Medical play is a wonderful way for children to play with real and pretend medical tools. They can become comfortable with the materials, manipulate them and begin to play out a variety of scenarios. As a child life specialist, this is a common intervention that I used with patients in the hospital. A child life specialist will provide the appropriate medical tools for a specific treatment or procedure that the patient has or will be experiencing. This could be for anything, such as a blood draw, dressing changes, chemotherapy treatment and surgery.
As a parent or caregiver we can also introduce medical play into our child’s lives. Just playing doctor and having them explore the materials can provide a sense of control for them. It is a great way for a child to play out what they have experienced.
As both a child life specialist and a parent I like to have the child lead the play. I am involved with them but I let them provide the information on what is happening, how to play and what roles we have. This is an eye-opening opportunity for a parent to connect with their child and understand how they may be processing their experience from a doctor’s appointment. It may provide insight and information on misconceptions as well. If your child is saying that the baby doll is a bad girl as she is giving her injections, than you may want to investigate that a little more. Some kids feel like they did or said something wrong and that is why they are experiencing an illness, injury and treatment.
Try to hold back from correcting your child when they are exploring. For example, some kids will give their doll lots of injections with a syringe and it may be in places that they hadn’t experienced; such as their eyes or torso. It’s normal. Children play out and over exaggerate experiences all the time.
I have a doctor kit for my kids filled with additional materials than what was originally provided. I add bandaids, gauze, tape, syringes, measuring medicine cups, alcohol wipes, thermometer and a tape measure. If I know that my child will be experiencing something more specific at an upcoming appointment than I add that to the kit as well.
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