The process of creating and personalizing a blank, stuffed, body-shaped doll can provide children with a pleasurable and expressive activity which can be used by the child life team in many ways. Children decorate the dolls with non-toxic permanent markers. The dolls become a part of the treatment process and children take them home with them when they are discharged.

Child life specialists use the dolls to:

  • Help develop rapport with children and help them relax in a hospital environment,
  • Help assess the child's perception and feelings about healthcare experiences - talking about the doll is a non-threatening way to explore the child's own concerns,
  • Help children prepare for and cope with their treatment process - the doll can be used to show such things as where an injection will be given or what posture/body position is desired, and
  • Provide comfort items for children.

If you are interested in creating medical play dolls for patients to use, please use the instructions below. If you have any questions, please call the Child Life Department at 410-328-7440. Thank you for thinking of the children and families at the University of Maryland Children's Hospital.


  • 12" X 17" piece of tracing paper (for your pattern) and a pencil
  • 1/3 yard of 36" or 45" woven cotton or poly/cotton in a skin tones
  • Sewing thread to match fabric
  • Polyester stuffing

**We need a VARIETY of beige, tan and brown tones. Tea dying and using brown and tan shades of Rit®-type dye is fine. Choose even (not mottled) colors that look like healthy skin tones. The color should be light enough that permanent fabric markers will show on it.


  • Cut 2 pieces for each doll (Web site pattern will need to be enlarged to fit 12 X 17 inch tracing paper).
  • Be sure to clip all curves around the doll.
  • Machine stitch around the doll with a ?" seam allowance, leaving an opening for stuffing.
  • Turn the fabric inside out and stuff firmly with polyester fiberfill.
  • Whip stitch the opening closed.

Sewing Pattern

On Pattern:

Tracing & cutting line
Stitching line ?" seam
Clip Corners

Leave open to turn & stuff & then hand sew closed  

This information is extracted from an article entitled "The Use of Stuffed, Body-Outline Dolls with Hospitalized Children and Adolescents" by Laura Gaynard, Joy Goldberger, & Lesley Laidley, Children's Health Care, 20(4), p.216-223.