My husband reads M her bedtime stories every night and last night one of them was about a doll and bear doctor who repairs broken toys. It clearly caught M’s imagination as her very first words this morning were “Mummy, today we’re going to mend some of my toys. We need a hospital for them.”
When my daughter has an idea in her head she becomes pretty determined to see it through (inherited from her mother, her father says…) and so sure enough today we made a toy hospital, fixed some broken arms and gave general checkups to any passing soft toy or unsuspecting cuddly creature.
First of all we made a waiting room, filled with leaflets and some “I was brave” stickers we’d picked up for free from the pharmacy when we were out shopping this morning.
Then we put on our medical uniforms; M borrowed my chef’s whites and we made a little cap for her with a white square raided from my fabric stash, with a red cross drawn on with fabric crayons (the crayons by crayola are excellent in our experience, much better than any fabric pens we’ve used, although for permanency they need to be used on synthetic fabric). To complete the look we made a nurse’s watch with a safety pin, a short strip of ribbon and a watch drawn on card. (I kept calling M a doctor, but to my dismay she insisted that as a girl she was a nurse. I clearly have some work to do here).
We then set up the hospital ward, with beds made from beanbags and blankets garnered from around the house. Plasters were liberally applied to any animal which stayed still long enough (a packet of plasters from Poundland has provided an afternoon’s entertainment on several occasions previously), and as is only appropriate when on a hospital stay, all patients were provided with name tags (typed out by M on the computer).
Some animals had to visit the Ophthalmologist and get eye patches (cotton pads and electrical insulation tape – easy for kids to handle and very easy to remove without leaving sticky marks).
Others were sent down to the Radiology department. What looks like an anglepoise lamp to you and me was actually a very special x-ray machine capable to creating fantastically sharp images (white crayons on black paper), even of jelly fish…
We also managed to repair a broken flight of stairs from the dolls house and fix an arm and a leg from one of M’s princess dolls (we couldn’t find her other arm; next time we lose a limb we shall have to be more careful about retrieving it and putting it on ice till it can be reattached). Due to a waiting list (and let me state loud and clear I think the NHS is *wonderful* and I’m more than dismayed by the press it is getting in the US at the moment) the bug needing a skin graft (fabric patch) will be on the operating table only tomorrow.
So a productive afternoon was had by all. No cases of swine flu were detected. Lots of toys were given a clean bill of health and M and I had fun replaying the story from the night before.
So what was this story that inspired so much great play? Well, unfortunately it’s not written in English… we’re a bilingual household, with Dutch as well as English, and last night’s story was taken from a lovely collection of stories by Marianne Busser and Ron Schröder (here‘s their website, in Dutch), and none of these stories has yet been translated. (There do seem to be a couple of stories by the same authors which have been translated into English and German if you search Amazon, but I haven’t read them, in either language).
Drie kleine berendokters (The Three Little Bear Doctors) is a story of three boys who meet a new neighbour when some post for him comes through their letterbox by mistake. The boys are curious because their neighour is in a wheelchair and they want to know why his legs don’t work, but when they discover what their neighbour does for a living they forget all about his disability: their neighbour is a toy doctor, and the boys cannot imagine a more enjoyable job. Indeed, with the permission of their mum, they end up helping their neighbour with his work once a week. It’s a short, simple story with (clearly, judging by M’s reaction) an engaging theme. It deals very straightforwardly with the neighbour’s disability; like many kids they are innocently blunt and ask what the matter is in that sort of direct manner that an adult might avoid. The irony that the man whose legs are broken and cannot be mended is himself a mender, a doctor, may be lost on young readers/listeners, but they’ll still enjoy the story, I’m sure.
In case you do read Dutch, the anthology this story comes from is called Het Grote Verhaaltjes Boek (The Big Story Book) and definitely comes recommended. It contains 55 stories, each of 2 or 3 pages, with an illustration or two for each tale (the illustrator is Wilbert van der Steen, and his style in this book reminds me of Bob Graham‘s work). Some stories are like modern fairy tales, others are more suburban, tackling every day events and situations, often with great wit (not unlike some of Arnold Lobel’s Owl stories).
Het Grote Verhaaltjes Boek:
Whilst we’ve been playing Toy ER we’ve been singing Dem Bones. For some more excellent work repairing dolls you might like this from The Artful Parent. If any of you have a recommendation for another story about a toy hospital we’d love to hear from you!