Teddy Bear Clinic participants
By School of Behavioral Health - March 15, 2024

On February 25, 2024, the Child Life Specialist MS program partnered with LLUH Community-Academic Partners in Service (CAPS) to provide a Teddy Bear Clinic for local children and families. The event was hosted for the first time at the Garden of Health in San Bernardino through the San Bernardino Healthy in Nature - Equity (SHiNE) program. SHiNE promotes the importance of access to nature for underserved and underrepresented populations who face barriers to outdoor experiences in the community. Evidence shows that spending time in nature has many positive mental health benefits.

A Teddy Bear Clinic is an interactive learning experience where children are encouraged to bring their stuffed animals for a health check-up. The goal of this event was to help children and their families familiarize themselves with medical equipment and prepare them for future visits to the clinic or hospital. Healthcare play is a method that empowers children to gain a sense of control and autonomy in unfamiliar and often frightening environments. It fosters vital skills such as language, empathy, and problem-solving while nurturing resilience and imaginative growth.

In a playful approach, children took their stuffed animal through seven check-up stations. Each station featured educational and engaging activities centered around medical play, emphasizing the significance of immunizations, vitals, getting stitches, and finger casting. These interactive stations, facilitated by child life specialist students and their fellow peers from the SBH Resiliency Clinic, addressed various misconceptions and worries. Families had the opportunity to explore the use of distraction techniques and positive coping skills such as deep breathing, normalizing emotions associated with pain, and offering stress relief by holding someone’s hand during a procedure. Other experiences included an adolescent station, where teens could increase their health literacy by exploring medical equipment and take an active role in their well-being by talking about their own health journey. By engaging in conversation, sharing health experiences, and interacting with medical equipment through play, families were provided an outlet for fun and expression while being immersed in nature!

Written by Dyanna Rivera and Maricela Chavez Garcia, Child Life Specialist MS students