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Research shows that children who are prepared for their medical experiences have less fear, increased cooperation and fewer negative responses.

That’s why Shriners Children’s provides child life specialists and recreational therapists for patients and their families to help reduce the stress associated with health care.

The staff in our child life departments are trained professionals available to help you and your child have a positive experience during hospital stays and clinic visits. As members of your health care team, they work directly with your child to reduce anxiety and stress during medical procedures or hospitalization.

With their knowledge, training and understanding of child development, our teams work with your child — often through play — to help them feel more comfortable, calm and confident while visiting Shriners Children’s for procedures, surgeries and hospital stays.

They help children cope through play, self-expressive activities, and age-appropriate medical preparation and education. A child life specialist can help families in many ways:

  • Help ease a child's fear and anxiety through therapeutic and recreational play activities or through encouraging healthy expression of feelings
  • Encourage a child's cooperation with and understanding of a medical procedure
  • Make a child’s time with us feel special by providing special events, entertainment and activities
  • Help foster a supportive environment
  • Help the patient's siblings understand and cope
  • Engage with a child and distract them during a quick procedure, such as getting a cast, with play, tablet devices and funny stories
  • Help demystify the hospital experience with games and medical play

Here you can learn more about the child life services we offer and how they are involved in your child's care.

Specific treatments and services may vary by location. Please contact a specific location for more information.

Easing Worries Prior to Medical Procedures

Child life specialists are available to reduce the stresses associated with staying in the hospital and to teach patients and families coping skills through offering opportunities to play, learn and interact with others in an emotionally and socially safe environment. Play experiences help children express fears and misconceptions of hospitalization and medical procedures. Services include procedural preparation and support, non-pharmacological pain management techniques, pre-op teaching prior to surgery, medical play and education about new diagnoses.

In most cases, prior to the date of surgery, child life therapists will schedule a time meet with each child and family. They explain what the child may see, hear, smell or feel during their surgery and recovery. They accomplish this through medical play – where a child has the opportunity to see, touch, and feel many of the items they will see and experience on the day of surgery. Medical play can help children feel informed and give your child a sense of control while becoming familiar with hospital equipment.

Bringing Fun to the Medical Setting

Child life specialists facilitate a number of special activities and visitors in our facilities. During your visit, you may see therapy animals, musicians, magicians or costumed characters, or have the chance to take part in holiday-themed parties. They also have plenty of games, arts and crafts and other entertainment to encourage children to leave their hospital rooms and engage with other children or just have a have a little fun.

Support for More Than Just the Patient

Child life specialists are advocates for family-centered care. Families should think of our child life specialists as their partners in navigating the hospital experience. They work with our doctors, nurses, social workers and others to meet the unique emotional, developmental, and cultural needs of each child and family.

Skin Care and Make-up Program

The skin care and make-up program offered at some Shriners Children’s locations for burn patients offers corrective cosmetic consultations to promote self-confidence, self-efficacy and coping through the introduction of personal care. Consultations include color matching services and application tutorials to minimize and/or even the appearance of burn scars and skin-color differences. The technique is noninvasive and follows an education-based model to increase self-esteem and ease school and community re-entry.

Benefits include:

  • Creating symmetry of facial features
  • Evening of skin tone/s
  • Creating illusion of features that may be missing such as lip lines or eyebrows
  • Positive perception of self
  • Increased self-confidence

School and Community Re-entry Program

Returning to school after sustaining an injury or enduring a prolonged hospital stay can be both overwhelming and stressful for children and their families. The school re-entry program is ideal for any child who has experienced a burn injury, trauma or diagnosis that has caused substantial changes to the child’s lifestyle and/or aspect of self. The school re-entry program at Shriners Children’s sets itself apart from other national school re-entry programs because it is individualized to each patient. The program facilitates adjustment upon a patient’s return to school by educating the patient’s teachers and peers. In doing so, teachers and peers become an essential part of the re-entry process, ensuring the transition is a healthy, supportive, safe and positive process.

Services may include:

  • Personalized DVD made by staff discussing patients abilities, needs and necessary accommodations
  • Personalized picture books describing the patient’s recovery story
  • Regional on-site visits to patient’s schools

Criteria may need to be met to qualify for an on-site, re-entry school visit. Contact your local Shriners Children's location for additional information.


Camp opportunities for children, teens and young adults who have experienced certain medical diagnoses, trauma and/or extended hospitalization, are available throughout the country and expanding across the globe. Each camp offers a unique experience and has its own criteria for participation. Camps may be fun-based, therapeutically based or challenge-based. Consider your child’s needs and what type of camp setting may be best for them. Contact your local Shriners Children's location for additional information.

Without child life, I wouldn't have most of my friends that I have, because a lot of the friends I have are through Shriners camps. At camp, the staff and my friends helped me get to know that I'm not the only one who is like me.
Braelynn, Twin Cities
female patient sitting at desk

School and Community Re-entry program

Returning to school after sustaining an injury or enduring a prolonged hospital stay can be both overwhelming and stressful for children and their families. The school re-entry program is ideal for any child who has experienced a burn injury, trauma or diagnosis that has caused substantial changes to the child’s lifestyle and/or aspect of self.

Conditions We Support

View All Related Conditions


Scoliosis is a condition where the spine is curved sideways. With advanced treatments and world-class expertise, Shriners Children's cares for more than 10,000 children with scoliosis each year

Burn Care

Shriners Children’s treats all levels and types of burns, including chemical burns, electrical burns and flame burns. Our pediatric burn care treatment plans are personalized and can include wound care, scar management and reconstruction.

Spina Bifida

At Shriners Children's, our unique team of specialists provides the highest quality care for your child with spina bifida.

Cerebral Palsy

At Shriners Children's, our team of specialists provides individualized care for your child with cerebral palsy.

Limb Deficiencies

Shriners Children's specializes in treating limb deficiencies, which occur when part or all of a child's limb does not completely form during pregnancy or as a result of a major injury.

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury occurs when nerves in the spinal column in the center of the back are damaged. Shriners Children’s offers advanced surgery options and therapy options to help restore your child’s function and mobility.

Next Steps

Request an Appointment

Families and caregivers seeking treatment should start by contacting us for an appointment.

Log in to the Patient Portal

Parents and guardians of existing patients can email, request records, schedule appointments and more.

Refer a Patient

Physicians and healthcare providers can request appointments, start transfers or contact us with questions.