Observations of Preschoolers’ Health Care Play

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Dempsey, Victoria
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Mount Saint Vincent University
The focus of this study was to extend health care play opportunities and observe the play created by the children in a child care setting. Medical play is an intervention commonly observed in health care settings where professionals such as child life specialists use play as a healing modality. Although play-based child care programs offer opportunities for the development of a variety of play scenarios with children, the documentation of health care play specifically has been minimal. In order to address this gap in the literature, the researcher undertook a research study using participant observation to support the introduction and documentation of health care play activities. The researcher attended a local child care centre classroom for 10 consecutive days to introduce and observe the interactions of children as they engaged in free play. Parents of 28 preschoolers gave consent for their children to participate in the interactions with the researcher. Field notes, photographs and Learning Stories comprised the data collected. A thematic analysis was completed; 22 basic themes and six organizing themes comprised the global theme, Health Care Play. Additionally, interviews of two early childhood educators resulted in the identification of a single global theme, Perceptions of Health Care Play (Attride-Sterling, 2001). Results indicate the children engaged readily with a range of health care materials and demonstrated each category of medical play as described by McCue (1988). Future research should continue to initiate health care related play environments for children to increase their exposure to medical information, further promoting diverse play opportunities.
play-based childcare , Medical play