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Programs and Services

The Bunny Mellon Healing Garden

Giving your child an uplifting experience is a top priority at Children’s National. We understand how stressful a hospital stay can be, so we’ve designed an outdoor Healing Garden for patients to relax and enjoy nature with their families. The Child Life team hosts numerous events in the garden such as arts and crafts and much more.

Help Me Keep Calm Program

The Help Me Keep Calm (HMKC) Program provides supportive services for children with autism and/or developmental delays who are scheduled for surgery or a procedure under anesthesia. Prior to the day of surgery, the Child Life team will complete an assessment over the phone with your family to discuss your child's sensory needs, behavioral challenges and past medical experiences. Based on this assessment, the team will then create a safe passage plan for your child and share the plan with your medical team.

In addition to the safe passage plan, our team offers the following resources for the day of surgery:

  • Private, quiet waiting space
  • Modified forms of communication, including picture schedules and preparation materials
  • Sensory items including weighted lap pads, sensory toys, headphones, noise machines and more

If you have questions or think your child would benefit from the HMKC Program, please call Child Life Services at 202-476-5665.

Sibling Support

Hospitalization impacts the whole family and can be a stressful, traumatic time for everyone. Brothers and sisters often need special attention. Child Life Specialists provide support to siblings through individualized teaching sessions, psychological preparation and play opportunities prior to their visit with a sibling. We can recommend books and resources that will help brothers and sisters better understand what their sibling is experiencing and what they can expect when visiting.

Child Life Specialists also help caregivers understand the impact of hospitalization on siblings and the importance of providing additional attention. Here are a few tips our Child Life Specialists provide to families:

  • Plan special individual time with each sibling
  • Try to keep to familiar routines and schedules
  • If able to visit, prepare siblings for what they will see and experience
  • Encourage siblings to exchange photos, cards or write letters to each other
  • Reassure them that they did not cause their sibling’s illness
  • Support and encourage siblings to express their feelings

MR – I Can Do It

The “MR-I Can Do It” Program is designed to help children ages 6 and older undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) without sedation. This program embraces family-centered care and has both your child’s – and your family’s – needs in mind. Child Life Specialists use a special MRI preparation room to help teach children about having an MRI. Children are able to listen and become familiar with the sounds the camera makes, play with a doll-sized mock scanner and practice holding still while lying in a play tunnel. Learn more about Children’s National’s Division of Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology.

Taking Care of You and Comforting Your Baby in the Hospital

“Taking Care of You and Comforting Your Baby in the Hospital” is a support and teaching group for parents and caregivers of medically fragile infants and children. The group meets every other Wednesday afternoon, alternating locations between the Heart and Kidney Unit  and the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.

A key component of this program is the training that demonstrates massage techniques to parents and caregivers on teaching dolls so they can feel confident in providing comfort to their own child through hands-on touch. The group is led by two of our Child Life Specialists who are certified as Educators of Infant Massage and trained as practitioners in mind-body medicine techniques.

Kids Club House

Kids Club House is a weekly schedule of supervised playroom activities where patients and siblings participate in group play through activities such as arts and crafts, medical art, game days and medical play. The activities are scheduled in the afternoons between 2-3 p.m. and the location alternates between the playrooms located on 7E and 5E in the East Inpatient Tower.

All children who are able to travel to other units are encouraged to come meet other patients, socialize and have fun. Families can find the Kids Club House calendar of activities through the GetWell Network or by contacting a Child Life Specialist at 202-476-3070.

Storybook Magic

Spend a magical hour each month with Lyn Ingersoll, the family librarian, as she reads stories and encourages patients and siblings to use their imagination. Story time takes place in the Family Library on the third Tuesday of each month from 2-3 p.m. Patients 3 years and older are invited to participate but must be accompanied by an adult or Child Life Specialist.

Closed Circuit Television

Patients and families staying at the hospital, especially those confined to their rooms, can tune into Channel 89 on their television to watch “Bedside Broadcasts,” a developing roster of interactive programming that encourages self-expression and creativity.

Each program offers socialization opportunities to children and families experiencing isolation, stimulates learning through engagement and provides therapeutic diversion or entertainment to lessen stress and promote fun. Patients and siblings are encouraged to participate by calling into a live show to ask questions, give answers, help characters develop a story or win a prize.

The Child Life team produces and coordinates the following interactive broadcasts:

  • Hospital Bingo: The one hour medical bingo game is shown in the playrooms and inpatient rooms every Thursday from 2-3 p.m. We encourage patients and siblings to call in when they win to receive a bingo prize.
  • Clown Care TV: A half hour show full of fun, laughter and entertainment from our Clown Care team is featured on Thursdays from 1:30-2 p.m.
  • Only Make Believe: Only Make Believe D.C. creates and performs interactive theatre for inpatients. This show airs on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 2-3 p.m.
  • Name that Tune with Eliezer: A 30-minute magical trip through music with Chaplain Eliezer Oliveira, his saxophone and friends, which is featured on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 2:10-2:40 p.m.
  • Special Guests: Impromptu shows featuring musicians, magicians, storytellers and other celebrities who visit Children’s National 

Who Let the Dogs Out! Animal Therapy Program

In the Animal Therapy Program, patients and families are invited to participate in twice monthly visits with the Greenbelt Dog Training Program’s specially-trained and veterinarian-approved therapy dogs. The dogs, which range in size and breed, interact with patients and siblings in the playrooms, performing a range of tricks and spreading furry joy to children on the first and third Friday of each month from 2-3 p.m. Permission from a child’s health care provider and a parent is required for participation.