Special Programs

The Child Life Department strives to make the hospital stay fun and inviting for patients and families. Some of our special events include: Medical Play Parties, Sun and Fun, special visitors and holiday parties. Our staff provide a weekly theme where crafts and activities focus on that theme. You can find our Patients and Families Events calendar posted on every inpatient unit.

The Child Life Department also welcomes the opportunity to coordinate with community members to provide a variety of play, recreation, and social opportunities to our patients and families. If you are interested in learning more about our special events, please review our Child Life Special Event/Visitor Guidelines (PDF).

Back-to-School

Chronic Illness patients can miss a lot of school. The Back-to-School program is designed to help with the sometimes difficult transition back to the classroom. A child life specialist will visit the patient's school to educate classmates on the illness and to encourage support for the returning student. Back to School is individually tailored for each patient from grades K–12.

Beads of Courage®

Beads of Courage® allows children with chronic illness to tell their story utilizing colorful beads to symbolize the courage that commemorates milestones achieved along their treatment path.

Creative and Expressive Arts Therapy

The Creative and Expressive Arts Therapy programs works to provide a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to our patients and their families and two music therapists. We use therapeutic treatment designed to assist children and adolescents in coping with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences. These interventions are tailored to meet the social, emotional, and physical needs of patients and their families in order to cope, heal, and find hope. Our therapists offer personalized approaches to a child's traditional medical treatment, helping kids reduce fear, anxiety, and pain. The creative and expressive arts team is dedicated to working with the patients and families to tell their story through music and art, creating a masterpiece of hope.

Flashes of Hope

Flashes of Hope, a non-profit organization, creates uplifting portraits of children fighting life threatening illnesses. Sessions are held once a month at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Hospital School Program

While hospitalized, a child may miss a significant amount of school. Supporting normalization in the hospital and so children won’t fall behind in their education; school tutoring is available for children who qualify. Your Child Life Specialist will coordinate the details for you and provide additional information.

Learn Not To Burn Program

Burn Prevention Program for Grades K-3

Created in 1991 by the National Fire Protection Association, Learn Not to Burn aims to teach children fire safety and burn prevention skills. Learn Not to Burn utilizes a curriculum focusing on safety concepts while enhancing a child’s knowledge about potential fire risks within their environment.

In a school setting, a certified child life specialist from UPMC Mercy will educate small or large groups of children during discussion, and developmentally appropriate activities. Activities include:

  • Stop, Drop, and Roll
  • Crawl Low in Smoke
  • Developing a Home Escape Plan
  • Fire Drills children can experience

Children have the opportunity to ask questions about decrease any fears or misconceptions about potential fire risks. A Learn Not to Burn Session lasts approximately 30-60 minutes and can be scheduled Monday-Friday during a morning or afternoon class. Call 412-232-9032 for more information.

Medical-Free Activity Centers

Activity Centers are rooms where hospitalized children of all ages can relax in child-friendly environments. The Activity Centers are designated “medical free” zones located on patient floors where no medical discussions or procedures are allowed.

Supervised group and individualized play sessions are provided daily. Bedside activities are offered to children who are on bed rest or in isolation. Medical play sessions are facilitated by the child life specialists to help children become more comfortable with medical equipment, procedures and interventions.

Museum on the Move

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s “Museum on the Move” program brings the museum into the hospital setting. Volunteers present programs on a variety of natural history and anthropology subjects, such as:

  • “Amazing Africa”
  • “Beautiful Butterflies”
  • “Discovering Dinosaurs”
  • “Pennsylvania Mammals”
  • “Familiar Birds of Pittsburgh”

Outpatient Surgery Pre-Admission Tours

Having a surgery or procedure can be a challenging experience for children and parents, so UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh offers free, weekly pre-admission tours to help you prepare. The tours are conducted by a registered nurse or child life specialist and are focused on helping to take away the child’s fear of the unknown. The children have the opportunity to have hands-on experience with the equipment in a positive atmosphere. Brothers and sisters also are encouraged to attend. The tour takes about one hour.

Registration is required by calling 412-692-6366.

Pet Friend Program

Research shows pet visitation programs are therapeutic because they reduce stress and anxiety caused by illness and injury. The Pet Friend program brings carefully evaluated dogs into the hospital to visit and interact with children. The program is designed to assist children in adjusting to hospitalization. Child-animal contact can vary, from a child simply watching a dog to petting, cuddling or even playing fetch and walking a dog in the hallway. Physician and parent approval is needed. See your Child Life Specialist for more information.

Special Events

Bingo games, movies, and holiday parties are just some of the special activities coordinated by the Child Life Program. A weekly special events calendar is posted in each activity center and around the hospital.

Super Sibs Saturdays

Super Sibs Saturdays is a therapeutic-based support and social group for the siblings of children who are patients at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Super Sibs Saturdays are held every other month and typically on the second Saturday of the month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Location: Lemieux Sibling Center, Floor 1, Main Lobby
Siblings ages 5 to 15 are welcome.
Snacks will be provided.

Super Sibs Saturdays is not a playgroup.

Parents must stay on the hospital campus during the support session. For questions or to RSVP, call 412-692-6364.

Teen Lounge

The Teen Lounge on the 9th Floor of the hospital is designed specifically for hospitalized teens age 12 and older. The lounge is a medical free area where teens can listen to music, play video games, E-mail their friends and engage in other teenage normalization and socialization activities.