Kids and Future Doctors Will Benefit From Saturday's MSU Teddy Bear Picnic

Kids and Future Doctors Will Benefit From Saturday’s MSU Teddy Bear Picnic

Going to the doctor’s office or hospital can be scary and confusing for kids. It can also be difficult as a new doctor to communicate effectively with young patients.

This weekend’s Teddy Bear Picnic at Michigan State University, which features the Blue Cross Blue Shield Teddy Bear Hospital, aims to help both groups. It gives kids a chance to overcome their fears and provides medical students volunteering at the event an opportunity to interact with young future patients.

Children and their parents are invited to bring a favorite stuffed animal to the event, which takes place on Saturday, September 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at MSU’s 4-H Gardens. Kids will be able to take their furry friends through different stations to simulate a real-life hospital experience.

Dr. Sathyan Sudhanthar is a pediatrician and assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Pediatrics and Human Development. He said medical students volunteering on Saturday will receive credit for performing community outreach. The real benefit to them, however, is learning firsthand how they can make children more comfortable when they have to go to a doctor’s office or to an ER.

“This is a great opportunity for them to see the fear in a child’s eye when their teddy gets a shot and how they comfort their stuffed toy,” he said.

Children oftentimes struggle to express themselves at doctor visits, Sudhanthar explained. In his own practice, he’ll sometimes demonstrate procedures using stuffed animals so kids know exactly what will happen next. Asking children how their toy is feeling can sometimes provide a more illuminating response than asking them how they’re feeling.

“Amazingly they are more responsive to that conversation,” Sudhanthar said.

Medical student Emily Disbrow is excited to volunteer and meet local kids. She sees the event as a win-win for kids and medical students.

“This is a great opportunity for kids to get exposed to the healthcare field in a safe and fun environment. The same is true for students – they can learn about how to connect with children in a similarly safe and fun environment,” she said. “The teddy bears that get treated at this event might show up with their owners in a hospital bed sometime in the future, and students can rely on what they experienced at this event to help the child feel a little more relaxed and at home.”

While kids take their animals through the hospital, parents should feel free to stop by the BCBSM booth for information about new health insurance options, Healthy Blue Extras discounts, and our new #MIKidsCan contest, which could win your child a meet and greet with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford or tickets to the Thanksgiving game in Detroit.

Can’t make it? In addition to bringing along their favorite stuffed toy for comfort, Dr. Sudhanthar provided these tips to alleviate your kids’ fears about going to the doctor or hospital:

  • Kids reflect their parent’s perception. If you’re calm, your child will most likely adopt your attitude.
  • Talk to them before each visit and let them know what to expect to the best of your ability.
  • Take them to their siblings’ or your own doctor or dental visits so they realize this is something everybody goes through.
  • Play word or number games in the waiting room to make the visit more fun.
  • Don’t bribe children with treats or toys to visit the doctor. Sudhanthar said this sends the wrong message to children.


Photo credit: San Mateo County Library


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