I took my two oldest children, ages 6 and 4, to the National Museum of Health and Medicine’s Teddy Bear Clinic. The event was held outside on the museum grounds. Children in grades preK-2 were asked to bring their favorite stuffed friend and explore the Teddy Bear Clinic with activities and crafts designed to highlight the body, physical fitness and health habits.
Upon arrival, my children received disposable doctor gowns and a “Teddy Bear Checkup Checklist” for each of the five stations: crafts, vitals, dental, fitness, nutrition and immunization. At the craft station, they made a nurse hat for their teddy bears, and a doctor hat and doctor bag for themselves. The crafts were simple and easy for small hands. Volunteers and museum staff walked the children through the crafts and provided a helping hand when needed.
At the remaining four clinics, we learned about the body and healthy habits by participating in various activities and listening to the volunteers, many of whom were medical students or museum staff. The dental booth gave my children the opportunity to practice brushing and flossing on a model set of teeth. At the vitals booth, they used toy medical instruments to examine their stuffed animals’ ears, heart rate and blood pressure.
They gave shots to their teddies at the immunization clinic. At the nutrition booth they threw bean bags in the shapes of vegetables and fruit through a board with cutout holes to learn the value of eating at least 5 servings a day. By far, my children enjoyed the fitness both. Volunteers led them through stretches and 20 seconds of jogging in place. Afterward, they were free to try many of the games including, a toy tennis set, a hopping ball, a pogo jumper, and an egg and spoon balance game.
I am always amazed at how much my children enjoy the simple events. The Teddy Bear Clinic was no different. The museum staff and volunteers were informative and friendly. We left with smiles on our faces, lots of good information, and a certificate proclaiming that our teddy bears had clean bills of health.
We did not got the inside the museum because I felt that some of the exhibits might be a bit overwhelming for my young children. However, I am providing some information for those that might be interested in visiting.
The National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) was established during the Civil War as the Army Medical Museum, a center for the collection of specimens for research in military medicine and surgery. In 1862, Surgeon General William Hammond directed medical officers in the field to collect “specimens of morbid anatomy together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed” and to forward them to the newly founded museum for study. Since then, NMHM has acquired an extensive collection. There are five major collections: Anatomical, Historical, Otis Historical Archives, Human Developmental Anatomy, and Neuroanatomical. The Museum offers visitors a unique perspective on health and medicine, because it is one of the few places where the public can actually see the effects of disease on the human body.
Docent and self-guided tours are available. The museum also offers some very interesting tours for student groups, including student discovery sheets for high school and up, and a forensic mystery tour for grades 5 and up. Individuals interested in any tour should contact the Tour Program Manager at 301-319-3312.
Things to Know Before You Go
- NMHM is open daily from 10am to 5:30pm, including weekends and holidays except December 25.
- Admission and parking in the lot directly off Linden Lane are free.
- NMHM does not offer food services at the present time.
- Restrooms offer baby-changing stations.
- Adult visitors may be asked to present a photo ID at the front desk of the Museum and staff may ask to inspect backpacks and bags.