Medical Play Dolls

We have an ongoing project to recruit volunteers to sew medical play dolls for Duke Pediatric Hematology Oncology Department. 

These blank dolls are used as a communication tool for explaining invasive procedures to a child and/or for diagnosing a child's discomfort. The child is given the doll dressed in a little hospital gown. If a child is facing an IV for the first time, medical staff can demonstrate the insertion of an IV on a doll's arm as they explain the procedure to the child. Sometimes children use the dolls to communicate where they feel pain or discomfort.

The Value of Medical Play Dolls

The process of personalizing a blank, stuffed, body-shaped doll can provide children with a pleasurable and expressive activity which can be used by the child life team in many ways. Children decorate the dolls with non-toxic permanent markers. The dolls become a part of the treatment process and children take them home with them when they are discharged.

Child life specialists use the dolls to:

  • Help develop rapport with children and help them relax in a hospital environment
  • Help assess the child's perception and feelings about healthcare experiences - talking about the doll is a non-threatening way to explore the child's own concerns
  • Help children prepare for and cope with their treatment process - the doll can be used to show such things as where an injection will be given or what posture/body position is desired
  • Provide comfort items for children

Medical Play Dolls are used much like the Sock Monkey that helped teach Colleen about many of her procedures.

This information is extracted from an article entitled "The Use of Stuffed, Body-Outline Dolls with Hospitalized Children and Adolescents" by Laura Gaynard, Joy Goldberger, & Lesley Laidley, Children's Health Care, 1991, p.216-223.

We look for volunteer groups that will work to make the blank, medical play dolls for the local Pediatric Oncology Hospitals. Instructions for making the doll and a hopsital gown are shown below. If you are interested in volunteering your time and talent in this way, please contact us.

Medical Play Doll - Pattern and Instructions

Medical Play Doll Gown - Pattern and Instructions