Daily Activities Therapeutic Play Areas in Child Life Zone Take Kids Families to a Better Space

January 24, 2022

child life zone team in daniellas atrium

Hospitals can be scary places for children, and their parents too, but the new “Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Child Life Zone” being constructed at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital aims to change all that.

The area, which will be part of the 8th floor at the expanded facility, will feature a daily itinerary of activities and exhibits for kids of all ages, expressive and therapeutic play areas, production space for in-house ‘Joe D. TV’ programming, and open places to host yoga, music, art, and special events.

“Our job as child life specialists is to reduce fear and anxiety and having a place we’ve designed for that purpose will enable us to take kids out of their hospital rooms into a better space,” said Shannon Bajwa, child life manager at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. “They’ll have an opportunity to be themselves and not just their medical diagnosis.”

The Child Life Zone, made possible in part by a generous donation from the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation, will be the 14th of its kind in the U.S. While each is unique in its theme and programming, the goal is to create designated areas for therapeutic play, relaxation, and interaction while also forming a network of child life specialists that can connect and learn from each other.

child life zone diagram

“Part of our focus has been on building a community of child life professionals. They are the day-to-day miracle workers that create wow moments with patients that wouldn’t have otherwise happened, and we want to support their efforts in every way possible,” said Jason Grahame, president of Teammates for Kids.

Bajwa says the Child Life Zone will enable her team to “meet kids at their level,” fitting perfectly with the children’s hospital’s existing ‘Power of Play’ philosophy. Additionally, patients will be able explore and learn about hospital experiences in a medical play space, take STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes, and participate in activities and therapeutic exhibits that stimulate light, touch, and sound.

A child life coordinator will oversee the area and extend its programming throughout the hospital, enabling even those who don’t come to its 8th floor home the opportunity to benefit from its impact.

The partnership with Teammates for Kids and the significant gift made by the Finker-Frenkel Family Foundation is in support of the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation’s “Catch the Love” capital campaign. The fundraising effort will underwrite a substantial portion of the estimated $170 million cost to expand the children’s hospital from four floors to eight, a construction project expected to be completed in the Fall of 2022. In addition to the Child Life Zone, the expanded Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital will add state-of-the-art patient rooms, cardiac hybrid operating rooms, additional surgical and interventional radiology suites, intensive care and cardiac intensive care units, and an intraoperative MRI.