Child Life Mommy

Guest Post by Shani Thornton, 


Working with children in the healthcare field can be both rewarding and also challenging. Kids can be fearful, have misconceptions and be noncompliant for their treatments. Child life specialists work with children and families to provide psychosocial, emotional support and educate them in a developmentally appropriate approach to help make their medical experience a more positive one.


But what if a child life specialist isn’t made available? Here are 4 tips that any healthcare provider can incorporate in their setting:


1) Create a Kid Friendly Space

By offering a few toys, activities and books in a waiting area kids will feel more welcomed into the space and their anxiety will decrease. Mounting a TV to play a children’s network or having a dry erase board in the exam room, let’s kids stay distracted while they wait.


It's Time for Your Checkup2) Teach Before You Touch

Kids cope much better during medical exams and procedures when they are know what to expect. Explaining the steps and demonstrating on a doll or stuffed animal will give the child both a verbal and visual breakdown.



Providing them with simple language that incorporates the five senses can help kids feel more comfortable about this new experience. You can even provide them with a role, “Your only job is to keep your body as still as you can” or “Your job is to take big deep breaths.” 



Child Life Specialist

3) Communicate with the Patient and Caregiver

By gathering information from their previous medical experience; it can help to create a plan for their current one. For example, if a child needs a throat culture ask if they had one before, what was the easiest part, what was the most challenging, how were they positioned?


You can then discuss ways to incorporate the successes and make slight changes if needed. Some of those strategies might be demonstrating the steps on the doll, having the child sit on their caregiver’s lap or giving them a choice of closing their eyes or looking at something in the room.



4) Recognize their Bravery

When a child is done with their exam give them one example of something that they were successful at. “You did a great job at holding your arm still.” or “You took the biggest deep breaths to blow those feelings away.” Then let them choose a bravery reward of a small toy or sticker. 




Shani Thornton is a Certified Child Life Specialist and parent of two young boys. She provides in-home child life services from her private practice in Nassau County, New York. To get more resources on parenting and child life, follow her blog at

 Shani Thornton Child Life Specialist


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