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Child Life

The Child Life program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital gives children a chance to play and express themselves during treatment.  

Group of pediatric cancer patients pet dog

A diagnosis of a new illness can be stressful for a family. The Child Life Program helps reduce stress and anxiety for your child and family. 

Therapeutic play helps patients and siblings develop and strengthen coping skills. Our activities give children: 

  • A way to understand their illness and treatment
  • An outlet for their feelings
  • A chance to play with peers
  • A feeling of mastering new skills

Services we provide

Your Child Life team

St. Jude has a team of full-time child life specialists to help you. Our goal is to help children and teens cope with the challenges of health care and being in the hospital.

Our child life specialists work closely with children and teens. We use words and activities that fit their ages to explain medical events. These activities help patients and siblings better understand what is happening. We build trust and help your child to know what to expect.

St. Jude child life specialists are nationally certified. They have bachelor’s or master’s degrees, with backgrounds in human growth and development, education, psychology, or counseling.

Get involved with Child Life at St. Jude

Child Life volunteers help with activities for recreation and play in groups and 1-on-1. They provide a comfortable and accepting environment, directed by a child life specialist.

These volunteers also help the specialists keep toys clean, stock and organize shelves, and prepare for activities and events.  

Requirements for volunteering

Volunteer shifts are available in inpatient settings. 

Child life volunteers are needed for 3–4 hour shifts each week at a regularly scheduled time from 9 a.m.–noon and 1–4 p.m., Monday–Friday. All child life volunteers must enjoy children and be sensitive to their needs. Volunteers must be able to pick up a child in an emergency.

Review our volunteering requirements and process to apply

Connect with St. Jude Volunteer Services

To reach Volunteer Services at St. Jude, call 901-595-3327 or email

Learn more

To learn more about St. Jude Child Life services, call 901-595-3020.

Explore more resources about child life and learning through play