Child Life Services

At CHEO, we recognize that children and youth need to have opportunities to play, develop, and socialize during their hospitalization. Child life specialists are professionals trained in areas of child development, play and the psychosocial needs of children and families and are certified through the Child Life Council ( ).

Child life specialists provide opportunities for therapeutic and diversional play. Play is recognized as a tool for coping with stressful situations and as a basis for learning. Child life programs at CHEO strive to promote optimum development of children and youth, maintain normal living patterns, and help patients and families adjust to and understand their health care experience. Child life specialists prepare and support children and youth during medical tests and procedures through health care play, teaching and coping skill development.

Child Life Services:

  • Offer age appropriate preparation and support for medical tests and surgery.
  • Help patients and families learn coping skills that can assist them during stressful experiences.
  • Facilitate playroom activities in a therapeutic environment to promote adaptation to illness and hospitalization.
  • Provide psychosocial support for patients, siblings and families.
  • Adapt activities for patients who are immobilized, have multiple injuries, and repeated or extended hospital stays. 
  • Provide normal and specialized play activities to strengthen self-esteem and independence in playrooms and at the bedside.
  • Offer child life programs such as Mollypenny-CHEO’s therapeutic clown, pet visitation, CLICK (Child Life Interactive Computers for Kids), Upopolis (a private social network that connects hospital patients to their family, friends, schools, etc.)

The Therapeutic Clown Program at CHEO

A member of the Child Life Specialists’ team, Mollypenny works as a Therapeutic Clown to assist children, youth and their families cope with the stress of illness, injury and having to stay in the hospital.

This program has been in existence since September 2001, and although it was originally funded by Therapeutic Clowns of Canada, it is now funded by anonymous donors.

Laughter and play are important aspects of physical, social and emotional development and recovery. Children who face health altering challenges respond to opportunities that create an environment of playfulness and moments that alter the sterile view of the hospital.

Therefore, Mollypenny’s primary goals are to:

  1. Empower the child and create an atmosphere of fun for patients, family and staff.
  2. Offer moral support
  3. Normalize the hospital environment.
  4. Assist in distraction and offer procedural support, when appropriate.
  5. Find humor in a situation and encourage it.
  6. Recruit new trainees for Kid Clown School (KCS), where I take a child along with me to do my rounds and train him or her to be a clown for a day, costume and all. (Note: CHEO is the only hospital in Canada to have a “Kid Clown School”).

Room to room, visits provide healing laughter, a caring attitude, respect, encouragement, comedy, a little magic and red nose transplants! It is not necessarily about the traditional tricks of the trade such as fancy magic tools, but rather the energies that we all possess inside us like listening, intuition, sensitivity, emotional creativity, and more.

In her previous career, Mollypenny was a nurse who worked in the operating room (OR). She now works as a Therapeutic Clown, every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

For more information, please visit:

Contact information: