Circle Time was planned in coordination with Art Studio to strengthen the theme by introducing the said medical tools, featuring songs related to the body and healthcare, showing videos about doctor’s check-ups and of doctors who fly to Eskimo villages in Alaska. Then on the third day of the unit, Ms. Elda demonstrated a doctor’s check-up using “Penguin the Patient” during Circle Time, gloved and goggled and everything! (Barriers first! Let’s not get sick while treating a patient, you know what I mean?) At the end of the demo, one of the children (who sometimes has a tendency to find reasons to wander or leave the Circle) piped up and asked, “When can we do it?”
As requested, we set up four check-up stations the next day with various stuffed animals as patients. The children were so eager to bandage Clifford’s red paws and inspect his pupils, check the Hippo’s heartbeat, and give shots to the Gorilla. It was amusing to see the children take turns asking for the medical equipment by name: “Um, can you give me the otoscope?” “I need the syringe!”
Now that the children had acquired the language and some basic methods for medical/hospital play, it was time to provide a more suitable space for this to happen. We arranged a hospital corner in our pretend play area. Some of the children immediately took to it and began to take on the roles of doctor, nurse, and patient during free play.
The culminating project was to film a video of the children carrying out a doctor’s visit scene for the older group and a PSA about washing hands for the younger group. Were there lots of instructions on what to do after the words, “Lights, camera, action!” and “Cut”? And were there many, many takes? And was there some level of resignation after, say, Take 37 with the thought, this one’s just going to have to do? Of course.
Here’s a picture collage of the children watching the first video of themselves to discuss areas that need editing or re-taping. As you can imagine, children get such a kick out of watching a production of themselves on screen:
There’s increasing evidence for a growing number of early childhood educators to be convinced that young children learning best through play. A recent article on “The Atlantic” describes the importance of play in early childhood education and how the Finnish (are there any articles on education these days that don’t mention Finland, by the way?) system’s giving precedence to play over academics has led to greater measurable success in children’s later years. “[Children] learn so well through play. They don’t even realize that they are learning because they’re so interested.” The benefits of dramatic play are almost invaluable: nurtures development of social/prosocial skills, promotes communication skills (speaking, listening, negotiating, etc.), fosters increase in problem-solving skills, stimulates creativity and imagination, to name a few. Of course, there is definitely a place for unstructured free play but children’s play can be greatly edified and enhanced when they learn how to play. It’s more fun for them and there are more opportunities for learning. Even for adults, banging random keys on a piano isn’t as fun and satisfying as playing an actual piece. Or when was the last time haphazardly kicking a soccer ball around was more fun than actually playing a match with some others after learning the rules of the game?