Teaching empathy through play
Children learn through play, and much of the emotional development in the first ten years of life takes place when they pretend to be someone, or something, else. Taking on the role of a doctor during dress up play with kids lab coats allows children to practice key empathetic skills such as listening to how others feel during a check-up, staying calm in emergencies, and solving problems that help others feel better. Kids enjoy the authority they feel in a lab coat, and love stuffing the pockets with band aids, but they are also developing the ability to relate to others.
Developing an interest in STEM
Many professions in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields require a lab coat as part of job safety and most children associate them with the job of “scientist”. When children pretend to be mad chemists whipping up potions, or biologists testing water samples from the backyard hose, they’re making emotional connections to future careers in the fastest growing parts of the economy.
Getting kids interested in STEM early is crucial, as studies have shown children start to think math and science are “too hard” as early as age eight. This is particularly true for girls and minorities who may not encounter many STEM professionals who look like them. Emphasizing play around STEM topics at home is a great way to let kids see themselves enjoying science, and will lay a groundwork for confidence in school and beyond. Having a lab coat in the box next to a sparkly dress or a pirate costume is a subtle, but effective way to emphasize that children can be anything they dream about.
Preparing kids for medical procedures
In addition to the benefits of pretend play, lab coats can also become powerful tools to help children cope with medical problems. Many children feel anxiety about visiting the doctor, even for routine check-ups. If painful or invasive medical procedures are necessary, children may feel helpless or scared about what will take place. This kind of worry and stress can actually interfere with a child’s immune system and make healing harder.
Spending time learning about the roles of the different doctors, nurses, and technicians they will encounter can give them more confidence and calm fears. Let them put on a lab coat and role play as the medical staff and go through the steps of the procedure they’re worried about. This helps them know exactly what to expect and feel a connection with their caregivers through pretend play.
A lab coat is a versatile piece that can be used to transform a bored child into a doctor, a scientist, a field technician and more. Not only do children have fun with lab coats, they learn and grow with every time they play.