Child Life Program & Music Therapy

The goal of the Child Life program at University of Missouri Health Care Children’s Hospital is to provide an environment where children can gain a better understanding of the hospital and medical treatments.

Child Life Group Photo

Specially trained Child Life specialists help children feel comfortable in the hospital and let kids be kids, even when they are sick or injured. A Child Life specialist helps children through activities such as:

  • Activities to continue normal growth and development of infants, children and adolescents in hospital patient rooms and/or activity areas
  • Community education on the needs of children and their families
  • Emergency room interventions
  • Hospital pre-admission tours and information
  • Non-medical preparation for tests, surgeries and other medical procedures
  • Outpatient consultations with families
  • Planning special events, holiday celebrations, entertainment and donations
  • Sibling support
  • Support during medical procedures
  • Support for grief and bereavement
  • Supporting hospital school programs
  • Therapeutic medical play using special dolls, stuffed animals and medical equipment
  • Various pediatric therapies, including animal-assisted therapy.

Child Life specialists also organize many programs and activities for children.

Children's play

Children learn new things through play. Child Life specialists understand this need to play, especially when a child is in a new, unfamiliar environment, such as the hospital. At MU Health Care, children are encouraged to play with each other in the hospital playroom and the adolescent activity room. Child Life specialists and therapists provide art activities and games every day. The Child Life program also gives kids the chance for expressive play to help them share their feelings about being in the hospital.

Medical play and preparation

Child Life specialists help children learn about medical procedures and equipment through hands-on play. These activities help children learn about their illness and other hospital experiences. Medical play is also used to prepare children for procedures such as an IV insertion or blood draw. Medical play helps clear up any misunderstandings about illness or procedures and gives children and teens a sense of control over their hospital experience.

Positive coping

The hospital can be a stressful place and coping with a hospital stay can be difficult. Child Life specialists support children and teens during scary, and sometimes painful, procedures by teaching coping strategies. These strategies include blowing bubbles, holding hands, relaxation and imagery. Child Life specialists can be with children during procedures to focus on their emotional needs.

Parents and families

Your family is an important part of your child's healing process. Child Life specialists provide support to parents, including sharing information on development and ideas for helping children cope with hospitalization. Child Life specialists also provide emotional support to the siblings of pediatric and adolescent patients.

Special events

Child Life specialists organize special events for children and teens in the hospital. These include a weekly pet therapy program, birthday celebrations, holiday celebrations and visits from community members.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is a clinical and evidence-based Allied health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. (AMTA,

Our music therapist uses music as a way to connect with our patients and families during hospital admissions, positively impacting the body’s ability to heal. Patients may actively participate in music therapy sessions through instrumental play, singing, movement to music or songwriting. They may also receive services passively through listening and relaxation.

Our music therapist works in collaboration with the multidisciplinary team to best fit the needs of patients and their families during hospitalization.

No prior musical experience or ability is necessary to benefit from music therapy services. The music therapist utilizes age-appropriate, patient preferred music during sessions, as research has shown patient preferred music is most effective in achieving patient goals.

Research shows that music therapy is effective in addressing needs including:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Coping skills
  • Developmental needs
  • Emotional support and expression
  • Energy and physical movement
  • Grief and loss
  • Tolerance to stimulation
  • Non-Nutritive sucking
  • Mood and depression
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Family support
  • Pain, nausea and discomfort
  • Restlessness or insomnia
  • Sensory and cognitive stimulation
  • Speech and communication

Contact Music Therapy:
Email Emily Pivovarnik, MM, MT-BC, NICU-MT or call 573-771-4227.

Find more information on music therapy

*Special thanks to Pascals Pals and Mizzou Dance Marathon for making this program a possibility.