Animals get sick and hurt and go to the doctors – simple theme but oh… so many sensory, motor and social experiences to practice!
Choose Your Role
We like the kids to have any role they choose and we fill in the empty roles. Sometimes they like to be the pet, sometimes the vet, the assistant, the owner of the animal, the pet ambulance driver, and so on. Later, they will have opportunities to play different roles and add variations to the theme, building complex pretend play skills along the way. It’s important to have them be the role they initially imagine. Sometimes that’s all they can visualize.
Move to Play
After the negotiation of roles, we build in some motor and sensory experiences by having kids create buildings and spaces. We find the story often results from the active creation of these spaces. For example, as the kids build a home using a blanket over a table, we talk about what happened to the animal at home. If they say the animal got stuck up a tree in the back yard, we talk about why the animal was climbing the tree, who found her, how did it get down, why did it have to go to the vet, etc.? Once the kids decided to create a circus and have one of the circus animals get hurt! You can imagine the wonderful motor activities built into that play: tight ropewalkers, tumbling acrobats, lion tamers climbing on and off large blocks, and horses prancing around a circle!
Whose Job Is It Anyway?
One of the greatest challenge for our group kids seems to be maintaining their roles. They all want to be the ambulance driver, not just the one sitting in the back. Once the animal gets to the vet, they all want to handle the doctor kit equipment, not just hold the pet. We spend a lot of time working out the concept that everyone plays his or her part and each part is very important. Rather than grabbing the doctor kit materials, one child can ask the “doctor”, “Can I give you the doctor tools when you need them?” or “What do you need now?” rather than grabbing the syringe and giving the dog a shot without “doctor” approval. The kids develop impulse control, attention, perspective taking, patience, responsiveness, sequencing and collaboration in this child-driven, thoroughly enjoyable pretend play experience.
Now it’s time to change roles and do it all again!
Check out our Amazon Store for some basic doctor and vet kits