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The Best Doctor Kits for Budding Doogie Howsers

Develop empathy and caring in your tiny pediatrician.

Parts from kids’ toy doctor kits, including dentist tools, an X-ray machine, and a doctor’s coat
Photo illustration by Slate.

Like many children, my daughter became interested in medicine at a very early age. Before she could even say “boo-boo,” she was fascinated by cuts, Band-Aids, and tummy aches. So when she began playing doctor at age 2, we encouraged her behavior. After all, doctors are some of the first nonparental authority figures children get to interact with. Her desire to take care of people (or in this case, stuffed animals and plastic bath toys) was wonderful to see. And playing doctor helped her develop a sense of empathy, a lesson I knew would be valuable each time she felt the urge to hit or push another child at day care.

So I purchased a generic doctor kit at a kids’ store in Brooklyn, New York. It came with a thermometer, a stethoscope, and a few other instruments. But it wasn’t until my parents bought her a kit that emphasized role-playing that I truly realized the positive impacts of imaginative play.

Now, would I trust her to administer baby acetaminophen to her 1-year-old brother? Of course not. She doesn’t take my insurance. But watching her take a doll’s temperature, and then tell the doll she’s sick and needs to go “straight to bed,” is just so endearing. Here are some doctor-kit options for any child who’s interested in strapping on a stethoscope.

Melissa & Doug Doctor Role-Play Costume
Melissa & Doug

Best Toy Medical Kit for Role-Playing: Melissa & Doug Doctor Role-Play Costume

$24.99, Amazon

If fantasy play appeals to your kid, this is the kit to get. It comes with a good-quality doctor’s coat, complete with a badge to write your name on. There are pockets for all the instruments—thermometer, syringe, reflex hammer—and a matching mask that my daughter says “protects from germs!” The battery-powered stethoscope makes a gentle heartbeat sound with the push of a button.

Kangaroo Doctor Kit With Light-Up X-Ray Machine
Kangaroo

For the Medical Technologist in Training: Kangaroo Doctor Kit With Light-Up X-Ray Machine

$29.95, Amazon

Many of the top-rated doctor kits for kids come with electronic stethoscopes or other instruments that light up, but Kangaroo’s kit goes beyond. For example, it includes an X-ray machine that makes sounds, plus slides showing different bone structures in the body. And in a nod to how kids perceive serious grown-ups, a pair of glasses is also included.

ThinkMax Play Doctor and Dentist Kit
ThinkMax

For the Kid Who Likes Teeth: ThinkMax Play Doctor and Dentist Kit

$11.99, Amazon

My daughter loved the dentist tools included in this toy kit, from the dental pick to the plastic teeth upon which she can practice. (Though, to be honest, she preferred prodding real teeth and gums. I allowed it.) Available in both blue and pink, because (heavy sigh) everyone knows that adult male dentists use blue tools, while female dentists use pink ones.

Lakeshore Deluxe Doctor’s Office
LakeShore

For the Older Child: Lakeshore Deluxe Doctor’s Office

$59.99, Amazon  

By now your child has graduated toddler med school and begun her residency; let her take imaginative play to the next level with this kit, designed for kids ages 4–10 (or those just seriously devoted to the practice). It features realistic instruments like a blood-pressure monitor that actually works and pill cases that look like Grandma’s. The kit also includes an eye chart and prescription pad.

Gifts2U Toy Doctor Kit
Gifts2U

For Families With Multiple Doogie Howsers: Gifts2U Toy Doctor Kit

$19.99, Amazon

This kit comes with 37 pieces, which (hopefully) means there are enough instruments for two or more kids. Includes all the basics—stethoscope, blood-pressure monitor, syringe—plus plenty more to go around, from forceps to a (dull) scalpel. Once again, these toys, annoyingly, come in pink or blue; remind your children that actual adult doctors do not use different tools depending on gender. Or just buy the pink and tell them it’s blooooooood.

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