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).


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.

Dream Big Studio

Dream Big Studio broadcasts LIVE and recorded shows on Channel 1 for patients and families admitted to the hospital. Patients can participate both in the studio and from their rooms. Bedside materials are provided by Child Life staff for children following along to our LIVE shows from their rooms. Those interested in a hands on experience in the studio are welcome to visit for a tour, help with production by learning about TV and radio equipment with our Video Producer or host a live show! Types of programs you can expect include:

  • Live cooking, science, art, & music shows
  • Live game shows with open phone lines and prizes delivered to patient rooms by staff
  • Recorded shows featuring sites around Pittsburgh, celebrities and studio production

Click here to learn more!

Flashes of Hope

*Program is temporarily on hold.

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

Falling behind in schoolwork can create anxiety and stress for any child. Our Hospital School Program helps students continue learning throughout their stay to help ease the transition back to their home school. We believe education is valuable to every child and can be a healthy distraction during hospitalization.

How to Enroll

Please email the appropriate teacher based on your child's grade-level in school:

Steve Macellaro (Primary Grades Teacher): smacellaro1@pghschools.org
Sherri Troup (Secondary Grades Teacher): stroup1@pghschools.org

Homebound Instruction

Would you like to know if your child qualifies for Homebound Instruction? Click here to find out.

If you do not live in Pennsylvania, please contact your child’s home school for more information.

Learn Not To Burn Program

*Program is temporarily on hold.

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.

Individual play sessions for patients and their families are offered 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

*Program is temporarily on hold.

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

*Group events are temporarily on hold.

Super Sibs Saturdays

*Program is temporarily on hold. Kits for siblings are being mailed home in the meantime.

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.