Happy Child Life Month! I love this time of year, don’t you?

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After careful self-deliberation of theorists to discuss this month, I picked one who has brought honor to us all and was the pioneer of Child Life.

Emma Plank.

Although not often mentioned enough in many textbooks, Child Life history would not have begun without her contributions to child development and to the foundation of the profession.

Plank as born November 11th, 1905 in Vienna, Austria. She began studying her early work at a Viennese Montessori School and studied for accreditation in child development from Anna Freud. She became the director of this Montessori school in 1931. In 1932 she married her husband Robert. In 1938, just before the start of World War II, they fled to the United States, where they ended up in California, becoming a principal of Presidio High School and earning her Master’s Degree at Mills College in Child Development. She returned to Vienna again in 1948-1950 to develop courses for teachers and social workers. Upon her return to the United States in 1951, she was to direct the school of the Children’s House of University Hospital. In 1955 Dr. Frederick C. Robbins asked Plank to come to the Department of Pediatrics of City Hospital (later MetroHealth Medical Center) in Cincinnati to address the educational, social, and psychological needs of children receiving long-term care. With this opportunity, Plank found the Child Life and Education Division of the Department of Pediatrics at City Hospital and directed it until 1972. Her 1962 book, Working With Children in Hospitals has been successfully published and used world-wide. Over the course of her career, she received several awards and an Honorary degree from Wheelock College. Emma later became known as the “Mother of Child Life”. Plank died March 13th, 1990.

Much of her work focused on:

  • Hospitalization effects on Child Development
  • Need for play and play environments, including Playrooms
  • Medical Preparation
  • Methods of Coping and Self-Expression
  • Mastery and Reducing Fear and Anxiety
  • Multidisciplinary Team Building when working with a child and family


Below is a video of an interview with Plank with the Association of Care of Children’s Health. In this video, she discusses how Child Life began in Cleveland and her personal history.

So, today I salute Emma Plank for her contributions to the field of Child Life and I hope you all continue to celebrate Child Life Month! I look forward to hearing and seeing your different ways to support Child Life!

Also, stayed tuned with how I will be celebrating Child Life Month!


Resources for this Blog Post:

Jewish Women’s Archive. (n.d) Emma nuschi plank.  Retrieved on February 27, 2017 from: https://jwa.org/people/plank-emma

Rubin, S. (2011). Emma (nuschi) plank: Child life specialist and early childhood educator. Retrieved on February 27, 2017 from: http://www.transatlanticperspectives.org/entry.php?rec=82

The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. (1997). Plank, emma nuschi. Retrieved from: http://ech.case.edu/cgi/article.pl?id=PEN