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: