“Careful with that. It could hurt you! Don’t want to be going to the doc right?”
In millions of homes across the world, some version of that line has been used to keep kids from doing things that may harm them. It’s no wonder that doctors don’t immediately inspire joy in children. According to a nation-wide study by the University of Michigan, 66% percent of children aged 4-5 hated getting shots! And, what is their immediate association with a visit to the pediatrician? Shots! And, adults telling them, it’ll “be over quickly”. Maybe, if they’re lucky, the visit will end with some candy or stickers. A few months later, it’s the same thing all over. And the shots will still hurt!
Yet, why do so many kids love doctor play sets and enjoy acting like doctors? It’s fascinating isn’t it? After doing our research, we were super-inspired to create a doctor kit! It presented so many unique challenges. Oh, but it wasn’t going to be just any doctor kit. We added fun, games, and that awesomely interactive Tacto touch to create Tacto Doctor!
So, let’s dive in to understand this unique world of pretend doctor play!
Kids naturally care
Kids have a naturally caring side. Children between the ages of 7 and 12 are inclined to feel empathy for others in pain, according to researchers at the University of Chicago. It’s actually ‘hard-wired’ into children’s brains and not entirely the product of parental guidance or other nurturing. This is where toy doctor sets come in! They offer a safe, playful environment for children to express this side–whether it’s using a stethoscope to check Mr. Bear’s fever, or taking care of someone’s boo-boos. It’s a continuous process of instinct, play, and plenty of learning. Especially with Tacto Doctor, which, unlike other doctor kits is interactive AND educational, at every step of gameplay.
Pretend Play, Real Skills
Children’s play has various stages of development. One of these stages is ‘symbolic play’. This is when they use objects to symbolize or represent other things from the real world. It’s when their creativity truly shines! A banana becomes a phone, an empty bowl of cereal is suddenly a spaceship. Or maybe, they decide their soft toy needs to be fed and put to bed.
Toy doctor kits start fascinating them at this stage. Why? Because it gives them a chance to use their observations (in this case, from a clinic or doctor’s office) and apply it to their imaginative little worlds. All of this, while engaging in an instinctive sense of care. This type of play is the foundation for developing some of life’s core skills–social-emotional learning and moral reasoning being two very important ones. How so? Let’s take a typical example of a soft toy getting a ‘check up’:
A child is gauging that the toy (which in their head is a sentient being) requires medical care. Based upon this, they choose to help. Further, they nurture the toy until, in their minds, it reaches a level of calm. This is social-emotional learning at play–they’re experimenting with a social and emotional role in society (that of a doctor), employing their understanding of a situation and acting in a cooperative and helpful manner. The fact that they choose to ‘help’ at all is a function of moral reasoning. On the face of it, it might just seem like silly kids’ play, but there is actually very intuitive and important development happening here.
Tacto Doctor builds upon this by adding problem-solving and STEM skills into the mix. It’s an interactive kit, with constant one-to-one feedback. At every stage of gameplay, a child needs to assess the best decision to make:
Which is the right play piece (medical instrument) to use?
How to use it correctly?
What happens if the action is incorrect?
There’s a classic response loop which helps children get really good at assessing a situation and then, taking a calculated decision. To us adults, all this might just seem like ‘part of a game’; but in practice, it is SO much more! It’s a kit which truly harnesses the tremendous learning power of play.
Dealing with scary situations
As parents, we’ve all had to play a reassuring role at some point, right? Kids are afraid of various things–imaginary monsters, darkness, certain sounds and other things too complex for the scope of this blog. Our role is to teach them HOW to deal with scary situations in a safe and, even fun way!
Play doctor kits are a brilliant aide in this process. Especially if they speak a child’s language –fun! In Tacto Doctor, which is a game-based kit, a small (but very important) win is the use of language. In the game voice-overs, you won’t ever hear phrases ‘it’s not scary’, ‘it won’t hurt’ or ‘it’s JUST a shot’. Nothing that even remotely feels like it’s brushing off a child’s fears. Why is this important?
Take this statistic, from a study by the University of Michigan: 43% of 2-3 year olds feared doctors as part of generalized stranger anxiety. Doctors bear the burden of being these scary individuals. Tacto Doctor helps change this perception through delightful, story-based games. By being very conscious with the use of language (something that’s easy to ignore), it makes children feel like their own fears and apprehensions ARE valid. This is empathy, it accepts the child’s perspective. Once that bridge is crossed, kids start building more positive associations with medical experiences. This not only transfers to the world around them, but helps tackle the larger symptom of doctor anxiety.
Relieving doctor anxiety
Doctor anxiety is not just a ‘thing in their mind’. It’s a legitimate symptom that has been the subject of plenty of research. Consequently, medical play has been recommended by doctors around the world as one the BEST ways to tackle this.
Let’s think about a child’s experience for a second—shots, being slightly restrained, seeing other kids crying or fussing, tense or hassled adults.
How could this possibly be pleasant? The whole thing can get so overwhelming that 1 in 25 parents even postpone a vaccine appointment because of their child’s anxiety.
When the anxiety kicks in, many well-meaning parents either ignore the wails or jump into rescue mode, says Sasha Albani, a child and adolescent psychotherapist in San Francisco. Both approaches can backfire. THIS is where an age-appropriate children’s doctor set would help, according to her.
Devices are a preferred playing habit of today’s kids. Tacto Doctor uses this to its advantage! It’s a more expansive doctor play set which adds delightful storytelling and gameplay to the mix. It builds upon the benefits of classic pretend play to offer healthcare knowledge in an interactive manner. In this seamless world, anxiety gradually starts taking a backseat.
Knowledge about medical care
We’ve gone over the benefits of toy doctor kits in dealing with symptoms like anxiety, but what about their role in providing actual healthcare knowledge? Healthcare knowledge, like financial literacy, is an area that parents today place an emphasis on. And, why not!? It’s great for it to be normalized in people’s homes and conversations, rather than being some scary ‘unknown’ that’s only relevant when someone is sick.
This was a major step in the development of Tacto Doctor. We wanted to create a children’s doctor kit that actively provides healthcare knowledge. You may wonder ‘But, why do kids NEED to know about medical instruments and symptoms anyways?’
The answer is two fold: Firstly, once they get familiar with equipment they may see at the pediatrician’s office–a stethoscope, syringe or even an X-ray machine–it gives them a sense of control over what might otherwise be an alienating, scary experience.
Secondly, by normalizing healthcare discussions through play, children become more open-minded towards the relevance and necessity for doctor visits. And, being aware of health at a broader level, is beneficial for society at large! It goes a long way towards developing a preventive attitude towards personal health; this means understanding the need for healthy habits, and actively practicing them with a knowledge of what happens when ignored.
So, we’ve spoken plenty about how valuable and fun children’s doctor kits are for children themselves. But, you know who else benefits? Parents! That’s right, YOU gain much needed peace-of-mind once your kids feel calmer about medical experiences. How about that for a pleasant side-effect?
Well then, Doctor Mishka, Dr. Dough and Dr. Leah are waiting. We’d recommend you visit them on the snazziest, most interactive doctor kit in town–Tacto Doctor. The kids will LOVE it! And, so will you!