A Montessori-inspired activity to help a child process their stay in the hospital

 
 

If you are following us on Instagram you might have seen that we went recently through a big challenge. Instead of spending our holiday with family and friends in Romania, we spent it in hospitals and clinics. 

It was difficult for all of us. We were under high stress and full of worries but the most difficult was probably for my little one who was sick and, for the first time in her life , she had to spend almost one week in hospital. She was very brave and made us smile and even laugh with her jokes. And at the same time I knew that it was a roller-coster of emotions for her.  

We tried to support her in many ways to overcome her fears during our stay in the hospital. But when we came back home and she recovered, I had more time to think of a way to help her process the difficult experience she went through.

“Play permits the child to resolve in symbolic form unsolved problems of the past and to cope directly or symbolically with present concerns.” ~ Bruno Bettelheim

 

I thought that it might be helpful to offer her a starting point, so I prepared a little basket with some objects from our medicine cabinet.  I wanted to use real medical supplies that are safe and easy to handle rather than a « kiddy » version of a Medical Kit. We always use real tools and objects (for example real kitchen tools, professional and good quality art supplies, real garden tools ) and this is an important part of Montessori pedagogy.

Here is a list of what I put in the basket:

  • a thermometer (she was already interested in this one during her stay at the hospital)
  • plasters
  • bandage (blue- the same color she had in the hospital)
  • scissors (children safety scissors)
  • cotton swabs
  • cotton wool
  • cotton pads
  • different types of syringes (without needles)
  • small little empty containers (similar to those used for medicines)
  • wooden tongue depressors

I put her little doll in another basket and displayed everything on the top of her Montessori-shelf.

 
 

We also bought her a book Catherine Dolto - "L'hôpital" that explains in a factual, simple way what happens in a hospital. It’s truly a Montessori books because the drawing are realistic and the textes accurately describe how an hospital is organized and what to expect when you are admitted there. There are no talking Teddy bears or fantastical elements in the story. This was exactly the kind of book I was looking for.

 
 

Last Saturday, when she woke up, she discovered the new «activity » on the top of her shelf. I introduced very briefly to her the materials displayed and suggested that if the doll was sick she could look after her.

 
 

 

She played by herself for a long time. Then she asked me to read the book twice and it seemed to me that while I was reading she was processing some of the emotions she experienced during her stay in the hospital. 

 
 

She plays every day with the medical supplies and we are reading the book from time to time. I don't know how long she will need to play "the doctor". I have asked her if the doll was healed but the answer was "she still has fever". When I will receive a positive answer I will take away the medical supplies on the shelves and replace them with another Montessori-inspired activity.