Kitty's All Better! Playing Veterinarian Is the Cat’s Meow.
Does your beloved stuffed bear have an owie? The (preschool) doctor is in! Chilly autumn afternoons will zip by when your little helper is playing vet’s office—and she’ll love making her lovies feel all better. So gather her favorite stuffed animals, pull a few props from the toy bin, add a little imagination, and get started!
Possible Props for Pretend Play
- Stuffed animals
- Vet or doctor costume (if available)
- Toy medical tools such as stethoscopes, tweezers, a syringe for giving pretend shots, or bandages. You can also include real medical supplies that are safe for play, like Band-Aids® or a digital thermometer
- Pet supplies (real or toy) like carriers, collars, leashes, and food and water bowl
- Child-size chairs and tables (if available)
- Clipboards, paper, and pens
Begin by setting up the vet’s clinic—stat! Line up the chairs for a waiting room and let your little doctor conduct triage to determine which stuffed animals he should examine first. Use the table (or an overturned laundry basket) for his “exam room.” The clipboard can be used for appointment check-ins or to take notes during a stuffed elephant’s check-up, and of course all those toy medical tools will be lifesavers for his patients. Your kiddo can pretend to be the vet, but he may also want to try acting as a concerned pet owner or even a pet—part of the fun is getting to pick his own method of play!
Incorporate some x-rays. Children are often fascinated when they discover that there’s more to bodies than what you see on the outside. Simply do an Internet search for x-ray images of animals, print up a pile of your favorites (we love bats, snakes, and dogs), and add the prints to the play: “Oh, it looks like Fluffy has a broken bone in her tail—let’s get her fixed up!”
Make it a two-fer by checking in with the dentist. Healthy teeth are as important for pets as they are for kids! Encourage your little one to inspect her stuffed pal’s chompers (no worries if her critter doesn’t actually have teeth—that’s what “pretend” is for!) and then give them a thorough brushing.
Finish with a doggie (or kitty or pony or monkey) day spa. Give Fido a deluxe treatment after his vet visit. Your child can give his stuffed buddies a pretend bath with shampoo (make sure you only give him empty bottles!) and a washcloth, sponge, or scrub brush—if you’re away from the bathroom, a large cardboard box or laundry basket can stand in for a tub.
Learning we love: There’s a lot more to pretend play than just fun and games: Role playing helps kids practice empathy. When your child is pretending to be someone else—an expert veterinarian or a worried owner of a sick pet, say—she is discovering how different people can feel and see things differently, and that’s essential to developing empathy!