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Pretend Play with a Purpose: Doctor Visits with Kids

2015-06-02 by Dr. Melissa Liguori, Ed. D.
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These thoughts about preparing for doctor visits with kids were provided by our guest writer and special needs consultant Dr. Melissa Liguori, Ed. D.

As parents, educators and caregivers we know the importance of pretend play. Children of all ages love to dress up and become one of their favorite characters, role model, or even an animal. Slipping into these roles allows children to express their creativity, escape into a fantasy and even helps prepare them for certain situations.


During the summer months many children are catching up on doctor visits, dental appointments and school haircuts! These appointments may seem routine for many children but for some, especially those with special needs, these visits can produce a great deal of anxiety.

Children can often feel anxious when they do not know what to expect. They can also be holding on to memories of past visits that might not have gone well. The best thing we as adults can do to ease the nerves of these children is to help prepare them. Often once the element of “surprise” or the “mystery” is taken away, kids do much better at these appointments.

An easy way to prepare for these appointments is through pretend play. Have your child dress as the doctor or as a pediatric nurse. See what their ideas or thoughts are about their upcoming visit while you be the patient. Allow them to explore the stethoscope, syringes, and thermometer.

Pretend Play with a Purpose Doctor Visits with Kids *Children with anxiety about a doctor visit, a dentist appointment or a haircut appointment can become more comfortable through role play with the Melissa & Doug Doctor Role Play Set, Pediatric Nurse Role Play Set, Hair Stylist Role Play Set and Mine to Love 12" Dolls.

Similarly, if your child is anxious about getting a haircut, allow them to be the hairstylist. The Melissa & Doug set comes with a hair dryer with sound effects, pretend scissors and more!

It may also be a good idea to call ahead and let the professional such as your pediatrician or dentist know your child is uneasy about the visit. They may be able to schedule your visit at a slow time of the day or even schedule in some extra time for your appointment. Allow your child to bring or wear their Melissa & Doug role play set. They can look in the doctor’s ear then the doctor can look in their ear.

Once they have acted out the visit as a doctor or a nurse a few times, they’ll likely going to be more at ease and ready to be the patient themselves! Stick out your tongue and say, “Aaaahhh”!


Dr. Melissa Liguori, Ed. D.

After studying early childhood education at the American University in Washington, D.C., Dr. Liguori began her career as a classroom teacher in one of the nation’s top school districts, Montgomery County, Maryland. There she fostered an environment where play and learning were synonymous, and her reputation for thinking outside the box when it comes to toys began. Dr. Liguori completed her doctorate in Developmental and Learning Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, and worked at prestigious private schools in New York, New Jersey, and the surrounding suburbs before settling her family and practice in Westport, CT. →You can follow Dr. Liguori on Facebook and Twitter!

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