Set up a hospital role play scene in your home or classroom for some context-rich playful writing opportunities and a fun way to learn about the world around us. Playing doctors and patients can also be a hugely helpful way for ill children to play through some of their experiences of medical experiences and make sense of them in a familiar context at home.
Our girls love to make up their own imaginary and role play games and we have set up lots of little scenarios to support this in the past, from a role play shoe shop to a play dough sweet shop and an outdoor garden centre! (See a full list at the bottom of this post.) We have made a role-play doctor’s surgery before and they loved it, so we extended the play into a full hospital A& E department this time!
I wrote some simple signs that might be seen in a real hospital and we placed those around the room. Then they found some blankets, doctor’s outfits, dollies and teddies and a doctor’s pretend play kit to finish off the scene. I added some real surgical gloves, bandages, plasters and dressings to increase the real-life elements (and because for my girls it’s ALL about the bandages and plasters/ band aids!)
We talked about needing each patient to come and check in at the desk and how they must write their names down i a list to be seen. This is to introduce some purposeful writing opportunities and for understanding why and when adults might use writing in these scenarios. Cakie was very keen to give all her little patients names and to have a go at writing these on there list, spelt phonetically or using invented letter combinations.
They checked them out using their medical instruments and we talked about what each one was used for and what it could tell us about the patient’s medical conditions. They were particularly keen on the stethoscope and listening out for any funny noises from all parts of the bodies!
We also had a real (old) prescription pad from my Mum’s doctor career, and they loved writing “real” prescriptions for “lots and lots of medicines and plasters” on their. Using real or realistic looking writing and reading materials in these rle play set ups really helps to increase the context-led learning. If only we had some real brochures and posters from a real hospital department it would have been perfect!
They checked them out, diagnosed them and then administered treatment, lying them in their little beds and tucking them in to recover.
What they are learning as they play:
literacy: emergent reading of signs and labels in a role play environment, purposeful pre-writing about real life contexts, mark making and emergent writing, list making, new medical vocabulary
knowledge and understanding of the world: understanding what doctors do, learning about medical equipment and its purpose, talking about illness and treatment
creativity: imaginative role play and dramatic play, taking on a role and remaining in character
Bean: 14 mos
Browse our other role play set up ideas!
adorable – and I love the lab coats!
I’m really impressed with the amount of creative/learning play you guys do! Do you plan on home schooling or just using these activities as a supplement to a more mainstream education?
Hi Anna, firstly, I love your site and the rich, fun and stimulating activities you prepare for your children. As a primary school teacher, (mainly Key St. 2), I am experienced with creating role-play areas for my pupils and I love the benefits they provide on so many levels. However, I am writing to you in search of advice or reassurement. My role-play creations at home are sadly, rather unsuccessful. My son is four and my daughter 23 months. My friends are amazed by what I do at home with my two but in truth, my boy has such a short attention span/interest, that the ‘play’ lasts just a few minutes then he wants to play with his trains again. I do not want to force him into anything so I am at a loss. I am mindful of providing a variety of themes e.g. MOT garage; garden centre; hat and wig hire shop (today’s surprise) etc. I guess my boy plays longer in our outdoor ‘sand kitchen’ and during our themed baths. My husband smiles at the effort I put into the activities I plan but I know in my heart that my son just wants to play his favourite games and that’s it. Also, whenever I try to subtly teach him letter sounds and numbers, he’s on to me and he’s off like a shot! As an experienced teacher of young children coupled with your years of mothering experience, can you offer me any advice? Is it a boy thing (although I know not all little lads are the same). Apologies for this lengthy verse. Jill
I don’t know, I guess times have changed but thats not how WE played doctor when we were kids
Kate - An Everyday Story says
I remember when I saw your doctors surgery play a while back I was so jealous of your amazing doctor’s kit that was your mums. I was on the look out for real instruments from then and was so stoked when I found a real stethoscope at the tip shop.
I really should do this for Jack and Sarah. We play dress-ups everyday day but I’ve never set up a play scenario for them and they would LOVE it. Maybe this week 🙂
Anna Ranson says
Oh yes, those are gorgeous! We do have those out too except I was a bit worried about them being broken with other kids around so we stash them away for safekeeping. I’m glad you found one!
I love this! So adorable! Pinned! 🙂
Zandra Johnson says
This post was great fun to read, thank you. Playing imaginative games with your children is a great way of teaching them and enjoying some valuable time with them. It makes wonderful memories especially if it is all relaxed and without any pressure.
Giving children time for free imaginative play, ie undirected and unstructured, is also very valuable. Liz I remember well when my daughter was small and possessed of great energy (she still is)and would play for a very short time at a requested activity and then skip off to something else. The ratio went something like 20 mins preparation time: 2 mins play time : 20 mins clearing up time. If your child is happy playing in his/her own imagination at a favourite game then just stand back and let them.
Have fun, don’t try too hard and enjoy.