Pretend play is a great way to build kids’ imagination, vocabulary, cooperation skills and so much more. My son loves to make up his own imaginary and role play games and I have set up lots of little scenarios to support this in the past, from a role play organic market, a play dough ice cream shop shop and a garden centre.
I set up up a pretend play hospital for him last year (October), to overcome doctor fears. After liking his previous doctor visits early last year, he was suddenly terrified when we took him to see his pediatrician for the last injection which was due in October last year. He screamed and cried the whole way through. So I began to come up with Doctor Play to help with Rayes’s sudden fear of the doctor.
Playing doctors and patients can also be a hugely helpful way for ill children to play through some of their experiences of medical experiences and make sense of them in a familiar context at home.
I printed some simple signs that might be seen in a real doctor’s surgery and placed those around the room.
Then I found some blankets, doctor’s outfit (from ELC), dollies and teddies and a doctor’s pretend play kit to finish off the scene.
I also added in a box of plasters, some super-cheap stretchy bandages, a medicine spoon, a box for herbal medicine and a medicine syringe. I think REAL materials are far superior to toys, as so much more learning takes place.
We talked about needing each patient to come and check in at the desk and how they must write their names down in the forms. This is to introduce some purposeful writing opportunities and for understanding why and when adults might use writing in these scenarios. Rayes was very keen to give all his little patients names and to have a go at writing the names, spelt phonetically or using invented letter combinations.
He checked them out using their medical instruments and we talked about what each one was used for and what it could tell us about the patient’s medical conditions. He was particularly keen on the stethoscope and listening out for any funny noises from all parts of the bodies!
First patient was Teddy who was VERY hot, until he became “warmer” and was then, thankfully, much better!
Then the casualties just rolled into the surgery, one after another, all with some fairly bizarre and/or catastrophic injuries! Most seemed to have fallen and hurt their knees or legs, and about 95% of all complaints were solved with the aid of a plaster.
Ernie had a temperature and needed some medicine and a lie down. Soon, he was joined by a literal heap of fellow patients all clamouring for Doctor Rayes’s s attention.
And daddy needed to have a stethoscope applied to his chest to “listen for things that are wrong” inside it. He was diagnosed with a “broken heart”, which was pretty tragic, but just a few drops of medicine later and he made a complete and dramatic recovery!
Later on there was a patient with “broken eyebrows” and “hurting hair”, which both sounded pretty serious! It reminds me how little experience with real illness or injury he has encountered so far, thankfully, so for now we can be thrilled that these are the worst things that could happen!
I provided my little doctor with a microscope. I spent a fair bit of time researching microscopes before settling on the Edu Science M640x Microscope – Blue that comes together with a set of child-friendly slides and glass slides for creating our own specimens. I did not expect my three year old to enjoy using the microscope, but I was wrong. He liked it very much!!
He also enjoyed working with his human torso (National Geographic). This human torso is safe and fun to be used by children. It contains eight removable organs (oesophagus, stomach, liver, large intestines, small intestines, bowel). After having this human torso in our pretend play doctor’s surgery, Rayes knew all of the organs and he could put them in order. Hoorayyy !!
What they are learning as they play:
Literacy: emergent reading of signs and labels in a role play environment, purposeful pre-writing about real life contexts, mark making and emergent writing, list making, new medical vocabulary
Knowledge and Understanding of the world: understanding what doctors do, learning about medical equipment and its purpose, talking about illness and treatment
Creativity: imaginative role play and dramatic play, taking on a role and remaining in character
Vocabulary: there was lots of new vocabulary introduced and worked into the play, including patient, stethoscope, organ, thermometer, bandage, temperature, and recover. Great for language and literacy development!