How to Reduce Children's Fears of Doctor Visits Using Medical Play

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Presentation given at the European Early Childhood Education Research Association. This study examined the impact medical play has on young children. Medical play is used to familiarize children with medical equipment and procedures so the children are informed and not fearful going to the doctor. During doctor visits, child are exposed to unfamiliar people, restricted movement, undressing in the presence of strangers, unfamiliar medical language, shots, medical equipment, and repeated invasive procedures, pain, and loss of autonomy and control (McGrath & Huff, 2001, Jessee, Wilson, & Morgan, 2010). Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget are identified with theories that explain common reactions of children in the hospital according to age and developmental level. The unfamiliar setting of a doctor's office causes stress and anxiety for a young child. Medical play allows the child to become familiar with medical equipment and less fearful College students were taught the foundation of administering medical play, placed in groups, and presented a session on medical play to children ages two to eight at 23 facilities. Students wrote a paper reflecting on their experiences and the children's reactions. Content analysis was performed on 56 reflection papers. IRB approval was not necessary: analysis was of college student papers based on observations. No college students, children, or facilities were identified. Results indicated that the children learned about medical tools and were able to express and 151 overcome their fears of going to the doctor. Specific activity suggestions will be offered to teachers to incorporate medical play in classrooms to help children overcome anxiety when visiting the doctor.


European Early Childhood Education Research Association