Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department | UC Davis Children's Hospital

Pediatric Support Services

Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department

Supporting the emotional well-being of hospitalized children and their families.

child playing with sand
Healthcare worker working with child patient

About our department

Health care experiences and hospitalization can be hard for children and families. Our team works with patients, families, and the medical staff to provide services that meet the unique psychosocial and developmental needs of each child and family.

Child Life and Creative Art Therapy services are offered in many different locations throughout UC Davis Children’s Hospital; please view the "Our Team" tab for more details on where you can find us. 

Connect with our team

Child life specialists

Watch Videovideo iconChild life specialist talks to a child.
Child life specialists are experts in child development and focus on the emotional well-being of hospitalized children.

Child life specialists are experts in child development and focus on the emotional well-being of hospitalized children and their families to reduce anxiety and promote coping. Coping is supported through play, self-expressive activities and age-appropriate medical preparation and education.

Below you will find information about the services we provide.

  • child life specialist working with child patient

    Procedural preparation

    When children understand more about tests and procedures, they are better able to cope with the related stressors. Preparation involves the use of developmentally appropriate teaching tools to explain the experience. A key part of the preparation process is to work with the child to create a coping plan.

  • health care worker supporting child patient

    Procedural support

    The Comfort Commitment is used for each procedure. This is a 4-step process: Ask, Share, Plan, and Do. Through partnering with children and families in this process, we are able to create individualized coping plans to decrease pain and anxiety.

    Learn more about Comfort Commitment
  • Child patient playing with health care worker

    Medical play

    We use medical kits and supplies in a play-based way to help children learn more about experiences they may have during hospitalization. This also gives children a sense of control and helps them process feelings.

  • young patients playing with toys


    Play normalizes the hospital environment and provides an important recreational outlet. Through play, children realize that they can master challenges, and this helps to reinforce a sense of hope. Play also helps children express feelings and make sense of their world.

  • Emotional support dog and young patient interacting

    Emotional support

    We support children as they express fears, concerns, and frustrations that arise from hospitalization. We work to normalize feelings, validate what is expressed, address misconceptions, and advocate on behalf of each child and family.

  • young siblings hugging in hospital room

    Sibling support

    We support siblings through working to bridge the gap between home and hospital. Additionally, we provide education and preparation about a sibling's medical situation, and support visits to the hospital, as appropriate.

  • child smiling with mother

    Bereavement support

    We are trained to support families as they navigate change and loss. We share information, resources, and strategies to support children during these situations.

  • young patient with Santa

    Special events and activities

    We facilitate special events and activities for patients and families. These events help to soften the hospital experience and create ways for families to continue traditions.

    Learn more about our programs

Ways we support children

Art therapy

Art therapy is a non-verbal form of therapy that involves the creative process to improve the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of patients and families. You do not need to have artistic training to participate in and receive benefits from art therapy. The art therapists at UC Davis Children’s Hospital provide individual and group art therapy sessions for children of all ages and developmental levels. These opportunities promote self-expression, communication and coping through art.

Art therapy can help:

  • Increase self-esteem and build confidence
  • Express trauma and body image
  • Adjustment and coping skills
  • Process difficult emotions
  • Provide opportunity for socialization and family bonding
  • Teach developmental skills
  • Improve and increase physical movement

During art therapy sessions, a variety of art techniques may be used, including:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Collage
  • Sculpting
  • Textile Art
  • Digital Art
  • Photography

Music therapy

Music therapy combines music interventions and techniques to help patients accomplish individualized goals with the support of a board-certified music therapist. Patients do not have to know how to play an instrument in order to benefit from music therapy. The music therapists at UC Davis Children’s Hospital collaborate directly with the patient’s care team to provide appropriate music therapy services throughout the patient’s hospitalization.

Music therapy can help:

  • Cope with being in the hospital
  • Manage and decrease pain
  • Decrease anxiety and stress
  • Express feelings
  • Bond with family
  • Improve and increase physical activity
  • Promote developmental milestones
  • Provide opportunities for legacy making

During music therapy sessions, a variety of music techniques may be used, including:

  • Singing
  • Exploring instruments or learning to play an instrument
  • Playing musical games
  • Relaxing to music
  • Writing a song
  • Moving to music
  • Learning how to DJ
  • Recording music

School services

School is an important part of every child’s routine. While children are in the hospital, they are encouraged to continue their education and achieve their academic goals through the hospital school program.

As members of the patient care team, our two full-time credentialed teachers collaborate with the patient’s classroom and/or home instruction teacher to develop an education plan for the child’s hospital stay.

Educational sessions for K-12 patients are provided in a small group setting or at the patient’s bedside, as medically appropriate. A parent or guardian's signature is required to enroll.

Hospital school teachers provide patient and family support in the following areas:

  • Assessment of educational needs and instructional support for hospitalized patients K-12
  • Development of academically inviting curriculum when patient’s own schoolwork is not obtainable
  • Provision of support and advocacy resources to parents/guardians (Home Hospital Instruction enrollment forms, IEP/504 plans, Illness/Injury materials for teachers, etc.)
  • Assistance with school re-entry prior to discharge from the hospital

Play spaces

Having play spaces within the hospital encourages children to PLAY! Play supports development and coping. Within most pediatric units, there are designated play spaces to promote creativity and socialization outside of their hospital room. These playrooms are staffed by child life department team members, along with school and community volunteers. Patients on isolation precaution are unable to go to playrooms, however, most play and craft items can be delivered to the patient's room. As well, patients on isolation can participate in group programming virtually.

(The hours and availability of each playroom are varied. For the most up-to-date information, please ask your bedside nurse or child life specialist.)

Davis 7 Playroom (General Pediatrics)

Located on Davis 7, the playroom is filled with games, books, arts, crafts, and is also where much of our group programming happens.

Davis 7 Teen Lounge (General Pediatrics)

Located in the middle of Davis 7, this room is meant for teens to connect, play games, read, and create! Ask a bedside nurse or child life specialist if your teenager would like to go to the teen lounge. 

Tower 6 Playroom (Acute Care Pediatrics)

This playroom is a space where patients can go to participate in activities, groups, or choose items for their room. There are mobile gaming systems and DVD players that can be provided at bedside.

Davis 10 Playroom (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit)

Designated for critical patients and their families, the Davis 10 playroom provides a space for respite and play. The playroom contains games, books, arts and crafts, and developmentally appropriate toys.

Contact us

Parents and families can contact the Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department to find out more about our services.

Child Life & Creative Arts Therapy Department

4301 X St.
Sacramento, CA 95817

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