SKILLS: Children use social, language, and fine motor skills while developing an understanding of their own bodies and the role of an important community helper, the doctor.
- baby dolls
- 2 or more doctor kits with an assortment of instruments
- materials for bandages (strips of cloth or gauze and masking tape)
- doctor and nurse clothing
- a scale (optional)
IN ADVANCE: Invite children to share their own experiences with going to the doctor. It may be helpful to show them pictures of a doctor's office or illustrations from one of the books listed below to stimulate discussion.
1 Introduce the doctor-play props. Give children time to examine each one. Discuss the name of each item and what it's used for.
2 Now invite children to role-play using the doctor's equipment by asking, "What would happen if one of our dolls got sick?" "Where could we take the doll?" "Would you like to make a doctor's office?"
3 Once you've introduced the idea, step back and give children plenty of time to develop themes in their own way. They may want to use the dramatic play area to set up an office, or they may just find a comfortable place on the floor where they can "examine" and take care of their sick babies.
4 Weigh the baby. When interest seems to wane, introduce a new prop, such as a balance or scale. Children will enjoy experimenting with the scale, weighing the dolls, and watching the needle move. This kind of experimentation is wonderful; however, don't expect children to understand the concept of weighing.
For younger children: If possible, provide instruments used by doctors for children to explore. Give them plenty of opportunities to investigate such things as a stethoscope, tongue depressor, blood pressure cuff.
For older children: Explain that height, as well as weight, is measured in a doctor's office. Introduce a measuring tape to children. Help them use it to measure one another's heights.
Remember: Some young children have strong feelings of anger or fear attached to the experience of going to the doctor. Let them share their feelings, and communicate by your openness that it's OK to feel angry or afraid. You might share your own feelings about being sick and going to the doctor. Because young children may use doctor play to work out strong feelings, play can become aggressive. For this reason, limit "patients" to dolls or stuffed animals.
Invite a doctor to visit the classroom. In advance, have children brainstorm a list of questions to ask the doctor. Suggest that the doctor bring interesting props, such as a sample X-ray, or part of an old cast children can observe and explore.
Clifford Visits the Hospital by Norman Bridwell
Does a Hippo Say Ahh? by Fred Ehrlich
Mocha the Real Doctor by Jane Roberts Wood