Child Life Program

The Child Life Program is designed to promote development in children, adolescents, and their families, and to minimize the psychological trauma of hospitalization.

The program provides developmental stimulation, support during stressful times, and advocacy for children's emotional and psychological needs.

Boy in a toy car

Our program is a regional service that provides programming throughout central and southern New Hampshire. Certified Child Life Specialists work collaboratively to meet the needs of patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings and are available to provide resources and consultations throughout CHaD and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Our goal is to help children and their families acclimate to the healthcare environment and to understand and manage challenging and stressful situations. Patients and their families are our number one priority.

How can the Child Life team help my child?

If you know your child will need special support while in the hospital, or if you are trying to find the best way to explain to your child or his/her siblings why they are in the hospital, we can help.

Along with other health providers and in a supportive relationship with children and families, we provide:

  • Opportunities for play and activities to promote self-expression, understanding, and mastery
  • Emotional support during stressful situations
  • Parent education on child/adolescent development
  • Continuity in your child's normal life experience, such as school programs or personal and holiday celebrations
  • Support and counsel to family members with respect to their own stress needs

In addition, we can help your child's team develop individual treatment plans based on an assessment of your child's development, temperament, coping style, medical needs, and available social supports. This includes:

  • Therapeutic play techniques as assessment and intervention tools
  • Developmentally appropriate methods for preparing children/adolescents for diagnostic and treatment procedures
  • Consultation to your child's health care team regarding his or her developmental status and individual needs

Credentials and training

Certified Child Life Specialists have earned a bachelor's or master's degree, with an educational background in:

  • Child life
  • Child development
  • Psychology
  • Education

Child Life Specialists are required to have completed a rigorous clinical internship and are then eligible to sit for a national certification exam administered by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP).

Our work with students and volunteers

The Child Life Program offers Internship and Practicum programs for prospective Child Life professionals.

Child Life Specialists provide interdisciplinary in-services in child development and the impact of illness, injury, and hospitalization on children and families to students, residents, and departments within CHaD and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Our internship program offers practicum and intern opportunities to child life students in alignment with ACLP guidelines. We also orient and supervise volunteers on the Pediatric and Adolescent Unit.