Your child might be familiar with what a doctor is and what they do, especially if she is used to visiting a pediatrician for checkups. However, as your child gets older, she should learn that her general doctor is not the only type of doctor. Teaching your child about types of doctors can prepare her if and when she would need to see a specialist and also introduce her to different career options in the medical field.
Read About Doctors
Books are an excellent way to introduce doctors to your child. Look for books that talk about what a visit to a doctor's office is like, and those that discuss types of doctors. For kids ages 3 and older, "The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor," by Stan and Jan Berenstain, follows Brother and Sister bear's visit to the doctor's office. For kids 4 and older, "I Want To Be a Doctor," by Dan Liebman, teaches kids about types of doctors and the tasks they perform to help people get better and save their lives in emergencies.
Give your child play doctor coats and toy doctor kits to learn though play. Most toy medical kits come with kid-size versions of medical tools that doctors use, including a stethoscope, a thermometer, blood pressure meter, forceps, ear examiner and tongs. Play with your children, taking turns being doctor and patient. Emphasize the proper names of types of doctors through role-play. For example, you could check her heart with the stethoscope and tell her she should see a heart doctor, or cardiologist. Pretend to have a problem with your feet and have your child refer you to a podiatrist. Flashcards can also help children remember the names of different types of doctors. Make your own flashcards, drawing a picture of a doctors coat and a picture related to the type of doctor on the coat, such as a heart, foot, stomach or teeth. On the other side, write the doctor type and definition.
Find out whether a children's hospital in your area offers tours. This will allow your kids to see hospital facilities and can ease fears your child might have about going to the hospital. Some hospitals might have a nurse or doctor on hand to show the kids what they do in a hospital room, or answer questions. Talk to your child about the doctors that work at a hospital, from the emergency room doctors to the surgeons. If a real hospital visit is not possible, see whether you can arrange a visit to smaller doctor clinics, such as the podiatrist or the veterinarian.
Play games with your child and her friends that help them remember and understand the differences with types of doctors. One idea is to play ailment charades. Give one child the name of a type of doctor. She must then act out why she would have to visit that type of doctor. For instance, if she gets a cardiologist, she should hold her heart like she is in pain. If she gets a podiatrist, she should rub her feet. The first child to say the correct name of the doctor gets the point. For another game, whisper a type of doctor to each child that they will pretend to be. Hide toy medical items from a play medical kit around the room. The kids have 30 seconds to find a tool that would be useful to the type of doctor they are pretending to be. The kids must then say what type of doctor they are and how they use the tool they are holding.