse at the Medical College in Plzeň. He participated in preparing training programs for hospital play-specialists and qualified as a play-specialist himself.

Jiri also is a publicist and translator – he used to work for The Presence (Czech monthly) and Zdravotnické noviny (Health Care Weekly News) and translated to Czech several books by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (On Death and Dying, Questions and Answers on Death and Dying, On Children and Death, On Lifer after Death, Life Lessons, Tunnel and the Light), and some other books that help to cultivate the health-care „scene“ in the Czech Republic, e. g. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer and The Other Side of Pediatrics“ by June Jolly.

From1993–2002, Jiri was a member of the Commission for Human Rights Education of the Council for Human Rights at the Government of the Czech Republic.


Jiri co-teaching and translating at Charles University in Prague.

and Chika Matsudaira: University of Shizuoka Junior College started Japan’s first Education Program for Hospital Play Specialists in 2007 with full funding from the National Department of Education Japan. Chika led this project and has been overseeing it since its inception, obtaining full funding and conducting research in the field.

Since 2009, Chika has published three books about play for sick children as well as 4 case study books representing proof of the development of this profession.

As the chairperson of the registered nonprofit organization Japanese Association of Hospital Play, Chika leads the group as it hosts an annual International Conference and Workshop to gather all who have interest in this field.

Trained in Stevenson College Edingbrough in 2009, Chika is a registered HPS.

Chika began training for play therapy in 2013, and since 2014 has been working closely with Shizuoka City Children Protection Center as an advisor.



Chika visiting the Bank Street College in New York City 2011 & Chika and I co-teaching at University of Shizuoka in Japan 2015


The second presentation will be a half day intensive training: The Power of Child-Centered Play: Letting Kids Lead the Way. Shani Thornton and I will teach child-centered play skills with the hope that child life specialists will walk away with concrete tools to support their work with children and families in hospitals.

Shannon Thornton: Shani is a Certified Child Life Specialist for the past 8 years, with an educational background in recreation administration and graduate degree in child life. She has worked in a pediatric  inpatient rehabilitation unit and a long term children’s facility. She launched a private practice in my community providing child life services to children and families in their homes. She has created a child life and parenting website/blog, ChildLifeMommy, published a children’s preparation book and leads workshops in the community. She has experience teaching graduate child life courses, developing an online class, as well as manage social media sites for the Child Life Program at Bank Street College of Education. She also continues to volunteer as a bereavement facilitator for a local children’s hospital.

Shani at Child Life of Greater New York Conference in 2015 & Shani and I filming in preparation for online teaching in 2015

Marifer, Jiri, Chika and Shani have been more than just colleagues to me. Over recent years, they have hosted me, travelled with me, played with me and encouraged my personal and professional growth in some pretty profound ways. I am thrilled to be joining them for what will surely be a wonderful conference.

Come one, come all and PLAY with us!



6 thoughts on “Get Ready to Play!

  1. Hi Deb! This is Sarah, one of the many people you spoke to at conference. Thank you so much for your presentation on Global Collaboration! It was very insightful and inspiring! I really enjoyed it and I hope to connect with you in the future!

    Liked by 1 person

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