Dinosaurs and baby dolls have been having heart attacks left right and centre at our house this week. Barbie is an expert at calling an ambulance and offering first aid. The Doll’s house has been turned into a hospital and the Bindi doll, who was previously a very dedicated vet, has suddenly had a change in vocation and is using her stethoscope on people.
Some people might be alarmed by all the hospital play. Some people might even be a little mortified when their child brings home their diary writing piece title ‘The Day the Ambulance Came to Our House’ with a blow by blow run down (complete with grade one creative spelling) of the time their father almost died on the lounge room floor, but I’m not. I’m pleased to see my children using the tools they know best to deal with a new and difficult situation.
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Our kids were all little when their Dad suddenly had a major cardiac event and had to be resuscitated in the middle of our lounge room on a sunny Wednesday afternoon not so long ago. It was a pretty traumatic event for everyone involved and we all need time and support to process what happened.
We’ve talked about what happened with the kids a LOT. We’ve explained, and reassured, and answered questions, and had professional support, but they are little and at that age they need more than talk to help them process difficult events.
So I am pleased to see all the hospital play, and I am encouraging it. I’m digging out more bandages, letting them stick band-aids on toys, and making cardboard beds to try and reduce the hospital’s waiting lists. I’m encouraging this type of dramatic play and look for other ideas and activities to help my kids ‘play out’ their experiences, because it’s one of the best ways they can process what happened.
Dramatic play, creativity, and imaginative play are one of the best ways for young children to work through, replay and sort out tricky, new, difficult, or traumatic events and emotions.
Young children learn best by doing and experiencing things so offering this kind of play helps them understand new situations, and work through any worries in a safe, non-threatening, child-led way. Taking on the role of doctor or patient, or creating a pretend hospital is a great way for kids process emotions, and practice managing new or scary situations.
These are the tools they know best. This sort of play is the way they learn and sort out the world – even the seven year olds. This tells me that they are working it all out, and it tells me that they are ok.
Hospital Play Ideas
If your kids have been through, or are about to go through, new experience with the hospital (it doesn’t have to be a scary one either!) these hospital play ideas might help them process these new experiences.
- Turn a dolls house into a hospital by adding extra beds for patients, some strips of fabric as bandages, and a hospital sign to the front.
- Build a hospital from Lego (this is especially good for older kids who might think pretend play is ‘babyish’ but Lego is still cool!)
- Make your own hospital for pretend play like this one No Time for Flash Card using a cardboard box and other craft materials.
- Set up some hospital role play with these great ideas from The Imagination Tree.
- Here are even more awesome ideas and a printable set for setting up hospital pretend play from Simple Everyday Mom.
- These doctor puppets from ABCs of Literacy are great to go with books about the hospital, or set up a simple puppet theatre for story telling in and dramatic play.
- Add an ambulance to your toy car collection or play set.
- Make this DIY Stethoscope from Fantastic Fun and Learning and see if you can hear your heart beat.
- Read a book about hospitals or going to hospital. Try fun stories as well as serious ones, and non fiction books.