A young child experiences a comfortable hospital environment provided by our dedicated staff.

Going to the hospital can be a frightening experience. It is full of strange sights, sounds, smells and unfamiliar people. To help ease the stress, the Memorial Health Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children's Hospital of Savannah offers child life services for children, teens and families. The goal of the child life program is to provide a supportive environment where children can gain a better understanding of the hospital, surgery and medical treatments.

The child life specialists at the Memorial Health Willett Children's Hospital are trained to address the emotional needs of hospitalized children and adolescents. They use play and age-appropriate activities to create a comfortable environment in which children can express their fears and concerns. Find out what they can do for you:

Child life services

Contact us

To schedule a tour, call our certified child life specialist at (912) 350-2445.

Pre-surgery tours are available Monday through Friday from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm by appointment only.

Child life day surgery

Child life services are available through our Day Surgery Center to help children and their families prepare for and cope with a surgical experience. Our child life specialists provide a pre-surgery tour, age-appropriate activities to ease a child's anxiety while waiting for surgery and comfort and support in the recovery room as the child awakes from anesthesia.

Before surgery

A pre-surgery tour of the Day Surgery Center can help ease a child’s fears and clarify misconceptions they may have about the surgical experience. During the pre-surgery tour, children are introduced to the sights and sounds of the Day Surgery Center. They learn what will happen on the day of surgery and get a chance to ask questions. They are given surgical and hospital supplies to touch and play with. There are also educational hand-outs for parents. This program is geared toward children between the ages of two and 10. However, the pre-surgery tour is available for children and adolescents of all ages. It is modified to address the specific needs of each age group.

Research has shown that:

  • Children who are prepared for medical procedures experience less fear and anxiety and have better long-term adjustment to medical challenges.
  • Children in the hospital who engage in therapeutic play with a trained professional exhibit less emotional distress, increased cooperation, and fewer negative physiological responses.
  • Child life interventions can increase cooperation and help reduce pain.
  • A parent or caregiver’s behavior and anxiety levels are strongly linked to their child’s response to the stresses of hospitalization. Providing child life interventions that support family members improves psychosocial outcomes for young patients.

When to call a child life specialist:

  • To prepare a child for surgery
  • To address a child’s fears and concerns
  • To support a child who has had a traumatic experience with a hospital
  • To provide age-appropriate education for a new diagnosis
  • To teach a child coping and relaxation techniques and provide a distraction during procedures.
  • To introduce a child and family to the Memorial Health Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children's Hospital of Savannah
  • To provide developmentally appropriate preparation for treatments and procedures
  • To provide emotional support during stressful times
  • To support siblings and family members during hospitalization
  • To provide fun and developmental play during a difficult time

Our programs

For a child and family, being in the hospital can be a frightening experience. The child life specialists at the Memorial Health Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah are experts who understand the impact that illness and hospitalization can have on a child’s growth and development. They also understand that a childhood illness or injury impacts the entire family.

The child life team works alongside doctors, nurses, social workers and other members of the healthcare team to ensure that each child’s emotional, developmental and cultural needs are addressed. They create interventions and therapeutic play opportunities to promote healing, growth and coping.

Playroom: a place for fun and healing

Children learn about and experience the world around them through play. Even in the hospital, play is vital. In fact, it's the core of our child life program. Through play, children can explore the hospital and their medical experience, release their fears and emotions and participate in the normal activities that they would do at home.

The Memorial Health Willett Children’s Hospital has two playrooms and a teen room for children admitted to the hospital. These inpatient playrooms feature a variety of activities and toys. They are a safe place, free of medical encounters, where children can escape and have fun. The playrooms are supervised by members of our child life team and volunteers. Toys, books and games are available for siblings and patients to check out and take back to their hospital rooms.

Community organizations

Savannah Children’s Museum

The Savannah Children’s Museum regularly visits and brings "Carts with HeART." The carts are loaded with arts and crafts projects that children can do from their beds while they are in the hospitals.

Camp Sunshine and CURE Childhood Cancer

Camp Sunshine gives children with cancer the opportunity to enjoy normal activities such as swimming, horseback riding and arts and crafts. Camp Sunshine also offers programs for siblings and parents. Staff and volunteers from the Camp Sunshine house in Atlanta travel to Savannah regularly to provide programs and services.

Camp Sunshine and CURE Childhood Cancer also sponsor monthly culinary programming and recreational programming for our children with cancer. We use a mobile kitchen called the "Charlie Cart" that allows us to do hands-on food preparation with patients. With the Charlie Cart, children can learn how to prepare healthy recipes and learn about the health benefits of different foods.

Lyn Stacie Getz Foundation

Through the support of the Lyn Stacie Getz Foundation, the child life department coordinates quarterly activities outside of the hospital for children and families coping with childhood cancer. These family events and excursions allow families to do something fun and connect with other families experiencing similar challenges.

COPES for Kids

COPES for Kids is a pre-K curriculum that teaches children about staying healthy and going to the doctor or hospital. Teachers can request curriculum kits that include educational activities centered on “Healthy Me / Healthy Eating" and “Going to the Hospital” themes. Each kit includes large and small group activity plans, movement and music activities, equipment for creating learning centers and books based on the themes.

Magic Men

Magic Men are trained volunteers who visit weekly to perform magic tricks for the patients, families and care team.

The Savannah Philharmonic and Songs for Kids Foundation

The Savannah Philharmonic performs monthly for patients and families at the Memorial Health Willett Children’s Hospital. Volunteer vocalists and members of the Philharmonic Chorus, provide comedic, engaging musical performances.

The Songs for Kids Foundation enriches the lives of children through music. Local Savannah musicians donate their time to the Songs for Kids Foundation by performing concerts in our pediatric playrooms. Children are encouraged to sing along, play musical instruments and be musical stars.

Pet therapy

Pet therapy has been proven to improve healing in children and teens. The child life department coordinates an animal-assisted therapy program specifically for children and families at the Memorial Health Willett Children’s Hospital and the outpatient center. Certified pet therapy dogs visit various times throughout the month and provide a pleasant distraction for children and their families.

Reach Out and Read

The Reach Out and Read program at the Memorial Health Dwaine and Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah is sponsored by a philanthropic organization called The One Hundred. Through the program, the child life team provides monthly reading activities for children in the waiting room of the outpatient center. Reach Out and Read also promotes early literacy and school readiness by giving children books at each well visit between ages six months and five years.

Teen Advisory Board

The Memorial Health Willett Children's Hospital Teen Advisory Board helps high school students bring joy to children in the hospital. Teens volunteer within the hospital and at community events to support the hospital. All Teen Advisory Board members are high school students in Savannah or the surrounding area and are at least 15 years old.