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Child Development & Family Science
Michaelsen 100
(509) 963-2766

Child Life Specialization

Major in Child Life 

Mother, father and child play together on the floor

What is Child Life?

Child life specialists are child development experts who help children and families cope in medical settings such as hospitals. They provide education about medical diagnoses and treatments and promote coping through procedural support, play, and therapeutic activities. Graduates of the child life specialization are prepared to pursue child life graduate studies, internships, and certification as Certified Child Life Specialists.

Alternately, child life students bring a unique foundation of knowledge and skills to graduate programs for other healthcare professions in pediatrics such as nursing, pre-med, physician assistants, and physical or occupational therapy. Future healthcare professionals may decide to take child life classes through the major or as part of the Child Development minor 

Child Life Specialization Program Required Courses

Child Development Minor 

Child Development Certificate

Interested in the Major? Contact Information

Child Development and Family Science Majors with a Child Life Specialization will:

  1. Understand child life and family relationships from a Family Systems perspective.
  2. Develop interpersonal skills to apply child development principles in therapeutic contexts.
  3. Learn medical terminology and intervention techniques relevant to hospitalization.
  4. Experience teamwork and learn collaborative skills.
  5. Demonstrate effective oral and written communication and strong critical thinking skills.
  6. Learn to analyze and present scientific information related to children and families.

What is Unique about the Child Life Specialization at CWU?

Our Child Life program is endorsed by the Association of Child Life Professionals.

All Child Development and Family Science students complete a multi-term practicum or internship experience in an agency suited to their particular professional goals. Students who specialize in child life will select a site where they gain experience working with children. This may include a day care or preschool, community program for youth, medical facility, WIC office, or any of a variety of programs that serve the needs of children and families. Many students choose to earn some of their practicum credit by volunteering at a local summer camp for medically-fragile children. The Child Life Club is also actively involved in volunteering at local children's hospitals.

Child life students take several applied skills courses taught by practicing child life specialists and family therapists. In these courses, students develop therapeutic skills and are well-prepared to work with children and families in many settings following graduation. The program requirements include the 10 courses required for certification as a child life specialist by the Association of Child Life Professionals. 

Child Life Specialization Required Courses

Course # Title Credits
CDFS 101 Skills for Marriage and Intimate Relationships 4
CDFS 232 Child Development 3
CDFS 234 Contemporary Families 4
CDFS 235 Relationships and Personal Development 3
CDFS 236 Parent Education and Guidance 4
CDFS 344 Foundations of Marriage and Family Therapy 4
CDFS 405* Professional Obligations and Responsibilities 4
CDFS 419* Research in Child Development and Family Science 4
CDFS 436 Diversity and Families 4
CDFS 492* Child Development and Family Science Practicum 12
CDFS 495* Undergraduate Research 1
CDFS 339 Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood 4
CDFS 340 Supporting Children with Special Needs and their Families 4
CDFS 345 Advanced Concepts in Child Development 4
CDFS 414 Coping with Grief and Loss 4
CDFS 415 Therapeutic Play 4
CDFS 416 Child Life I: Child Life Scope of Practice 4
CDFS 417 Pediatric Diagnoses and Medical Terminology 4
CDFS 418 Child Life II: Impact of Child Hospitalization 4
CDFS 432 Theories in Child Development 3
CDFS 438 Attachment Theory and Practice 4
  Approved Specialization Electives 7
  Total Credits for Child Life Specialization 94

* For Child Development and Family Science Majors Only

Child Life Elective Courses:
CDFS 237     |  Human Sexuality  (4)
CDFS 310     |  Family Issues in the 21st Century (4)
CDFS 332     |  Trauma and Resilience in Children and Adults (4)
CDFS 333     |  Culture and Marriage  (4)
CDFS 334     |  Family Problems and Mediation  (4)
CDFS 335     |  Divorce and Remarriage  (3)
CDFS 403     |  Family Communication  (4)
CDFS 435     |  Adult Development, Aging and Family Life  (4)
CDFS 439     |  Families and Public Policy  (4)
CDFS 440     |  Teaching for Child Development and Family Science  (2-6)
PHIL 308    |  Medical Ethics  (5)
ANTH 353  |  Childhood and Culture  (4)
SOC 320    |  Death and Dying (5)

Child Life Two Year Graduation Plan

CWU Catalog Program of Study

Admission and Graduation Requirements

Students wishing to declare a major in Child Life must be incoming first-year or transfer students or have a cumulative CWU GPA of 3.0. Child Life majors must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.7 or higher to remain in the major and must earn a “C” or higher in all courses used to satisfy the major.

Application Process

To apply for the major, complete the major application form and send it to Dr. Amy Claridge.

The Child Development and Family Science major has three specializations: Child Life, Child Development, and Family Science

For information about the Child Life Specialization or other Child Development and Family Science programs, please contact Dr. Amy Claridge.

For more information about the child life profession or certification requirements, visit the Association of Child Life Professionals website. We also offer a Master's degree in Child Development and Family Science with a specialization in Child Life.

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