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College of Human Environmental Sciences

Child Life

This emphasis area prepares graduates to provide for the socioemotional needs, and support the optimum growth and development of children and their families in a variety of health care settings. Child life specialists use therapeutic play, psychological preparation, and coping skills interventions to help reduce the anxiety and stress related to illness, disability, hospitalization and medical procedures. Through a family-centered care approach, they provide parents and other family members reassurance and emotional support, help them understand psychosocial needs, and provide tools to help them minimize psychological trauma.

doctor with child patient


Courses focus on understanding normal and exceptional child and family development, effective methods of working with children and families, as well as integration of theory and research into hands-on clinical practice experiences (evidence-based practice). In addition to a 100-hour practicum experience (selection is on a competitive, space-available basis) at MU’s Children’s Hospital, the student’s last semester is spent off-campus (outside of Columbia, but within the U.S.) completing a 14 to 16 week clinical internship in a pediatric hospital setting. Students who successfully complete the degree program are generally well prepared to take the Child Life Professional Certification Exam presented by the Child Life Certification Committee.

Degree Program Strengths:

  • Hands-on experience with children in a variety of environments
  • Instruction from certified child life specialists and expert faculty
  • Early exposure to clinical settings through required coursework
  • Clinical practice and theory integration opportunities at practicum and internship levels
  • Internship instruction and support from both clinical and academic instructors
  • Undergraduate research opportunities

For more information on the child life profession in general, see

Degree Requirements and Sample Program

HDFS Child Life Advisor

Nora HagerNora Hager
Phone: (573) 884-5997

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