Friday, November 5, 2010

You always wanted to be a veterinarian when you grew up.

Whether those were your aspirations or not, you can't deny that most kids love pretending to help their poor, little pets get better.

My job as a developmental therapist often requires me to visits to preschools in the Chicagoland area.  One such preschool at the First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest, had a fantastic set-up to play what they called, "Pet Vet."  Many of their ideas can be readily reproduced in your home.  The teachers started by setting up the veterinary office first - before the children arrived - so that the kids could jump right into play with some structures already in place.  The office consisted of a dress-up corner complete with doctor smocks,  a table that held all the doctor tools, a table with an old Mac laptop, telephone and pads of paper, and a bin of animal puppets.  In my opinion, the best part of all of this was two clipboards that had pictures of a dog eye, ear, tail, etc. that the children could use to circle the part of their pet that was hurt, and then they could hand this to the "doctor" when it was their turn.  I made a reproduction here:
This sheet did wonders for the kids in the room.  Many children often love to play doctor, but don't yet have the skills or vocabulary to lengthen and expand the play beyond "my dog is hurt - listen to its heart - give it a shot - it's better."  A sheet likes this gives those children more ideas, more vocabulary and helped them organize these ideas and come up with a plan before entering the rigors of play.  I could go on and on about how it assisted children with language and learning difficulties, but more than anything, it helped those children stay engaged with their peers in symbolic play for longer periods of time. 

If you want to create something in your house similiar to First Presbyterian, don't feel like you have to set up every aspect of the vet office like they did.  You might just have one or two animals, some doctor tools, a phone and that handy dandy sheet.  I personally enjoy these doctor toys, but any will do...

I found some other ideas for props to include in Preschoolers at Play: Building language and literacy through dramatic play a book that is, of course, out of print by Alice Wiggins.  If you can make these happen, add them into your "Pet Vet" repertoire.  Your kids may like going on the hunt for some of these items in your bathroom.  Before you go, help your child think about what else you might need at a vet's office. Here is what Wiggins suggests:

Band-aids, cotton, dry pet food, q-tips, gloves, popsicle sticks for splints, blankets, overturned laundry baskets for cages, dog bones, leashes, money/credit cards, small flashlight, surgical mask

She also suggests modeling phrases for your child that will help with vocabulary acquisition.
"I will look into your dog's ears"  "He may need a vaccine."  "He sure is furry."  "I will take him out of his cage."  "Can you help me with my sick kitten?  She isn't feeling well."  "I am brushing her fur."

All right!  So, go play - right now!

If you would like me to email you my "Pet Vet" sheet please let me know.

For more information on the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest Preschool, click here:

1 comment:

  1. Sara M. emailed me the following comment:

    "I love your new blog with parenting ideas and tips. After Claire's nap yesterday, I tried out the Pet Vet idea and had lots of fun with her. I grabbed some cotton balls, bandaids, a flashlight, a flossing wand (pretty much, a head thermometer, and drew out a quick diagram of the cats with some crayons for Claire. I even put a line at the bottom for Dr. Claire's signature at the end of her exams. She now chases Fiona and tries to examine her while saying 'Good Girl, Fiona!!!!'

    She had so much fun just touching the cats. Maya is actually very sick (she has under a year to live due to a congenital disease and is in renal failure) so we have her contained in the basement most of the time. You should have heard Maya purring throughout her 'Claire' exam. She was so happy and Claire had so much fun looking into her mouth, putting bandaids over her eye, counting the rings on her tail, feeling her wet nose, and pretty much torturing Maya. Maya loved every second. Fiona failed miserably and was more like examining a wild badger. But we still had lots of fun.

    It inspired me to try more activities with Claire afterwards. I filled up 6 glasses with water and gave her a big spoon. Then I dropped some food coloring in them. One red, one yellow, one blue. Then I let her pour each one into another cup to make the orange, green and purple. At the end, she poured them all into one which made muddy green and muddy purple but she knew the colors when she made them. And she wanted 'more' when we were done.

    I have so much fun with her at this age and love reading your blog for inspiration on what I can do with her staying at home. I run out of ideas sometimes. Most activities last at the most 15 minutes and then she's onto something else. :)

    Keep them coming!"