Thursday, March 3, 2011

Vet Clinic

Jenna took this photo of Ginger, her little (stuffed) cat.
Ginger went to the vet today because he was sneezing a lot. 

In our home, we are partial to crafts that take an entire day or more. Those are the crafts that the kids really get involved in and, more importantly, which end up engaging them in really good play for days after. The final product doesn't always reflect the time put into it but the it is the process that fascinates the kids -  it's rich in learning experiences and opportunities for adding new layers and details. Our Busytown autombiles and the Art Museum were recent examples. The kids made up stories, played for a long time after and occupied themselves. And I got to sit and drink tea and watch. Today's vet clinic is along the same lines.

One of the challenges of pretend play scenarios is the protagonist often has all the fun. Everyone wants to be the Teacher, the Doctor, the Princess, the Queen, the Hero, but no one really wants to volunteer to be the students, the patients, the courtiers, the serfs, the damsels in distress. When Emily declared she wanted to open a vet clinic, I groaned inwardly because I knew everyone would fight to be the vet. Obviously, we needed more roles.

Like The Receptionist.

For her, we created patient forms:

Patients bring in a menagerie of pets and she, Empress of The Check-in Counter, screens them. She hands out pencils and these forms on clipboards and drawls, "Please indicate what sort of animal you are bringing in today, and tell us its name." 

Then she shoos them back to the waiting room to read magazines.

When the doctor is ready for them, The Receptionist barks out the patient's name and hands the patient form over to the doctor. In the examining room, the doctor checks off what ails the patient, scribbles a treatment plan and/or prescribes medication.

Meanwhile, The Receptionist pulls up her Tally Sheet

and records each animal that was seen that day.

When the doctor is done with the patient forms, Ms Organizing Guru Receptionist files them alphabetically

in colorful folders like these, which we made by folding a sheet of construction paper in half, and sticking a label on the top for a tab.

Suddenly everyone was fighting to be The Receptionist. Haw haw! It's absolutely marvelous what a little marketing can do.

The kids had so much fun preparing the sheets and folders and learning how a filing system works even before starting to play. And they didn't even realize they were learning and practising letter-recognition, writing, reading, sorting and categorizing, counting and Math. Sneaky mother!

We talked about how doctors diagnose patients according to their symptoms. 
"How do you tell a patient is sick?" I asked.
"The thermometer! They have a fever!"
"And how do you treat that?"
"Give medicine!"

Over-simplistic, but there's some good logic and cause-and-effect in there.

With an injured patient, though, it was a little tricker. So we made X-rays.
These were simply images of bones drawn with white crayon or pencil on black construction paper. The doctor gets to pompously hold these up, pronounce with a flourish, "Ah, we have a fracture!" and mummify the patient in copious amounts of flannel strips. Fun.

"And what do you do for a patient who's having a baby?" I asked.
More discussion, then the final consensus: "Give them food!"

So we made food samples -  sorta like the formula samples and prenatal vitamins that we expectant moms get from our ob/gyns, but for animals. 

We rolled colored paper around a dowel

and cut them into little pieces -

different kinds for different animals-

which ranged from the traditional

to the more exotic.

We made our packets out of printer paper sealed on all four sides (you can use glue, staples or the sewing machine). They rip open easily to dump out their delicious morsels into little feeding bowls.

One last idea - although this was made in a different context a couple of years ago - little cardboard kennels for the pets that needed to be warded for observation.

Feel free to use our patient form and tally sheet to recreate your own vet clinic at home! We designed them so that most of it could be filled out by even the littlest, non-reading ones among us. Enjoy! 


  1. AWESOME!! You are the best mommy ever. We have been doing a lot of "vet" playing here with our menagerie of stuffed cats. "C" wants to have a doctor party next year for her birthday but wants it to be a vet party. If we do it I'll definitely be using some of your ideas. My girls would love the charts and files. We usually do the clip board chart, prescriptions, and xrays but I love the waiting room (magazines!) and pet food packets!! : )

  2. LiEr, this is fantastic! Emma is all about playing vet lately, so I'm sure she would love some official vet forms!

    Good thinking using paper for the food, too. I remember cutting up straws to use as food when I was maybe 6 years old, then (in my infinite wisdom) sticking them in my mouth to pretend to eat, and accidentally swallowing some. And then feeling ridiculous for doing something I knew I shouldn't... I'm pretty sure my mom still doesn't know that story!

  3. What a great idea, thanks so much for sharing. I am going to borrow your idea. I homeschool my kids and I have been trying to come up with a fun way to teach my youngest about what community workers do, this is a great way to do it so thanks!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing these printouts. My girls will love playing vet with these. I can't wait to try them out. Genius!

  5. Once again, you win BEST MOM EVER!

    You have such great ideas--thanks again for taking so much time to share them.


  6. Excellent work LiEr & girls!! We have been having numerous trips to the vet lately, so I'm sure my kids will most enjoy some vet role play soon. Love your posts immensely!

  7. this is just magical, Loved how you incorporated and worked out all the puzzles, great stuff!

  8. What a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing this. I espeically apprecaiate the pre-reading parts - perfect for us! We'll have to add monkeys to our animals, though. We have lots of monkeys at our house...

  9. wow, this is great. I never play something like this when I'm little. But, gonna try this with my little sister when I get home next week! ;-)

  10. Fantastic Idea! I don't know how you come up with them!

  11. My 7 year old asked for, but did not receive, a toy vet kit for Christmas this year. Her birthday is Sunday. :-D

  12. Bless you, I know my neice would get a real buzz out of something like this. Beautiful, you and your girls are so clever!

  13. This is very the whole story :) I enjoyed reading it.....You are a great mummy.

  14. Genius! And I love all the sneaky education going on. Maybe I will train Violeta to do all my filing for me before she is two with this!

  15. Thanks for the inspiration. I used your forms and introduced this idea to my kids yesterday (on a simpler scale) and they loved it!

  16. LiEr, I teach ESL in Spain, and I assure you that this idea is PERFECT for my classroom. Kids here don't typically seem to be encouraged to role-play and develop their imaginations in the same way that many kids in the US are, and those are elements that I try to incorporate in my classes, for stimulation purposes, but also because it's just plain fun to pretend. I'm so excited to use this. I wish I'd had this before Christmas when we learned about ailments. We watched a video about animals who go to the vet, and this would have been (and will be, next year) the ideal complement to that unit. Thumbs up!

  17. You are such a fun Mum!!! Thank you so much for the inspiration. You are full of such wonderful crafty ideas and really inspire me to spend more quality, creative time with my kids. What lucky little girls you have =)

  18. What a fantastic idea! Filing this away to use once my LO's are a bit older. Thanks!

  19. Não falo inglês, mas não poderia deixar de comentar, pois adoro seu blog e estou sempre lhe acompanhando (ele está na lista lateral do meu blog), suas costuras, suas idéias de atividades...tudo. Amei a idéia do fichário(organizador), vou tentar fazer um pois tenho um filho de 5 anos e também sou professora de uma crerche (crianças de cinco anos) e achei uma boa idéia por algumas imagens e atividades em ordem alfabética. Obrigada po compartilhar.


  20. Just wanted to say Thank You for this! I printed out some forms and we played this weekend. My girls really enjoyed playing it!

  21. OMG, I just forwarded this to a friend with young children. I would have loved playing this with my children! I have just signed up to follow your the way, my children are now 26 and 32, so you have REALLY impressed me with your creativity!

  22. Thanks for the inspiration! I just posted about our vet office we set up a couple weeks ago. I linked to this post several times. Thanks again, it was fun!

  23. There are many roles in a vet clinic! I am a credentialed veterinary technician - we go to school for two years to earn an associates degree in veterinary technology. A vet tech wears many hats: nurse, x-ray tech, lab tech, pharmacy tech, dental hygienist, dental assistant, surgical tech, anesthetist, nutrition counselor, grief counselor. We also do the laundry, sweep, mop, etc. A clinic may also have veterinary assistants and kennel workers!

  24. Amazing!You are a great and clever mommy! You win mommy of the year! Thank you for giving me such great ideas!


  25. Printing this off for my kindergarten classroom! Thanks!

  26. Love this post and all your pet vet ideas! I played this with my 4 year old daughter yesterday and she LOVED it! Such a huge hit! Thanks for the awesome creative inspiration and print outs!

  27. Hello! I wanted to let you know that I loved your Vet clinic pretend play and I have featured it on my blog on my "Pets Unit & Vet clinic pretend play". You can see it here

    I would love your feedback! Have a nice week!

  28. I'm currently a vet student and I love this!! Really encourages kids and teaches them so much while they're having fun! Receptionists and assistants are very important in a vet clinic too!! They typically outnumber the vets!


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