Pediatric Blood & Marrow Transplantation Center
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Medical Play

Medical play allows children to act out events related to their health care. It helps children to feel more comfortable in a health clinic or a hospital. It may be occur, during or after a visit to the doctor or hospital.

What are the benefits?

When your child must visit the doctor or have treatment, medical play can teach or help your child:

  • Know what to expect
  • Familiarize themselves with medical items used in their care
  • Get ready for the sounds, sights, tastes, smells or feel of a medical setting
  • Express his or her feelings
  • Reduce his or her fears
  • Feel more in control over what happens to him or her

How do I get my child started?

When children are given medical toys they may naturally begin to play. Appropriate items include:

  • Dolls or stuffed animals to act as patients
  • Medical play kits from toy stores and other objects such as; cotton balls, band-aids, gauze or tape
  • Books or handouts about the human body, meeting with the doctor, having an exam or going to the hospital

During Play:

  • Let your child take the lead.
  • Your child may give you a role to play--follow their direction.
  • Let your child decide how long to play.
  • Allow your child to express feelings and thoughts while playing.
  • Watch for non-verbal cues that show your child's feelings. Assure your child it is okay to feel this way.
  • Allow your child to do medical play as often as she or he wishes. A child may need to re-create certain events many times.
  • If your child does not want to play, put away the play items and bring them out another time.

Your child may be too sick to play before a visit with the doctor. If so, play for your child. Then your child will know what will happen and can talk about their feelings.

Your Role Is to:

  • Answer questions and correct wrong ideas.
  • Tell the truth. Truthful answers help your child to trust you and the care providers.
  • Tell your child you will ask the doctor if you cannot answer a question.

Use Words You Think Your Child will Understand

WORDS TO AVOID SUGGESTED SUBSTITUTIONS
Shot, bee stings Poke
Organ Special place in body
Test See how______is working
Incision Special opening
Fissure Opening
Stretcher, gurney Bed with wheels
Stool Child's usual term
Dye Special medicine
Pain Hurt, discomfort, owie, booboo
Deaden Numb, make sleepy
Cut, fix Make better
Take (e.g. temperature) Check to see how warm you are
Anesthesia Special sleeping medicine so your body can't feel anything
Catheter Tube
Monitor TV screen
Specimen Sample
Put to sleep Help you sleep
Gas Medicine mixed with air
Burning Warm feeling

Learn as much as possible before a visit to avoid any wrong ideas and tell your child as much as they want to know.

Medical Play by Age

Infants (0 to 12 months):

  • Play peek-a-boo with masks and hats.
  • Allow infants to hold and play with medical objects. Use only safe items. Any thing that fits in the mouth can cause choking.

Toddlers (1 to 3 years):

  • Play doctor with dolls and medical kits.
  • Read books about going to the doctor or hospital.

Pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years):

  • Play doctor with dolls and medical kits.
  • Ask questions about what the doll does. For example: Why is the doll going to the doctor? What will happen at the doctor's office or hospital?
  • Talk about feelings the "doll" might have.

School-age kids (6 to 12 years):

  • Talk about the parts of the body and what they do.
  • Talk about ways to cope during a treatment.
  • Let them explore medical objects and their uses.

Teenagers (12 years and up):

  • Offer books about the anatomy of the body.
  • Ask questions that start a discussion. (Avoid questions with a "yes" or "no" answer.) Ask what they want to know.
  • Provide creative things to do: journals for writing or paper and colored pencils for drawing pictures of medical events.

Journey Clinic - Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Center

2450 Riverside Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55454
612-365-1000
612-365-1000 TTY: 612-672-7300

For information about the Adult Blood and Marrow Transplantation program, click here:

We're Here To Help

We have been providing innovative care to children in need of a blood and bone marrow transplant for over 40 years. Call us, we're here to help.

(888) 601-0787 or (612) 273-2800

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