Child Life Program
Child Life Program
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.
Mindfulness and yoga techniques
Introducing your children to yoga at an early age can help them learn healthy lifestyle habits and set the foundation for a fit future. This is a short instructional video of mindfulness and yoga techniques that can be used with children experiencing stress. A mindful breath can provide children with a sense of control while simple yoga poses can promote physical wellness and movement.
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.
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.
- Stuffed animals or dolls
- Needleless syringes
- Operating room (O.R.) hat, mask and gloves
- Scissors (if your child can safely and comfortably use scissors)
- Tongue depressors
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 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
- Radiology Procedure Preparation
- Pet Therapy
- Sibling Support
- Surgery Preparation Video
- Facility Dog
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.
- Sarah Miller, BS (Donations, Special Events)
Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS)
- Natalie Chango, MS, CCLS, Senior Child Life Specialist (Internship Coordinator and Children of Adult Patients)
- Katie Altieri, CCLS, Child Life Fellow (Radiology)
- Bethany Aney, CCLS (Outpatient Pediatric Hematology/Oncology)
- Carrie Ashby, MEd, CCLS II, CEMI (NICU/CCN)
- Allyson Cable, CCLS (Emergency Department)
- Alicia Cesare, BS, CCLS (Radiology)
- Paige Deljanovan, CCLS (Float Radiology/Emergency Department)
- Drew Heying, CCLS (Peri-Anesthesia/Surgery)
- Jennie Kriznik, BS, CCLS (Main OR, University Physician Center clinics)
- Joan McGeary, MS, CCLS II (Pediatric Intensive Care/Intermediate Care)
- Julia O'Neill, MEd, CCLS II (Emergency Department)
- Lindsey Reynolds, MS, CCLS (Inpatient Medical/Surgical)
- Erin Shaffer, BS, CCLS (Inpatient Hematology/Oncology)
- Kristen Shiner, BS, CCLS (Float)
Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS)
Child Life Assistants
- Kaia (MRI/CT/Radiology/Radiation Oncology)
- Becky (Inpatient Units – Inpatient Medical/Surgical, Hematology/Oncology, Intermediate Care, Pediatric Intensive Care)
*Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) concerns, Child Life is canceling all item donations until further notice. Child Life is well-stocked with items for patients for the immediate future.
Donations and Special Events
Penn State Children's Hospital serves children from newborn to age 18. Each age group has their own unique needs while they are hospitalized.
Child Life must be made aware of any potential donations. Due to recent events, donations cannot be dropped off without notice to Child Life.
Child Life Wish Lists
Please view our wish list registry for our most requested items.
For comprehensive wish lists, please click on the links below:
- Child Life wish list
- Child Life Book wish list
- NICU Child Life wish list
- Starlight Foundation wish list
Reminders and Special Notes
- All items donated must be new (store bought and in original packaging).
- For the safety of our patients, we cannot accept gently used toys, stuffed animals, or homemade items.This includes items that have been stored for a period of time, even if they were never played with
- We cannot display denominational or religious materials.
- Please be sure to check all hand sewn items to remove any needles or pins you may have used when making the item.
- Due to new Safe Sleep standards, we cannot accept crocheted or knitted hats for our infant patients.
- We are unable to accept handwritten notes and/or homemade cards.
- Out of sensitivity to our patients and families, please avoid including personal information on or with your donated items. This includes, tribute messages (“in memory or honor of”), or your business information.
- Please note: For the safety and privacy of our patients and families, donors are NOT permitted to hand deliver donations directly to patients.
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". Monetary donations will be used by the Child Life Department to purchase supplies for our patients, playrooms and to host events.
You can mail checks to:
Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
University Development and Alumni Relations
1249 Cocoa Avenue, HS20
PO Box 852
Hershey, PA 17033
If you have already completed your donation drive or collection, please contact Child Life as soon as possible to discuss the items that you have collected. The Donation Drive form will also need to be included with your donation. Prior to delivering your donation, please contact Child Life to coordinate a delivery date and time.
Please be sure to include the Donation Drive form with your donation. You will be asked to give your name and contact information when dropping off the donation. All donations are dropped off in the Children’s Hospital lobby with our Information Desk.
Donations must be boxed or bagged when delivered. Please call regarding weekend delivery options.
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
- 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 ACT@pennstatehealth.psu.edu for more information
If you would like to find out more information about our Advisory Council of Teens, please contact one of our coordinators: