Visiting doctors with your toddler is a part of the job, but your little one might feel a little nervous.
Going to the doctor can be scary for a toddler who doesn’t quite understand what’s happening. If you’re also worried about shots or other parts of the exam, you could make your child even more upset.
Preparing your little one for the doctor in age-appropriate ways can make the visit less stressful for everyone.
Keep reading to learn ways to handle the appointment.
1. Choose Your Doctor Wisely
When choosing a family doctor, consider not just the medical qualifications but also the bedside manner.
A doctor who is good with kids can help your toddler feel better about the appointment. Pediatricians are trained to treat kids, but some are better than others at knowing how to make little ones feel comfortable.
If your toddler tends to be scared in new situations, visit the doctor’s office before making a choice. Ask to meet the doctor to get a sense of the physician’s personality. Consider how well your toddler might react to the doctor.
You can also evaluate potential doctors based on recommendations from other parents. Talk to fellow toddler parents to find suggestions for doctors that make their kids feel at ease.
2. Time the Visit Right
Think about your child’s normal behavior during the day. Toddlers tend to have a similar alert, happy times each day. Other times of the day might leave your toddler tired and uncooperative.
Scheduling the doctor’s office visit during a happier time of day can make the appointment easier for both of you.
If your toddler is feeling happy and curious, the appointment can be a fun chance to explore something new. If you schedule the appointment at nap time when your little one is tired, you’re more likely to deal with crankiness and resistance.
3. Use Pretend Play
Toddlers can learn about new situations and concepts through play. Pretend play is a developmentally appropriate option that lets them interact with items they might see at the doctor’s office.
Use dolls to set up a pretend doctor’s office it home. A kids’ medical kit can also be helpful. The toy medical equipment gets your little one used to things they might see at the appointment.
Let your child play with the kit and use the items on the dolls. You can introduce words for the different equipment. Show your toddler how the doctor might use those items at the visit.
You can also ease your little one’s fears if they act afraid during pretend play.
Maybe your child gives the doll shots and acts like it’s scary or painful. You can talk to your little one about shots helping you stay healthy.
If your child pretends a doll is scared to go to the doctor, you can talk about the doctor as a helper.
Practicing the doctor office scenario several times in the days or weeks leading up to the appointment can make it feel more familiar.
4. Read Books
A similar way to get your toddler family with a doctor’s visit is reading books about doctors. Board books and picture books about doctors describe what to expect in an age-appropriate way.
Books can help your child learn about what happens at the doctor’s office. They can also introduce medical equipment and words your child might hear at the appointment.
While you’re reading the books to your toddler, stop and talk about your experiences with doctors. You might talk about the fun artwork at the office or how friendly and helpful the doctor is.
When it’s time for the appointment, you can remind your child about the books you read.
5. Talk in a Positive Way
Your toddler might not be able to understand everything you say about the doctor visit. But it’s still a good idea to talk to your little one about the upcoming appointment.
Find out what will happen at the visit, such as regular childhood vaccinations. This will help you find toddler-friendly ways to talk about what’s going to happen.
Make the trip to the doctor’s office sound fun and upbeat rather than scary. The way you talk about it can influence how your toddler feels about the visit.
Don’t spend too much time talking about the visit. Keeping it low-key makes the doctor’s visit seem like no big deal, which can help keep your child calm.
6. Take Comfort Items
If your toddler relies on a blanket, stuffed animal, pacifier, or another comfort item, bring it to the checkup. Being without the comfort item puts your tot on edge already. That can make anxiety over going to the doctor even worse.
Your child can hold the comfort item if things get tense during the appointment. It might help keep your little one calm before nerves can set in.
7. Pack Distractions
A similar tactic is packing entertainment items to distract your toddler. Pediatrician offices often have colorful murals, books, toys, and other activities, but packing your own ensures you have something your tot enjoys.
Use these items in the waiting room and exam room to keep your child occupied.
Choose things your child doesn’t use often, such as a tablet with toddler games or a special toy. Since it’s something new and special, it can be especially distracting.
8. Prepare Early
Being prepared for the appointment means you don’t have to rush or worry about getting there on time. If you’re running late, you’ll feel stressed, which can cause your toddler to become upset.
Pack your diaper bag early, so you have snacks, comfort items, and distractions ready. Check for your insurance card and other items you might need for the appointment.
Leave for the appointment early in case you run into traffic issues.
9. Stay Calm and Positive
If you’re tense and worried about the appointment, your toddler will pick up on that. Your little one might start worrying.
Even if you’re nervous about shots or the visit in general, try to keep your feelings under control. Take some deep breaths to help yourself relax if you’re having trouble.
Make Visiting Doctors Easier
Visiting doctors regularly is part of having a toddler. You can make it easier on yourself and your tot by preparing your little one in age-appropriate ways.