Our Child Life Department helps make your family’s experience at the hospital a positive one. Child Life specialists are members of your child’s healthcare team. They work directly with you and your child to help you relieve tension, express concerns and fears, and feel more in control about your hospital experience.

Child Life Specialists…

  • Explain a diagnosis or treatment in words your child or teen can understand.
  • Create a coping plan your child can use during a medical test or procedure.
  • Offer support during and after a medical test or procedure.
  • Use play to help your child understand medical procedures and express feelings.
  • Work with medical staff to assess your child’s unique needs.
  • Give you information about child development and the effects of healthcare.
  • Teach techniques to help your child cope and relax.
  • Offer support to help families cope with death or loss in partnership with the Journey Program.  

Therapeutic play programs promote healing and help children express feelings and cope with pain. Our art and music therapists work with patients at the bedside, as well as in small groups. Our Pet Partners visit most of our hospital units.

Art and Music Therapy

Art and music therapy services are provided on all inpatient units at the main campus in Seattle. Individual therapy sessions are provided on a referral basis. To request a referral, ask your nurse or medical team to put in an order for music therapy or art therapy. For more information about these services, please contact the Child Life administrative office at 206-987-2179.

Goals of art and music therapy

  • Decrease anxiety.
  • Promote expression of feelings and emotions related to illnesses.
  • Decrease perception of pain.
  • Increase opportunities for normalized play.
  • Increase functional motor skills.
  • Improve verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  • Develop positive coping skills.
  • Promote relaxation.
  • Provide opportunities for peer interaction.
  • Promote a sense of community within the hospital environment.
  • Increase opportunities for choice and control.

Patients do not have to be artistic or musical to benefit from art and music therapy!

Art therapy

Art Therapy

Art therapist Rosalie Frankel with patient Jaylin after an art therapy session.

By using art interventions like drawing, painting, clay and collage, patients and families increase self-awareness; cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences; and find joy in the process.

All the art therapists at Seattle Children’s Hospital are board-certified, which means they have a master’s degree in art therapy, passed the national board certification exam and completed at least 1,200 supervised internship hours after graduation. As part of the coursework, art therapists complete coursework in human development and counseling, and become proficient with a variety of art materials.

Music therapy

Music Therapy

Music therapist Betsy Hartman with patient Allistaire during a music therapy session.

Through singing, instrument playing, songwriting, music listening, drumming or other music activities, music therapy helps patients and families feel comfortable and have a normal experience while they’re in the hospital. Our music therapists are trained to create individualized goals to give patients the opportunity to learn new coping skills, make progress during physical rehab and be distracted from pain and anxiety.

All the music therapists at Seattle Children’s Hospital are board-certified, which means they have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, completed a 1,200-hour supervised internship and passed the board certification exam. As part of the coursework, all board-certified music therapists must have proficiency in voice, guitar, piano and percussion.

Animal-Assisted Activities

Animal-Assisted Activities at Seattle Children’s Hospital

For some children, the stress of a hospital stay can be so overwhelming that medical treatment becomes extremely difficult. But a visit from a therapy dog gives many patients the energy and motivation they need to make progress and to experience joy, even in the midst of challenging circumstances.

Seattle Children’s Animal-Assisted Activities program, presented by PetSmart Paws for Hope, offers patients, family and staff interaction with volunteer dogs and handlers registered with Pet Partners. Benefits include stress reduction, normalization of the hospital environment and overall feelings of comfort and happiness. We have several volunteer dog teams who take turns visiting patients every day. Therapy dog teams regularly visit most hospitalized children.

Services We Offer

Inpatient Playroom

Our inpatient playroom is a place for fun, safe, supportive play and social interaction. Children enjoy activities and entertainment, as well as a wide variety of books, toys and crafts. Patients and their brothers and sisters, accompanied by an adult family member, are welcome in the playroom. Trained volunteers are available to help with activities in the playroom or in patient rooms. Check our schedule of events and activities, posted each week in the playroom, on all inpatient units and in the Family Resource Center.

  • On level 4 of Seattle Children’s, by the Frog elevator
  • Volunteers are available for play sessions:
    • Monday through Thursday: 10 a.m. to noon, 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.
    • Friday through Sunday: 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m.
  • Open:
    • Monday through Thursday: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Friday: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Teen Zone

Teens and their brothers and sisters age 12 and older are welcome to visit the Teen Zone. It has video games, computers, a foosball table, board games and arts and crafts.

  • On level 4 of Seattle Children’s in the Mountain A zone
  • Open:
    • Monday through Thursday: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Friday: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Clinic Playrooms

Seattle main campus

The Clinic Playroom is a place where patients and their brothers and sisters can play while at the hospital for a clinic appointment. The Clinic Playroom welcomes children ages 3 to 11 years old who are toilet-trained, on a first-come, first-served basis. They may stay for up to two hours. Patients and younger children are welcome in the Clinic Playroom when an adult is with them..

  •  On level 6 of Seattle Children’s in the Ocean zone
  • Open:
    • Monday through Friday: 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.

Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center

South Clinic in Federal Way