Child Life


Who are We?

If you are a visual person, click on this link for a 5 minute introduction to Child Life in a community hospital setting.

And/Or keep on reading.

“Give me your elevator speech” is what I say to potential students in Child Life. I want to know how they would describe our field to folks who have never heard of Child Life before.

The answers are varied, but it all comes down this. Child life specialists help children and families cope with difficult life events, mostly health related, but we are trained to assist children through many life transitions. Most specialists work in a hospital setting, but some work in private practice, or in their communities.

What Do We Do?

In a nutshell, specialists provide children with medical education, play opportunities, procedural support and therapeutic activities. We act as a bridge and advocate for families navigating the healthcare system. We are there to focus on a child and family’s emotional health as they face scary or painful procedures and treatment. We help schools understand the needs of children facing chronic illness when they return to the classroom.

Where Do We Do It?

In hospitals, We work at bedside, in playrooms, in operating rooms and radiology units, clinics, emergency rooms, intensive care units, neonatal units and inpatient units.

In communities, we make home and school visits, We work in adoption agencies and funeral parlors, courtrooms and dentist and doctor’s offices.

What is our Training?

Specialists are trained  in child development, play theory, anatomy, research methodology, sociocultural issues, ethics, family systems and bereavement, among other things. Some have undergraduate training, but a Master’s degree in Child Life will be required for all certified specialists by 2020. In order to be certified, specialists must complete a number of appropriate undergraduate or graduate level courses and a rigorous 600 hour internship in a hospital setting. They must sit for and pass a certification exam overseen by the Child Life Council. For more information, click on Child Life Council.

What I Do

My speciality is play – everything about play that supports developing children, especially those effected by illness or loss. I am available online and in person in New York City to:

  • Teach play skills to caregivers and healthcare professionals who wish to connect more with children in this digital age.
  • Coach and support parents in how to prepare their children for medical events, from routine wellness appointments to surgery or longterm treatment.
  • Provide guidance for how to support siblings when a child is ill
  • Provide guidance and support for how to support children through a parent’s serious illness.
  • Provide in person or online clinical supervision to working child life specialists.
  • Teach play skills to child life students, teachers and healthcare professionals.
  • Consulting work: Project leader for Survey of the State of Play in North American Hospitals (CLC) and subject expert for “That’s Child Life!” (CLC).
  • Public speaking at conferences and  inservices in the USA and abroad. (New Zealand, Palestinian Territories, Czech Republic, Japan thus far!)
  • Write- I am the author of several chapters, many articles and hopefully, very soon, a book.

For more information, please contact me, Deb Vilas,  at

3 thoughts on “Child Life

  1. Hi Deb,
    I love your blog! I recently started a child life blog to document my journey as a child life student and was just wondering if there’s any other child life blogs out there that you would recommend following. I’ve got a couple really good ones that I’ve found, but was wondering if there’s any others that you think would be good to follow/read 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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