Teddy Bear Clinics help kids overcome fear of doctors

Visiting the doctor can be scary for young children, but Kaiser Permanente of Washington’s Teddy Bear Clinics are a “warm and fuzzy” way to overcome fears and put kids at ease.

How Teddy Bear Clinics work

At Teddy Bear Clinics, children bring a teddy bear from home—or receive a new teddy bear at the event. With the help of a Kaiser Permanente provider, they perform hands-on wellness exams on their teddy bears, using medical equipment and supplies such as stethoscopes and Band-Aids. Common teddy bear ailments include “beary fever,” “fuzzyitis,” “dolly pox,” and “cuddle cough.”

Next teddy bear clinic:
Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett

Saturday, June 22

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

“Examining a teddy bear familiarizes kids with the equipment and procedures they may encounter during a routine clinic visit, which tends to decrease their anxiety when an exam is performed on them,” says pediatrician John Dunn, MD, who practices at Kaiser Permanente Northshore Medical Center. Teddy Bear Clinics are especially effective for toddlers and young children, when showing can be more effective than telling.

 5 Tips for fuss-free doctor visits

In addition to taking your child to one of Kaiser Permanente of Washington’s Teddy Bear Clinics, parents and a pediatrician offer these suggestions for fending off toddler meltdowns during office visits.

  1. Don’t surprise kids. “I talk to my 2-year-old about what will happen at the doctor in the days leading up to the visit. I think it helps when she knows what to expect,” says Summer Taylor.Easing Pediatric Visits
  2. Be honest. Shots can be especially challenging for parents because, unlike other aspects of a medical visit, shots actually hurt a little. “If there will be shots at the visit I tell my 3-year-old what’s going to happen and how it might feel,” says Mike Washington. “I help her focus on the good things that will happen after that—a lollipop or a sticker, and plenty of hugs.”
  3. Bring distractions. For younger children, distractions help. “A favorite snack, toy, or book can distract my 3-year-old if he gets whiny, and the medical staff is great too,” says Nicole Killian. “At our last visit, the doctor pretended to put the otoscope in his own ear, then my ear, then my son’s ear several times before actually checking Dex’s ears. That put Dex at ease.”
  4. Master your own feelings. Your kids take their cues from you, and if you’re calm, chances are they will be too. “Project confidence, not fear,” says John Dunn, MD, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente Northshore Medical Center. “Ask plenty of questions and help your child see the doctor as a resource for help and information, and a friend.”
  5. End the outing on a high note. Promise something fun after the visit, and follow through. A stop at a playground, or a play date with a friend, will reinforce the idea that being brave has its payoffs.


Want more local health news, wellness tips, recipes, and more? Subscribe to our email newsletter.