These Doctor Toys Help Kids Cope With Medical Anxiety

Donna Freydkin

If your toddler is like most kids, they’re less than thrilled to go to the doctor. The reason can be summed up in one word: shots. Kids 2 and up have certain not-so-great associations with seeing the pediatrician, and it’s nearly impossible to explain regular check-ups or vaccines to them, or make them understand that things aren’t going to hurt. That’s where doctor toys come in.

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“Most parents are going to be able to see the utility in that type of medical kit. It relieves anxiety in kids about going to the doctor,” says Dr. Tomomi Hayashi, a pediatrician in private practice at Silicon Valley Pediatricians. “They help kids learn about how procedures are done before they are done.”

A pretend doctor kit is what’s called a real-world toy, which mimics what kids see adults around them using and helps them make sense of those grown-up activities. In this case, it has the added benefit of making kids feel more comfortable around medical instruments, like stethoscopes or reflex hammers, that they’ll see at their pediatrician’s office and gives them a feeling of control over something (a flu shot, for instance) that might otherwise be scary.

When choosing one, make sure there are no small parts that toddlers or preschoolers can put in their mouths. That includes toy tongue depressors, which Hayashi doesn’t like for safety reasons: “I don’t want a child to think it’s OK to shove things into people’s mouths.”

As for the kits, reflex hammers and thermometers are nice adds, as is an otoscope, which doctors use to check kids’ ears. Hayashi is a fan of stethoscopes and badges: “Kids see doctors wearing those and they make a kid feel comfortable around doctors. I have a stethoscope on my neck, so kids can get frightened by it when I’m coming at them. So it’s nice when they recognize it,” she says. “Big plastic fat syringes are OK. A blood pressure cuff is cute, because we start taking that when kids are 3 years old.”

If you can, get your kid a white lab coat, since that’s generally what doctors wear to work. Even an oversize white T-shirt cut down the front will work. The young physicians, however, shouldn’t play doctor on actual humans their own age. 

“Young kids should learn to do exams on their toys until they learn to do it safely,” says Hayashi. “They should examine their favorite toy and not another child, because they can be too aggressive.” Based on her recommendations, these kits fit the bill; all are suitable for kids 2 and up. 

Dress-Up Toy Doctor Kit by Learning Resources

Get started with a proper lab coat: it has a wipe-clean name tag and comes with a stethoscope.

Buy Now $19.99

New Sprouts Cure It! Toy Doctor Kit by Learning Resources

This sweet toy doctor kit includes a stethoscope, syringe, bandage, otoscope, and thermometer.

Buy Now $15.29

Toy Medical Kit by Fisher-Price

Not only does this kit include all the essentials — a stethoscope, thermometer, otoscope, syringe, and bandage — but the gauge spins during a blood pressure reading. And the thermometer goes from sick to well when kids press the button. Healed!

BUY NOW $21.00

Kids Doctor Kit by Hape

This beautiful wood kit comes with a blood pressure cuff, a stethoscope, a thermometer, and even a pretend prescription pad.

Buy Now $18.89

Toy Doctor Kit by Plan Toys

Also on the highly detailed, aesthetically pleasing end of the spectrum is this wooden medical kit, which has a reflex hammer, as well as a stethoscope, thermometer, and blood pressure cuff.

BUY NOW $30.00

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