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Patient and family resources
Patient and family resources

How Therapeutic Clowns Help

Therapeutic Play/Developmental Support

Play and laughter are essential parts of physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. Our therapeutic clowns provide children and youth with opportunities for play to help them achieve their developmental potential.

"Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity." 
Kay Redfield Jamison, Contemporary American Professor of Psychiatry

"The activities that are the easiest, cheapest, and most fun to do—such as singing, playing games, reading, storytelling, and just talking and listening—are also the best for child development."
- Professor Jerome Singer, Yale University

"To maintain its status as a play activity, it is necessary for the activity to remain player-centered, i.e. initiated, paced and stylized by the child."
- Joan Ershler, Waisman Early Childhood Program

Therapeutic Relationships

Therapeutic clowns are faithful companions to SickKids patients. Central to the SickKids style of therapeutic clowning is the idea that the clown has come from the child’s world outside of the hospital to journey with them.  They are special “clown friends” that children and youth can rely on for positive, non-judgemental and gentle fun. Therapeutic clowns help to “normalize” the hospital experience by providing distraction from medical issues and concerns, and allowing them an opportunity to laugh and play.


Our therapeutic clowns don't know much about how things work at the hospital, so children and youth become the ‘bosses’, teachers and caregivers for the bumbling, often vulnerable clowns. This contributes to the development of positive self-regard and a sense of mastery over their environment.

They empower children, teens and families by allowing them to make choices and to lead the play in a way that is gentle, inclusive, and sensitive to the hospital environment.

They empower children and youth by ALWAYS asking to enter a room, and ALWAYS asking for permission to engage with a child or youth. The patient and family decide whether the clown may enter their room to play and how they would like to interact with them.  If someone says “no” to a therapeutic clown, they ALWAYS respect those wishes.

Procedural Support

When appropriate, SickKids therapeutic clowns provide distraction before, during and after medical procedures. This often provides an opportunity for the child or youth to become the teacher who can explain things to the clueless therapeutic clown. This provides the child or youth with a sense of mastery and control over their environment, and aids in their learning process.

Humour and Laughter

Humour and laughter can help create a positive and hopeful attitude. A good laugh relaxes tense muscles, sends more oxygen into the lungs and lowers blood pressure.