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under5s - health and happiness
Some of  the themes and ideas that we develop with the children in our care, can turn out to be more appropriate than others. For example 'going to the hospital'. I had introduced this topic to my own family as I knew that my two year old daughter was going to have an operation for grommets. However I did not know that just a week later her twin brother would also be visiting, with a broken toe. It was fortunate that he was already happy and familiar with the hospital setting. But it goes to show that it is never too early to introduce this topic, you can never tell what might happen next !
A great way to start to introduce any topic is a visit to the local library, and either hunt through the books with the children or ask the children's librarian to point out something relevant. There are a huge number of books available dealing with the jobs people do in the hospital, the role of the patient, ambulances, etc. so perhaps you can find one that interests your child.
How about setting up a toy hospital at home. You can provide beds (shoe boxes) for teddies, where they can wait to be nursed. An old blue t-shirt makes a great nurse costume, use white ones for doctors or green for the ambulance crew. A doctors kit, bandages and other first aid items add a realistic touch.

Perhaps you can start the role play off, by explaining that teddy is hurt and needs to be made better and encourage the children to think of ways that will help. 

Other ideas are to include ride on toys, to use as ambulances, and telephones and notepaper for a receptionist, this helps to encourage writing skills. You can also ask your local health centre for posters and leaflets, and books about the body are useful, the children can use these to look up what is wrong.

You can extend the topic by talking about what things make you feel poorly; a tummy ache or a sore knee and why perhaps you might need to visit a hospital. Remember to explain you don't just visit the hospital because you have hurt yourself or are ill, you may be going to see a friend or a relative who is a patient, or taking someone for a check up such as a new baby in the family.

Then you can talk about what makes you feel better, a hug, some company, a favourite toy or maybe a get well card. Perhaps you could encourage the children to make a card to give to teddy to help make him feel better.

If your visit to the hospital with a young child is planned, you could take a camera along, to record the visit for your child to look back at later and perhaps show his or her siblings or friends at pre-school.

Our hospital said it was fine to take some pictures (we did ask first), and we took photos of  our daughter in the playroom, sitting on her bed, of the ward she was in, eating her meal, and with the certificate she earned for being so brave in theatre.

Once they were developed we grouped the photos together into her very own special book, to show the order in which things happened. The book also includes her very own souvenirs her identity wristband, and certificate. 

Our daughter now proudly shows her book to anyone who asks about her visit to hospital. Her friends thought that she was very brave, and could see what she did, and in our library we now have a book that shares her personal experiences.

Hospitals are not the only potentially frightening places for young children. So why not extend this topic to include visits to the doctors, the health visitor or the dentist, or perhaps include it in an 'All about me' topic as children discover all about their bodies and what happens to them.

Helen Renouf (NNEB)
Registered Childminder.

under5s - health and happiness
home > health and happiness