One of my eldest son’s favorite pretend plays, aside from his all-time-favorite of playing store, is pretending to be a doctor. He would borrow some of the things we have in the house that he often sees in his pediatrician’s clinic or what he sees doctors use during our visits to the hospital, like cotton balls, band aids, digital thermometer, etc. Sometimes, he uses other household items and imagines them to be doctor’s things. Recently, I bought him his own set of doctor toys to help him ‘get into character’ during his dramatic plays.
As ‘doctor’ I, his dad or our maids were usually his patients, but now that we have a new baby, his new favorite patient is his baby brother. I encourage pretend play a lot in our household because I recognize the many benefits it gives to kids. Let me share some of them with you:
1.It allows the child to put himself in his doctor’s shoes.
When a child gets to experience being a “doctor”, it can actually be his first step towards his dream profession. One of the questions I ask my son when he pretends to be a doctor is if he wants to become one someday. He would always say yes. I think it boosts his confidence.
2. It helps the child be at ease during his visits to the doctor.
Although my eldest son is not afraid of going to his doctor’s clinic, pretend play helps him become more comfortable with it. Our pretend play serves as simulations of what can or will happen next time he has his check-up. For kids who are afraid to go to the doctor, this kind of play can help them realize that doctors are our friends because they help us become well, and thatthey need not fear or cry every time. This kind of play can help make kids become more cooperative next visit, or when they simply need to drink medicine, or you need to clean their wound.
3. It provides an opportunity for the child to role-play medical scenarios, including basic first aid and other emergencies. Kids thus learn not to panic when these situations happen and learn how to handle them in the process, such as someone getting wounded, injured or sick. This way, kids can learn the basic concepts of first aid. Knowledge of such basic life skills equips the kids even through play and lessens their fear of these medical emergencies since they somehow know what to expect and do during these situations.
(Related story: The Benefits of Pretend Play to your Child's Development)
4. It helps the child practice his communication skills.
Pretend scenarios give us an insight on how the child perceives situations. How he talks to his ‘patients’ helps him develop his ‘bedside manners’ and communication skills in general.
5. It helps increase the child’s vocabulary.
One of the things I did with my son when I bought his doctor toy set is to teach him the name of each item in his medical kit and their uses. Now he refers to these tools by name during play.
6. It enables children to practice their writing and spelling skills.
During one of our play times, my son ’wrote me a prescription’. I took the opportunity to encourage him to write his full name with the title ‘Dr.”.He liked the idea instantly, and this has been our daily writing practice these last few weeks.
7. It teaches the child empathy for people who are unwell, and inspires him to do something to help them. Through these kinds of pretend play, kids can learn to be extra caring and sensitive to the needs of people who are sick. Moreover, it is an opportunity for us parents to teach them the proper behavior when relating with people who are sick.
(Related story: 10 Ways to Teach our Kids Empathy)
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