Medical Play

Child Life Specialists use medical play in the hospital setting to help children and their family members in the following ways:


  • To teach children about the things that will happen in their health care experience using medical dolls, photo teaching books and hospital equipment under adult supervision so they will know what to expect in a way that they understand.
  • To help children become more familiar with the medical equipment and supplies that the health care team will be using in their care.
  • To provide children with an opportunity to express their feelings and concerns and clarify any misconceptions that they may have.  To learn more about their perception of how they are doing or the events they are about to experience.
  • To practice positioning and introduce distraction/relaxation techniques that will help kids tolerate medical tests and procedures more easily.

Using Medical Play Kits at Home

Hospitalization and/or health care encounters can be difficult for children.  There are new people, unfamiliar places and medical treatments, occasional separations from loved ones, discomfort, and fear associated with the unknown.  Playing "hospital" can help children understand and feel better about the things that happened to them in the hospital.  During play, children can "be in charge". They can share their ideas and express feelings.  With a supportive adult and a few supplies, medical play can be an important and fun activity for children.

Examples of Supplies

  • Stuffed animals or dolls
  • Band-Aids
  • Stethoscopes
  • Syringes,
  • O.R. hat, mask and gloves
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive tape
  • Tongue depressors
  • Thermometer

Fisher Price Medical Kit available in most toy stores, and your nurse or child life specialist can assist you in getting supplies for your play kit

Your Role

  • Supervise your child's medical play.  This helps you be aware of any misconceptions your child may have.
  • Allow enough time without interruptions.
  • Help children talk about their feelings and actions.  Examples are "How are you going to help your patient?" or "How does Mimi feel about getting shots?" or "Sometimes shots make patients angry."
  • Let children be in charge of their play, starting and stopping as they wish
  • To avoid asking too many questions, talk to your child about what they are doing.  Examples are "Adrianne has three Band-Aids on her leg" or "you are so gentle when you help Adrianne get better."
  • First let children know you understand their ideas and feelings. Then if needed, correct any misconceptions they may have.  Examples are when a child says, "Chris is going to get 10 shots in her head." An adult can say, "Sometimes children may think they will get 10 shots, but they only get a few" or "sometimes it seems like patients get a lot of shots.  But, often they get only a few, and they are usually gotten in the arm or leg."
  • If the play might hurt the child, others or the environment, supervise the play and find a safer way or place in which to play.
  • Encourage children to use dolls or stuffed animals for patients instead of people.  In they way they remember the play is make-believe.
  • With your support and understanding, children can use medical play to help make hospital experiences easier to understand and tolerate.