DIY Pre-Op Medical Play Materials

Working in private practice, I don’t have access to a medical closet that is filled with supplies to teach kids about an upcoming procedure, therefore I have to get really creative with loose parts.

I would encourage all child life specialists to incorporate this with patients, as it helps to deepen their thought process and gain mastery. They can build and manipulate with everyday materials to understand an illness, medical procedure or treatment. It is something that the whole family can do to open up the dialogue about what they are experiencing and strengthen coping strategies.

Here are the pre-op materials that I used for an eight-year-old having surgery.

Photo of a real pulse oximeter:

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 12.10.55 PM

Loose Parts version:

DIY PulseOx

Materials used: light-up finger toys (found at the Dollar Store), old computer cord, and an ace bandage.

Photo of EKG Stickers:images-1

Loose Parts Version:


Materials used: wires, furniture pads, double-sided adhesive.

Photo of an IV Needle and Catheter:


Loose Parts Version:

DIY IVNeedle

Materials used: ballpoint pen and a plastic fork.

Photo of IV tubing and bag:

CM9216Loose Parts Version:

DIY IVBag Materials used: tubing, packaging airbag, iv catheter, tape and small rubber piece from a toy.

When I met with the patient, I gave her the opportunity to create a brace and crutches for her surgi doll. She and her mother used pipe cleaners, velcro, ace bandage, and shoe heel pads to create this.


So don’t get discouraged if you don’t have all the real medical materials to teach with, just create with what you find in your home or playroom.

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