Fabulous Find Friday: Patient Puppets

Today’s Fabulous Find is Patient Puppets.  It can be really hard to find the right doll to use for procedural teaching. Most Child Life Specialists know the feeling of ordering dolls that don’t come as pictured online and then trying to adapt to use them to demonstrate medical procedures for patients. Patient Puppets has these dolls for you! Besides offering a variety of customizable dolls, Patient Puppets also has child sized and table top models of medical items.  Patient Puppets also will customize dolls for whatever you need.


MRI Prep

As a Child Life Specialist in medical imaging, MRI preparation is the bulk of my work. Unlike X-Rays and CT’s which only take a couple minutes, an MRI typically takes 30 minutes to an hour and is very noisy. Like a CT, the MRI scanner doesn’t touch you. There are three main things that I go over with the kids.

1) I focus on the importance of them keeping still for their pictures. If they move (and this includes something as small as licking their lips or wiggling their toes), then their pictures could come out blurry. Although the pictures can be up to an hour long, they are lots of smaller pictures that add up to a longer timeframe. So if the kid does really need to itch their face or wiggle their fingers, they can do that inbetween the pictures.

2) Next I talk about the noises. The MRI machine can sound like a construction site or even an alien spaceship, but those are good sounds that mean that the camera is taking pictures. The patient’s big job is to stay still and the camera’s job is to take their pictures. It’s important to tell kids ahead of time about these sounds because they can startle or scare kids if they aren’t prepared.

3) The last thing that I go over with kids is that they can only talk when we talk to them first. Because the machine is noisy, staff won’t be able to hear them if they talk during their pictures. So they will need to wait until staff says something to them before they can say anything. Most hospitals will have headphones and it is usually through these that staff talk to the patients.

CT Prep

A CT or Cat Scan is another noninvasive procedure that is relatively common. While a CT means taking pictures like an X-Ray, it does require a little different prep. For the CT Scan, kids will need to lay still on a table when they go “into the doughnut.”

It’s important to remind kids that while they will go into the “doughnut,” nothing will touch them. They might come close to the sides but it won’t touch them. Some beds have “seat-belts” that will go around the child to remind them to stay still.

Although nothing touches them, the CT machine does make some funny noises. Not as noisy as an MRI, but the CT machine makes some swishing sounds. I usually explain to kids that it sounds like a washing machine.

Image result for ct machine

X-Ray Prep

An X-Ray is probably one of the easiest medical procedures to prepare a child for because it’s non-invasive. The easiest way is to explain that an X-Ray is a special picture of your bones and insides so that the doctor can figure out why you aren’t feeling good or why something hurts.

The child’s big job during their X-Ray pictures is to stay still. Just like when mommy or daddy take pictures of them on their phones, if the child moves than the picture will be blurry. So it’s important for the kids to stay still so that they don’t have to take more pictures. The pictures usually only mean a minute or two of keeping still and then the pictures will be over.

Some kids are nervous about being in the medical environment, even if there won’t be any pokes. It can be helpful to explain what each thing in the room means and does, like the bed where they will lie down and the camera that will take their picture.


Fabulous Find Friday: Model Magic

Today’s Fabulous Find Friday is Model Magic! What’s great about Model Magic is that it’s so versatile. It’s great for art projects, therapeutic projects, and bereavement support. Model Magic is clay that drys in the air, so kiddos can make whatever they want and leave it out overnight to harden. Once it hardens, markers and paint work great to decorate their creations.

Model Magic is also good for therapeutic projects. My friend’s kiddo has a hearing aid and recently he’s been taking it in and out of his ear. So naturally I thought that he should have a toy with a hearing aid that can come in and out. Model Magic and a paper clip made a perfect hearing aid!

Finally, Model Magic can be used for bereavements. During my practicum, we used model magic to make hand-print molds of dying or deceased children and then filled those molds with plaster to create a special remembrance item for the family.

Visit Crayola’s Model Magic Page to check out all the colors they have available.


Fabulous Find Friday: Hopper the Cancer Crusher

Hopper the Cancer Crusher is another friend for our oncology patients. Hopper is a froggy friend with a mediport like many patients have. He comes in hospital pajamas and wears a bandanna. Similar to Chemo Duck, Hopper is another great tool for preparation for procedures and general support during a patient’s hospital stay. Visit his website to learn more; Hopper the Cancer Crusher


Fabulous Find: Gabe’s Chemo Duck

Cancer treatment can be scary for kids. As Child Life Specialists, we know the importance of preparation. Chemo Duck is a great tool to help prepare kids for a port, central line, or really any procedures they may encounter during their treatment. Chemo Duck comes with a port or a central line and he can be a child’s companion throughout treatment or just during medical play sessions.


Visit their website to learn more;  http://chemoduck.org/for-kids/meet-chemo-duck/




Interactive Schedule

Between working two jobs to save money for my Fall Child Life Internship and taking online classes as a part of UCSB’s Child Life Certificate Program, there has not been a lot of spare time for blogging this summer. But I did want to share with you all a project that I worked on this week.

As a part of my class Children with Special Needs in the Healthcare Setting, I developed an adaptive therapeutic intervention. I was assigned a 12 y.o patient that was developmentally functioning at about the level of a 9 y.o. Due to the many medical conditions that this patient had, they were in a wheelchair, used slings to hold their arms up due to a lack of strength and also had communication issues due to a trach. Medical play is hard for this patient and they have severe anxiety before procedures. My idea for an intervention was to make an interactive schedule that the patient could put together along with guidance from the staff.

The goals of this intervention were to provide a sense of predictability and stability regarding each week’s routine. By allowing the patient to make the schedule each week, it would also give them a sense of control over their days. The materials I used were a wooden dowel, magnets, printed and laminated images of emotions, procedures and rewards, and then a piece of poster board for the schedule. Below are images of my schedule and brief descriptions of each step.

The first thing I did was print off procedures, rewards and emotions. The procedures were ones that the patient frequently encountered (such as x-rays, blood draws, trach changes, etc). And then I also printed possible rewards. While the patient might not be able to choose which procedures happen on which day, they would be able to make the decision whether they would like to play with the IPAD or hear a story after an unwanted medical procedure. I felt it was important to print off emotions to enhance communication between staff and the patient. Because of the trach, staff struggled to understand this patient. By allowing the patient to display an emotion each day, the staff can better support and comfort them.


I printed these images on card stock paper, cut them out into little squares and then laminated them. After laminating the squares, I glued a small magnet to the back of them. This magnet would allow the squares to attach to the board and also made it possible for the patient to lift them. Because of the patient’s need for slings in order to hold their arms up, there is not a lot of mobility. But the patient would be able to hold the dowel and drag it to the square with a magnet on it. While the patient might not be able to attach the square to the board without help, they would be the one who would select the procedure/emotions/reward and bring it to the appropriate place on the board. Staff could then help remove the dowel from the laminated square.


The words I chose for the headings were very intentional. I chose to use “have” for the medical procedures because the patient doesn’t have a lot of choice about which ones will happen and when they will occur. I used “I would like to” for the rewards to emphasize that this decision was the patient’s. They chose what they would like to do after the procedure that they had to have done.

Stay tuned for most posts about the projects that I’ve done for my summer classes. I’ll share them as my free time allows.

My First Teddy Bear Clinic

Yesterday I helped out with my first Teddy Bear Clinic. As a Child Life Student, I had obviously heard about Teddy Bear Clinics. But it was so incredible to see the kids experience the clinic firsthand instead of watching YouTube highlights of other hospital’s events. There were 11 stations that the kids visited with their Teddy Bears. These stations could be attended in any order and the kiddos could also skip any areas that they thought their bear didn’t need.

  1. Registration. This is where the bears received their name and passport. The name band was similar to the ones that the patients wore and the bear’s name was written on it in Sharpie before it was attached to their furry paw. The passport had blank areas for the bear’s name, his/her place of birth (zoo or in the wild) and the weight/height of the bear. The rest of the passport had all the stations listed and the stations would stamp the passport when the bear visited them.
  2. Height/Weight. After receiving their bear, the children would take their new friend to one of the nurses who placed the bear on a scale and also measured it’s height. This information was recorded on the top of the passport.
  3. Doctor’s Office. At the doctor’s office, the doctor used a stethoscope to check the bear’s heartbeat. He reported to the child how their bear was doing and also wrote a prescription on the passport. For example, the doctor heard one of the bear’s stomach growling and suggested that the child and bear eat some chicken nuggets together.
  4. X-Ray. The X-Ray section had a back-lit area to look at x-rays of a variety of human body parts and also an x-ray of a Teddy Bear.
  5. Healthcare Play. This area was for the kids to place an IV on their bear. There were tourniquets, arm boards, IV tubing, tape and band-aids. Since this Teddy Bear Clinic was in the hospital, most of the kids had IVs or had them in the past. So this station was something that they all understood from personal experience.
  6. Labs. When in the hospital, the nurses are frequently taking labs so that the doctors can get a better idea of what is going on. The lab station was a spot for children to make a vial of Teddy Bear blood that they could keep. Using baby oil and glitter, the children made a wand that looked like it had sparkly blood in it.
  7. Surgery. At the surgery station, there was a small bed for the bear. The bear received a hair net like the children wear for surgery and the child was able to choose which scent their bear might want for the anesthesia mask. The bear then received some bandages from the surgeon before returning to their owner.
  8. Music Therapy. The music therapy was mainly for the child. The music therapists brought out a variety of musical instruments and the children were allowed to express themselves with any instrument that they wanted to try. Some children spent a short time here and others spent most of the time playing on the drums.
  9. Dentist. At the dentist station, there were x-rays of mouths/teeth. The dentist checked over the bear’s teeth before giving the child a little baggie with toothpaste, toothbrush and a mirror to look at teeth. The small mirror was a favorite of the kids.
  10. Ortho. The ortho section was where the teddy bears received casts. These casts were put on arm, legs, heads, whatever part of the teddy bear that the child thought they needed a cast. One little girl’s teddy bear received a cast that matched hers, same color and same injured area.
  11. Therapy Dog. The hospital that hosted the Teddy Bear Clinic had a therapy dog on staff, so he came to hang out with the patients. The children loved seeing the dog, so having him in a central location allowed more children to visit and interact with him.

The Teddy Bear Clinic was an opportunity for the children to learn more about the hospital, but also for them to exert some control over medical procedures. There was one little child that wanted to do everything himself instead of letting the surgeon/doctor/nurse perform the procedure on the teddy bear. He wanted to be hands on and helping care for the bear.

Have you run or helped out with a Teddy Bear Clinic before? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as this is something I plan to do again in the future!