Medical Play – Letting Patients Be In Control

By Beth Moneck, MS, Certified Child Life Specialist, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

In celebration of Child Life Month in March, we wanted to share one of the many patient support interventions our certified child life specialists do here at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC: Medical Play.

9a medical play 4Medical play is a therapeutic intervention, supervised by a certified child life specialist. Children are able to have hands-on play experience with real and pretend medical items. Medical play also provides emotional support by allowing the child to role-play and rehearse medical experiences they may have had. This experience with medical equipment allows them to gain a sense of control and mastery over their medical experiences by playing through their concerns.

Medical play also is a nonverbal way for children to communicate concerns or preferences regarding their medical experiences to the observing child life specialist.

Our certified child life specialists do medical play during their typical assessment of the child. They also hold a monthly group session at our Medical Play Parties.

At Medical Play Parties, which are organized and facilitated by our certified child life Medical Play 033specialists, children can pretend to be “medical staff.” They are able to use cloth doll “buddies” or their own stuffed animals in our mock hospital areas, including admissions, treatment rooms, radiology, and the operating room. They also can take part in medical-themed expressive art such as anesthesia mask painting and syringe spin art.

Music Therapy also attends our Medical Play Parties. Our music therapists provide therapeutic music to help children cope with procedures, pain and anxiety.

To learn more about Children’s Hospital’s Child Life Department and Medical Play, please call 412-692-5022 or visit