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Child Life Program

Child Life Program

Child Life empowers kids and families in the healthcare setting

The Child Life Program at Penn State Children’s Hospital promotes the positive development of children, teens and families by providing age-appropriate programming to build coping skills and reduce emotional distress.

Supporting children and families at every stage of care

Child Life staff help children and families prepare for and cope with the stress that can come with health problems and hospital stays.

We advocate for patients’ and families’ well-being through therapeutic play, education and emotional support.

Empowering families at home and in the hospital

Child Life staff provides a variety of support services to the children of central Pennsylvania.

Child Life staff help children and families feel better about surgeries, procedures, and hospital stays through medical play, photos, tours and discussions. They share information that’s specific to each patient, and at the right level for his or her age and understanding.

Medical Play 

Child Life Specialists help patients know what will happen before, during and after a surgery or hospital stay. They help children and their families: 

  • Learn about the things that will happen during their stay by using:
    • Medical dolls
    • Photo books
    • Hospital equipment
  • Express their feelings and concerns, and clarify what will happen at every step.
  • Practice positioning, and learn distraction and relaxation techniques to help kids better cope with tests and procedures.

Medical Play Kits at Home

Hospital stays can be scary for children. Playing "hospital" can help children understand and feel better about their hospital stay. During play, children can "be in charge.” They can share their ideas and show their feelings. With a supportive adult and a few supplies, medical play can be an important and fun activity for children.

Supplies include:

  • Stuffed animals or dolls
  • Band-Aids
  • Stethoscopes
  • Needleless syringes
  • Operating room (O.R.)  hat, mask and gloves
  • Scissors  (if your child can safely and comfortably use scissors)
  • Tape
  • Tongue depressors
  • Thermometer

Fisher Price Medical Kits are available in most toy stores.

You have a role in medical play. Supervise your child's medical play and engage with your child. This helps you be aware of things your child may not understand.

  • Allow enough time to play without interruptions.
  • Help children talk about their feelings and actions. Ask questions like:
    • "How are you going to help your patient?"
    • "How does Mimi feel about getting shots?"
    • "Does MiMi get mad when she has to get a shot?”
  • Let children be in charge of their play, starting and stopping as they choose.
  • Avoid asking too many questions by talking to your child about what they are doing based on what you see. For example:
    • "I see that Adrianne has three Band-Aids on her leg."
    • "You are so gentle when you help Adrianne get better."
  • If the play might hurt the child, others or the environment, find a safer place or safer way to play.
  • Encourage children to use dolls or stuffed animals for patients instead of people. That way they remember the play is make-believe.
  • With your support and understanding, children can use medical play to help make hospital experiences easier to understand and tolerate.

Outpatient Services

Outpatient Child Life services are provided in Pediatric Surgery, Pediatric Radiology, Radiation Oncology, and Hematology/Oncology outpatient clinics with extended services to other pediatric specialties by staff or family request.

 Our services include:

  • Helping you and your child prepare for procedures, surgery, tests and hospital stays
  • Accompanying your child during procedures to provide coping strategies such as distraction, guided imagery, and deep breathing
  • Offering personalized patient tours
  • Offering activities to relieve stress and anxiety, and to normalize the healthcare environment

Other resources

If you have questions about our services and how we can help, please call us at 717-531-8366 or email

Care Team

We have a whole team of Child Life professionals who all work together to help you and your child feel safe and secure about their health care. Click on a name below to send an email directly to that person.


Support Associate

Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS)

Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS)

Child Life Assistants

Quick link

Donations and Special Events

Penn State Children's Hospital serves children from newborn to age 18. They each have their own unique needs while they are hospitalized.

If you are considering making a donation, please contact Child Life for guidelines at 717-531-8366 or email: All donations must be approved by Child Life staff before they can be accepted. 

If you are considering making a monetary donation, please make checks payable to "Penn State University" and note on the memo line "to benefit PSCH-Child Life".

You can mail checks to:
Penn State Health Milton S Hershey Medical Center
University Development & Alumni Relations
90 Hope Drive, A120
PO Box 852
Hershey, PA 17033


  • We cannot display denominational or religious materials.
  • We are unable to accept gently used toys, stuffed animals, homemade items or items that have been stored for a long period of time.

Children’s Wish List (all items donated, must be brand new)

  • All ages:
    • Children's board books — English and Spanish
    • Thin coloring books
    • Crayons — 8-, 16- or 24-count
    • Markers — washable; 8- or 16-count
    • New release Lullaby CDs
    • Fuzzy posters — various sizes
    • Sun-catchers (paint-able)
    • Individual perler bead kits
    • Play-doh — all sizes and kits
    • Super Miracle Bubbles (non-scented) — 4 oz. or 8 oz.
  • Infants:
    • Rattles
    • Teethers
    • Small Board Books
    • Fisher Price or Sassy brand cribs toys
    • Electronic light-up/Musical toys
    • Stacking/Nesting toys/Infant links
    • Activity gyms and play mats
  • Preschoolers:
    • Stickers
    • Small, easy craft kits
  • School Age:
    • Small Lego kits
    • Craft kits - Individual
    • Latch hook kits
    • Board games — Sorry, Trouble, Apple to Apples, Monopoly, Monopoly Jr., Battleship, Connect 4, Boggle, Bop It, Scrabble Jr., Boggle, Clue, Clue Jr., Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Memory Games 
    • Card games — regular playing cards, UNO, Skip-Bo, Phase 10
  • Teenagers:
    • Arts and crafts kits (Alex brand products are a favorite)
    • Sketch pads and sketch tools
    • Snap together model car kits
    • Current teen magazines
    • Chapstick / Lip gloss
    • Lipsmackers Chapstick
    • Body lotions and body sprays
    • AXE products (items for our older teens)
    • Nail polish (no nail polish remover)
  • Wish lists:

We are not able to accept:

  • Blankets
  • Caps / Hats
  • Stuffed animals
  • Used books
  • VHS tapes
  • Homemade cards

Donation Delivery

Please remember that all donations must be approved by the Child Life Program before delivery. Donors are unable to hand deliver donations directly to the patients. Please deliver donations to the information desk in the Children's Hospital main lobby:

Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Please call about weekend delivery options. The information desk staff will ask you for your name and address at the time of delivery.

Special Visitor Policy

Special Visitors and entertainers who want to visit our patients are screened by the Child Life Program to make sure events are safe, appropriate and respectful of patients’ rights. 

For the safety of our patients, we cannot accept every offer, but please know that we do appreciate you thinking of the children here.

  • Visitation guidelines and application will be shared with the contact person.
  • A Child Life staff member or designee must accompany special visitors and entertainers.
  • Requests for programs with religious themes are referred to Pastoral Services, 717-531-8177
  • Requests for Christmas caroling are referred to Center Stage or e-mail directly to

For more information on special visitors and performances, including other guidelines and an application, please contact Sarah Miller, Child Life Support Associate.

We consider events that are:

  • Highly entertaining, educational and therapeutic
  • Distinctive (we can only accommodate so many similar acts)
  • Appropriate for our patients’ age ranges (infant to 18 years)
  • Religiously, politically and socially neutral
  • Appropriate for the hospital setting
  • Safe for our patients emotionally and physically
  • Appropriate for the space available


Thank you for your interest in the field of Child Life at Penn State Children's Hospital.

We are happy to provide shadowing opportunities to college students who are able to complete the necessary process. Due to the high demand and interest in the Child Life profession, we are not accepting high school students for this opportunity.

At this time, we are able to offer a 4-hour morning shadowing experience, only. We are unable to accommodate multiple-day shadowing requests or requests to fulfill specific course requirements. We appreciate your understanding and flexibility in scheduling your shadow opportunity with us.

The process you will need to follow to participate in a shadowing experience includes:

  • Refer to the Academic Placements website for program guidelines which you will participate in "Observation/Career Shadowing Program". Be sure to read this website carefully.

Complete the following forms:

Scan all forms and e-mail or fax forms to:

Deb Grubb
Administrative Secretary
Fax: 717-531-0135

You may follow-up with Deb once your application and all forms have been completed and emailed.

Please follow these steps to the best of your ability. All steps must be completed prior to your shadowing experience. This process may take 4-8 weeks or longer. If approved, Deb will contact you and the Child Life Shadow Student coordinator to schedule a time.

If selected to shadow:

  • Familiarize yourself with the Child Life Council
  • Be prepared with questions
  • Arrive with a photo ID prior to scheduled start time to check-in with security and receive your visitor's badge
  • Come dressed in professional attire as well as comfortable, closed-toe shoes.
  • If for any reason you are unable to make your scheduled time, please contact us immediately.

If you have any questions related to this process please contact

Kate Stoltzfoos, CCLS
Child Life Program Shadow Student Coordinator
Penn State Children's Hospital
717-531-0003, ext. 281752


The Child Life Program at Penn State Children's Hospital provides direct patient care to approximately 72 inpatient pediatric beds, 42 NICU beds and several outpatient areas that serve pediatric patients.

Our internship offers over 600 hours of clinical time (40 hours per week over 16 weeks) during the spring and fall semesters only. We do not currently offer a summer internship. No more than two interns will be selected for each semester and each intern will complete three rotations in different areas of the hospital.

Interns may have the opportunity to rotate in the following areas:

  • Surgery
  • Acute care
  • Inpatient Hematology/Oncology
  • Pediatric Intensive Care/Intermediate Care
  • Outpatient Hematology/Oncology clinic
  • NICU
  • Emergency Department.

Requirements for Internship Applicants

To be considered for the internship, the following criteria must be met: 

  • Senior college level student, graduate student or a non-affiliated applicant with or in pursuit of a degree in one of the following fields:
    • Child Life
    • Child/Family/Human Development 
    • Degrees in Early Childhood Education, Behavioral or Child Psychology, Recreational Therapy, and Music Therapy may also be considered if appropriate course work has been completed.

Note: Non-affiliated applicants are required to sign a "Letter of Agreement" and purchase liability insurance.  Verification of liability insurance will be required.

  • “Passed” status on the CLC Eligibility Assessment for all academic requirements (10 Academic courses and all six Child Life Course Topics)
  • Minimum GPA 3.0
  • One hundred hours of volunteer or work experience with children in the hospital setting (Practicum hours would apply)
  • One hundred hours of volunteer or work experience with children in other settings such as day care, summer camps, etc.
    • Volunteer hours must be completed by time of application
  • An onsite interview is required to be considered for the internship

For additional information or questions regarding the application process please contact the Child Life Internship Coordinator.

Application Process

  • Common Child Life Internship Application (PDF version)
    • Note: application must be typed and must include the official Child Life Council Eligibility Assessment and official transcripts
  • Penn State Children's Hospital Supplemental Application (PDF)
  • Verification of volunteer hours in a hospital setting
  • Resume and Cover Letter
  • Two reference letters
    • References should be written paragraph style addressing your knowledge and skills relating to your work with children and professionals.
    • One recommendation from a supervisor who has directly observed your work with children in a healthcare setting (Preferably from a CCLS)
    • One recommendation from a supervisor who has directly observed your work with children in other professional settings

Mail all application materials in one packet to address:

Penn State Children's Hospital
Child Life Internship Program, MC CH03
500 University Drive
PO Box 850
Hershey PA 17033 

Internship Offer and Acceptance Dates
Anticipated Start Date Application Packet Received By Initial Offer Dates Acceptance Dates
January September 5


Second Tuesday


Second Wednesday

September May 5


Second Tuesday


Second Wednesday


At this time, we're unable to support Recreation Therapy students for internships or practicum experiences.


The Child Life Program at Penn State Children's Hospital is pleased to offer a professional Child Life Practicum Program during the Summer for students wishing to pursue a career in the Child Life profession. The Practicum Program is designed to provide an introduction to Child Life through observations and project completions.

The practicum will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays (8 hours per day) for 10 consecutive weeks (160 hours). One student will be selected to complete the practicum which will be offered from May 16 through July 20, 2017. Please be advised that Practicum hours cannot be used to satisfy the required internship hours to sit for the Child Life Certification. The deadline for applications is February 1. If you have any questions, please contact Practicum Co-Coordinators: Julie O'Neill or Carrie Myers.

In order to be considered for this practicum, you must:

  • Be entering your junior or senior year of college, or have graduated with at least a Bachelor's (4-year) degree; GPA of 3.0 or higher required
  • Have completed at least three college level course in child development, child life, psychology, or a related field
  • Have completed at least 50 hours volunteer or paid experience working with children.

In order to satisfy any required academic credit, please also return with your application any pertinent requirements as determined by your course of study (i.e. course outlines, syllabus, etc.).

Deadlines are:

  • Practicum Session - May 16 - July 20, 2017
  • Application Deadline - February 1, 2017
  • Offer Deadline - March 1, 2017
  • Acceptance Deadline - March 8, 2017


You may hand write (legibly) or type your application. Mail your complete application in one envelope. The complete application packet must be postmarked by February 1, 2017. Please include:

  • Practicum Application (including essay)
  • Two reference letters in sealed envelopes (One letter must be from a person who has observed your work with children, and one letter from your academic advisor.)
  • Official transcript from each school attended (Include list of courses in which you are currently enrolled, if applicable.)

Mail to:

Penn State Children's Hospital
Child Life Program - Practicum
c/o Julie O'Neill and Carrie Myers
500 University Drive
Hershey, PA 17033

Upon review of your application, you will be notified by phone of your selection status, which may include scheduling an interview. Interviews will be conducted beginning February 16, 2016. A site interview is preferred if you live within 100 miles of Hershey, PA. However, a phone interview can be arranged if you live outside the 100 mile radius or are unable to attend a personal interview.

If you are accepted as a practicum student and are affiliated with a college or university, please note that prior to the start of your practicum, an affiliation agreement must be entered into between Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and your school. If a contract is failed to be negotiated, the practicum placement becomes void.

This is an unpaid practicum. Please also be advised that required clearances, housing, and transportation are the responsibility of the student.

Mission and Goals

  • To give pediatric patients the opportunity to provide suggestions in an effort to strengthen pediatric services in the hospital
  • To participate in community service projects
  • To improve the hospital atmosphere and quality of care for patients and their families
  • To act as a "voice" for current pediatric patients

Selection Process

  • ACT members are nominated by hospital staff or personally express interest
  • Members must be previous or current patients between the ages of 12 - high school graduation
  • Members must be willing to participate in, and contribute to, meetings and special events
  • Members must commit to ACT for a minimum of one year
  • Applications/Brochures are available, please email us at for more information


If you would like to find out more information about our Advisory Council of Teens, please contact one of our coordinators:


Penn State Hershey
Penn State Childrens
Penn State College of Medicine
Penn State University