Child Life Program at Hennepin Healthcare

What is a child life specialist?

A Certified Child Life Specialist is expert in child development with clinical training in the impact of illness, trauma and injury in childhood and adolescence. The goal of a child life program is to help pediatric patients and families develop positive coping skills to get through stressful healthcare experiences.

Child life specialists at Hennepin Healthcare:

  • Provide preparation, distraction, and comfort to pediatric patients for challenging procedures
  • Engage patients in normalizing play to decrease fear and encourage patients to meet developmental milestones
  • Support siblings and caregivers surrounding a patient's hospitalization
  • Offer bereavement support and memory-making activities in end-of-life scenarios
  • Serve as an advocate for pediatric-friendly practices throughout Hennepin Healthcare, with the overall goal of improving the patient experience at Hennepin Healthcare

Integrative Therapies

Our child life specialists collaborate with a variety of integrative therapies to bring comfort, opportunities for self-expression, and normalization to increase coping during a hospitalization. These therapies include:

Patient and Family Resources
Volunteer and Educational Opportunities

Volunteer and Educational Opportunities


Currently, the Child Life Department at Hennepin Healthcare does not offer internship or practicum opportunities. However, there are great opportunities at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, Fairview Ridges Hospital, and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

We often meet with students who are interested in learning more about the child life field. If you would like to speak with a child life specialist about the profession, please contact our team via email at [email protected].

Volunteer with our Child Life team!

Child Life Volunteers assist child life staff in Pediatrics, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and the Burn Unit to provide normalizing play to pediatric patients to increase coping during hospitalization, as well as maintain the cleanliness of play spaces and materials. Additional opportunities may include baby rocking, helping with our weekly meal program, The Gathering Place, assisting with technology, and pet therapy!
Learn more about volunteer opportunities


Donate to the Child Life Program’s Extraordinary Kids Fund

Play is a child’s work. It is how they learn, grow, and express themselves. Research shows that children who are allowed to play in the hospital environment heal faster. The Extraordinary Kids Fund is managed by child life specialists, whose goal is to decrease the stress associated with hospitalization for pediatric patients and families. Through the generosity of donors, the Extraordinary Kids Fund has provided children and teens with resources for education, coping, and play.

Education: Our child life specialists utilize teaching dolls, doctor kits, books, and applications designed to educate patients about what they will encounter in the hospital, such as getting an IV, going to surgery, having an MRI, and learning about a new diagnosis, or end-of-life scenarios.

Coping: Being in the hospital can often come along with scary and painful experiences. Child life specialists work with patients and families to teach them how to cope with difficult situations with the use of distraction tools and integrative therapies. Bubbles, music, fidget toys, stress balls, iPad applications, and more can help patients of all ages through these stressful moments.

Play: Even when in the hospital, kids are still kids! We know that play is universal, crossing all language barriers and ability levels. Making sure that we have plenty of fun activities for all age groups is a high priority for us. Child life specialists purchase items such as games, movies, puzzles, art activities, Legos, video games, and more in order to keep our patients busy and happy during the healing process.

Child life specialists also plan and facilitate special events throughout the year, such as holiday parties, birthday celebrations, catered family meals, and more. Donations to the Extraordinary Kids Fund assist our child life specialists in providing a safe, therapeutic, and fun environment for our pediatric patients and families and-- in turn-- a positive healthcare experience.

Donate directly to the Extraordinary Kids Fund
From the drop-down menu, select “other” and type in “Extraordinary Kids Fund.”

Gifts in Kind:

If you are interested in donating books, toys, etc. to the Extraordinary Kids Fund and have questions, please email [email protected].

Other ways to donate:

Check out our Amazon Wish List
Throughout the year our child life specialists manage a wish list of specific items for our inpatient pediatric patients. These items can be used for education, coping, play, comfort, or gifts. During the holiday season, we adjust the focus of our wish list to items most needed by patients. We welcome donations for all patients ages 0-18, however, this year we are focusing on teenagers, infants, and children with special needs.

Support Local & Small Businesses

Our Child-Life team has selected these small businesses for toy donations:

  • Manhattan Toy Minneapolis-based. Buy online or find them at toy stores throughout the Twin Cities!
  • Mischief Toys Saint Paul, MN. Mischief is a toy store for all ages, featuring a rebellious selection of games, books, comics, toys, pop culture memorabilia, gifts, adventure gear, jewelry, candy, and kinetic toys. 651-493-3307
  • Pinwheels and Play Toys Minneapolis, MN. Toys for kids of all ages! See their Facebook page for more information, or visit the store.
  • Legacy Toys Edina, Minneapolis, Hopkins, Ely, Duluth, and Fargo Locations. Arts and crafts, books, dolls and plush, games and puzzles, and more for kids of all ages. Plus, consult a virtual gift assistant for ideas!
  • Teeny Bee Boutique Saint Paul, MN. Extraordinary Baby Things: Gifts, Accessories, Toys, Clothing, Books, Blankets, Shoes. 612-644-2540
  • Pacifier North Loop, Edina, and Highland Park locations. Holiday shop, apparel, accessories, toys, books, gear, infant care, and more! 612-623-8123
  • Baby Grand Saint Louis Park, MN. Infant and toddler toys, baby gear (carriers!) books, plush, gifts (for babies, moms, dads, or grandparents), apparel 952-912-1010
  • Red Balloon Bookshop Saint Paul, MN. Books for all ages! 651-224-8320
  • Wild Rumpus Books Minneapolis, MN. Books for all ages! Online ordering only. 612-920-5005
  • Black Garnet Books Minneapolis, MN. A black, women-owned bookstore selling primarily adult and young adult books by racially diverse authors! Schedule a store visit, order online, or shop via bookshop.
  • Magers and Quinn Minneapolis, MN. "A bounty of the world's best books assembled by biblioholic booksellers." 612-822-4611
  • Siena Soap Company Minnesota-based natural skincare company with lotions, balms, shampoos, and more. Perfect gifts for caregivers, or patients with long hospital stays. Shop online or check their website for holiday pop-ups and other small stores to support!
  • Two Sisters Spa is a Minnesota-based, mom-run company selling bath bombs for kids and adults! Purchase online or see their website for local businesses that sell them in-store.