Medical Play

Medical Play at Doernbecher

We use medical play to help your child become more familiar with the hospital surroundings and to cope with their healthcare experiences. Your child has an opportunity to play with common medical items such as stethoscopes, Band-aids, doctor's hats, gloves, masks, etc. 

This type of play helps your child process their fears, anxieties and other reactions to their experiences. It is also an opportunity for us to clarify any mistaken ideas or expectations they may have about the hospital or their treatment.

Below is a description of how adults may be helpful to children of all ages.

Ways adults may be helpful:

  • Let the child direct the play
  • Encourage the child to play out his/or her experiences on a doll or stuffed animal vs. an adult. This allows the child the opportunity to play out potentially aggressive themes in a safe way. 
  • Supervise the various play activities.

The following list highlights developmental stages of social and emotional development and provides suggestions on how to help children of various ages process their healthcare experiences in a healthy way.


Developmental stage:

Separation anxiety and fear of strangers are developmentally appropriate milestones which can be increased during hospitalization. 

Suggestions for medical play:

  • Mask play – playing peek a boo with doctor's masks
  • Allowing children to play with a medical play kit with the caregiver


Developmental stage:

Toddlers are experiencing increased independence as they start acquiring self help skills and some language. They may be fearful of strangers and have some separation anxiety when hospitalized.  

Suggestions for medical play: 

  • Mask play – playing peek a boo with doctor's masks
  • Opportunities to play with a medical play kit on dolls /stuffed animals 
  • Caregiver reads books about health care experiences with child


Developmental stage:

Preschooler's language skills are typically increasing rapidly as are their self help skills. They often engage in imaginary play but may not be able to distinguish their imaginary play from reality.  

Suggestions for medical play:        

  • Opportunities to play with medical play kit on stuffed animals and/ or dolls
  • Medical art activities – painting with toothettes, collage with Band-Aids, gauze, tape etc. 
  • Caregiver reads books about health care experiences with child

School Age

Developmental stage:

School age children are experiencing increased independence, socialization and peer interactions, and are also able to think in concrete terms. They may interpret words literally.

Suggestions for medical play:  

  • Opportunities to play with medical play kit / real medical equipment and play out experiences on a doll
  • Medical art activities – collage, finger casting, syringe painting, sculptures out of medical supplies
  • Reading books about healthcare experiences


Developmental stage:

Adolescents typically have more independence and their peers may be very important to them. Their cognitive skills have increased so they may be able to think abstractly but don't always connect the consequences to their actions.

Suggestions for medical play:  

  • Journaling about their experiences – photos, writing, creating songs, poems, scrap booking etc. regarding their experiences 
  • Opportunities to create art out of medical items


503 418-5388
Medical play at Doernbecher