Have you ever been told, “Don’t let your child play doctor.” I have heard all sorts of stories about things parents have seen and heard from their children and their friends when they play doctor. Some were funny while others were embarrassing or dare I say, somewhat alarming.
Recently one of my students came to me with a pipe cleaner and a piece of tape.
“I want to give you this special needle,” he said, “Now, don’t move. Be very still, and you will only feel a little pinch.” Recently he had been to a doctor and had experienced a needle or seen someone with an IV. This experience was still muddling around in his head as he tried to make sense of it. This reminded me of all those stories I had heard. It also clarified that doctor pretend play can be very important for a child.
Why is Pretend Play Valuable
Pretend play is so important for children. It lets them further explore what they have seen or heard about. They can practice behaviour which has been modeled in various circumstances. They also reenact those experiences which may concern them and those they are curious about. While my little friend was trying to make sense of the needle, he was also modeling what he had experienced. Trying to reenact some of it helped him understand it better.
This brings me back to the initial conversations I had with some parents. Depending on the type of experiences a child has had based on their health needs, the reenacting can be something a parent may not want their child to reenact with others. These may be best explored with the child’s parent(s). You can use common sense with this. Overall, pretend play gives children the opportunity to make more sense of their life experiences.
Doctor pretend play is also such a great way for children to learn about their bodies and how they work.
Make Your Own Doctor Tools for Kids
Here are some fun ways we have recreated doctor tools, which children can use for doctor pretend play.
- Intravenous – Use a pipe cleaner or string for the tube and a piece of tape for your child to hold the string in place much like an intravenous would be held in place.
- Stethoscope – Tape a funnel, plastic pudding or yogurt cup in the end of a paper towel tube. Cut the end off a balloon, and place it over the large end of the funnel. My children and I were amazed this actually works! We had extra fun placing the non-funnel side of our stethoscope to the microphone of our karaoke machine and turning it up; have fun turning your heartbeat into a rap.
- Checking Ears and Throat – Have a small flashlight? Your child can use this to look in your throat and ears.
- Thermometer– A popsicle stick makes a great play thermometer. Your child can have you put it under your armpit or use it like a digital thermometer by pointing it to your wrist.
- Needles – Syringes often come with liquid children’s medicines. They are also good for doctor pretend play and for bath time. Children can have so much fun learning to fill them with water and spraying them. It also takes away some of the fear and mystery of real needles.
- X-ray – Turn an empty tissue box into an xray machine. Draw some pictures of bones. When your child places the xray on your bones, they can choose a picture to put inside the tissue box. Hearing their medical prognosis of your x-ray is priceless. Check out this post for another amazing DIY x-ray machine for kids!
- Pharmacy – Using a dropper or a syringe, children can move water from one container or section of an ice cube tray to another. This is very good for fine motor development and so much fun!
In doctor pretend play with your child, pay attention to what they are saying and how they are saying it. This will give you an idea about their thoughts and feelings as well as what they are learning from their own experiences.
Add-On to Pretend Doctor Play
Want to take it a step further?
Play veterinarian. Your child can use their stuffies as their patients. They can imagine all sorts of scenarios when a pet may need a veterinarian’s help.
Be a nature doctor. What items can you find in nature? What could they need help with? How could your little doctor help them? Imagination is the only limitation.
Until next time…have a blast playing and learning about your child!
Belinda is a mama to two little boys and an experienced Kindergarten teacher. She has a love of using nature and technology to enhance and motivate children’s learning. She values the use and training of growth mindset at home with her family and while teaching. Follow along with her on Pinterest.
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