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Child Life

We help make hospitalization a more positive experience, and prepare children, youth and families for life-altering events and upcoming procedures.

Child life also promotes coping through various interventions to help children, youth and families with stressful events. Providing play and other normal activities can help with this coping process. Child life programs endeavour to meet each family’s unique emotional and social needs. 

Child life programs typically offer several services to address the social and emotional needs of children, youth and families:


  • therapeutic and recreational play opportunities;
  • age-appropriate activities and explanations;
  • preparation before and support during and after stressful events;
  • opportunities for peer socialization;
  • coping techniques, such as distraction, breathing, relaxation techniques, for procedures;
  • coordination of holiday events, entertainment and special visitors;
  • advocacy for family-centered care

Volunteering with us

Volunteers and students are also an integral part of child life service. If you would like to volunteer, see Volunteer with Us.

Donating toys & games

If you would like a list of toys, games and other items the Child Life Department needs in their play areas and units, please see our wish list.

Due to infection control guidelines, we regret that we cannot accept any used toys or books for patient care areas. 

General Inquiries

For general inquiries please contact our departmental secretary: 

Giuli DeVito
604-875-2345 ext. 7648

For departmental inquiries please contact our interim professional practice lead:
Joanne Hochu
640-875-2345 ext. 7687


Child Life program

Children and youth need to understand what is happening to them. A child life specialist can help children and youth understand their experiences and feelings through play, education and support.

Being at the hospital is stressful for anyone. Hospitalized children and youth may experience:

  • anxiety and pain related to their diagnosis, procedures, or treatments,
  • interruption of normal routines,
  • separation from family, friends, and familiar surroundings, or
  • loss of independence.
Child life specialists are assigned to each of the inpatient units. They also supervise the playrooms and teen lounge, and provide coverage to some outpatient areas and the Emergency Department.

Child life staff work 7 days a week, with some evening programming for youth. Hours for the child life staff vary - please contact the Child Life office for more information. 

Child Life & Music Therapy

Child Life Specialists

Child life specialists come from a variety of backgrounds. A child life specialist has a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a child development, or a child and family-related field of study. Child life specialists are professionally certified through the Child Life Council.

The child life specialists at Children’s are:

NameProgramE-mail Address

Amanda Lascelle



Bernadette Sanchez

Emergency Department


Catherine Leung

Burn Program


Catia Stuart

Creative Arts Program


Claire Brown

Inpatient Units


Dawn McKellar

Inpatient Units


Giuli De Vito


Heather Denton

Oncology Program

Joanne Hochu


Interim professional practice lead

Kristina Jackson


Oncology Clinic

Lisa Knight



Reyna Webb


Rita Marchildon

Inpatient Units / Renal Unit

Tracy Denhoed

Oncology Program

Child Life Fellow
Jannie Ngo

Surgical Day Care

Music therapy

The Child Life Department also includes music therapy. Music therapists are accomplished musicians with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in music therapy. The Canadian Association for Music Therapy offers professional accreditation and is the governing body for Canadian music therapists.

Music therapy is the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. 

The music therapist uses live and recorded music, song writing, and other musical activities to promote self-expression, relaxation, pain management, healthy development, and of course, fun! 

Currently music therapy is available for patients in the Oncology Program and to inpatient adolescents. 

The music therapists at Children's Hospital are:

NameProgramE-mail Address

Brooke Angus

Youth / Inpatient Units


Carol Wiedemann

PICU / Burn Program


Erin Johnston

Oncology Program


Therapeutic clown

A therapeutic hospital clown is a professional entertainer who has been thoroughly trained in the specifics of working in a hospital environment – physical hygiene, emotional hygiene, infection control, confidentiality and professional etiquette. The therapeutic clown works on a regular basis (for example, once a week) and is directly responsible to the Child Life Department. The clown is fully briefed by the child life specialists before engaging with the patients, and understands that the wishes and needs of the child takes priority over those of the clown.

“Ms. Phizzio Fit – Frizzio Therapist” or “Fizzie” as many of the children fondly refer to her, began at Children’s in 2004. In 2013, we saw the addition of a second therapeutic clown, “Cosmo.” “Fizzie” and “Cosmo” come into the hospital weekly to spend time with inpatients. They also visit outpatient clinics.

For more information, refer to the Canadian Association of Therapeutic Clowns website.



Dog Visitation

The Dog Visitation Program’s purpose is to support the psychosocial needs of children and families in hospital by providing them with: 

  • Opportunities to experience unconditional acceptance and affection between dogs and individuals.
  • Relief from stress and anxiety of hospitalization.
  • Normalized opportunities for socialization and diversion.
  • A normalized activity that children can look forward to on a regular basis.
  • Activities that increase patient responsiveness.
  • Activities that ease loneliness, boredom and isolation.
  • Meaningful, normalized sensory stimulation.

Please contact the Child Life Department at 604-875-2345 ext 7686 for more information about the Dog Visitation Program. 





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