My 26-month-old knows his body parts really well. His go-to favorites to point out are “eyes,” “belly button” and “tongue.” Taking anatomy to the next level to also include imaginative play and identification of emotions and feelings, the KiwiCo Tadpole Crate for January is just what the doctor ordered.
KiwiCo is a company that sends “crates”—boxes filled with items for the theme of the month that provides a hands-on learning approach to science, technology, engineering, art, and math. It’s available for kids as young as a few months older and up. We’ve been receiving our Tadpole Crate for a few months and my son loves opening is own mail and seeing what is inside.
What’s In The Crate
The crate for January allows toddlers to play doctor. It comes like a soft, felt doctor bag along with various stickers the little one can decorate with. After decorating the bag with the felt stickers, instruct the toddler to put their instruments inside and get ready for their first patient. The medical tools include a stethoscope, thermometer, otoscope, and toy bandages. It also comes with a Doctor’s Checklist that serves as the patient’s chart.
How To Play Doctor
Get creative and use the toddler’s favorite toy, doll or action figure as a patient.
I like that it has three different options for “how do you feel today?” And we would start the make-believe game by asking the stuffed animal. I let him pick the feeling and described it.
Role play first to show them what to do. I used the otoscope and opened my mouth, telling him to look inside. Then instructed him to open so I could look inside his mouth. We then took turns looking into his teddy’s mouth. We repeated this with the ears, then used the thermometer to pretend to find out bear has a fever.
Next was time to listen to the heart. At first, he didn’t like putting on the stethoscope but the more we played with it throughout the month the more he warmed up to it. I taught him that this is how doctors listen to our hearts and showed him where our heart is. Then I made the “ba bum” noise and told him to listen.
The last step is treatment, which is a great way to talk about getting a boo-boo and how to make it all better. I like to show three body parts on the stuffed animal and ask my son where he is hurting and where there is a boo boo. Then I let him put on the bandaid.
What This Teaches The Toddler
This month’s crate teaches the following developmental skills: pretend play, social-emotional development, and communication. It encourages empathy and opened a conversation about feelings. It teaches how to take of themselves and of others.
According to KiwiCo, “children who have strong empathy skills tend to achieve more in school, function better in social situations and are more successful in their adult careers.”
KiwiCo encourages parents to continue to ask the toddler how they are feeling. Words to use include: happy, silly, sad, mad, scared and excited.
It’s recommended to check out the book The Way I Feel by Janan Cain, which discusses feelings. I also recommend the boo-boo book from Usborn called All Better! It comes with reusable bandaids and teaches kids to kiss and make an injury all better.
I love that my toddler is now more into pretend play. But he still has the attention span of a 2-year-old. This means play doctor for a few minutes then moves on to something else. We usually treat one patient and don’t do the activity every day to prevent boredom. I notice that when we do play he is listening and paying attention.
Also, remember that all children grow and develop at different ages. If your child hasn’t reached a certain milestone, that’s okay. Some might not be able to express how they feel or name a body part just yet. Keep teaching and practicing. I am not a doctor or believe they should master a skill by a certain age. If you are concerned with developmental delays please talk to your child’s pediatrician.
P.S. Those who live in New Jersey or in surrounding states like New York should take their little ones to the Liberty Science Center where they have a Doc McStuffin wing that is all about pretend play and taking care of others. My son loved giving baby a bath, dressing it and putting it back to bed. Then we took care of the dogs, and even performed surgery!