Organ tabard

We've spent quite a lot of time over the past few months talking about how the human body works, partly inspired by a book my son likes reading and partly because of his natural curiosity about everything. The digestive system has often cropped up in conversation as we eat or he goes to the toilet (or we change his brother's nappy) and - I suspect like many youngsters - he's got a bit of a fascination with poo and wee. We've also talked about our hearts, and he's listened to his own and mine with a stethoscope.

I decided to build on his interest and construct something similar to an organ tabard that my friends made when we were involved with Cambridge Hands-On Science.  The organ tabard has multicoloured versions of various internal organs, with hook and loop fastener (Velcro) to attach them to the tabard.

The idea behind it is to help the boys learn about their internal organs and where they are located.  I also opens up some opportunities to talk about what the various organs do. I envisaged that it may also become part of role playing at being a doctor too, given his previous enjoyment of being a 'vet' to his stuffed animal menagerie, aided by some pretend x-rays I made.

I didn't have a pattern for an organ tabard, so made it up as I went along, referring to his book for guidance on shapes and positioning.  The colours bear no resemblance to the real thing, but I wanted the organs to be easily distinguishable. I made some pattern pieces and cut the shapes from various pieces of fleece and felt material scraps that I already had, hence the slightly eclectic mix of colours. I bought some new red fleece for the tabard itself. I suspect it won't be super hard-wearing compared to making it from cotton fabric, but the advantage is that there's no need to hem anything, and I wanted this to be a sewing project the small boy could participate in.

I got the sewing machine out, and the small boy helped me to sew the various organs together with great enthusiasm.  By 'help', I mean he sat on my lap and and pressed the button to reverse the direction mostly when instructed, and occasionally not! He also wriggled a lot, and bounced around, which was rather less helpful.  It took far longer than it would have done alone due to the need to make sure his little fingers were out of the way when the needle was moving! 

We talked quite a lot about sewing and how the machine worked with a top and bottom thread, and he was pretty fascinated by watching it go together.  He learnt to turn pieces inside out so the seam allowances were inside, and how to stuff the organs with toy stuffing.  He also helped me measure pieces of Velcro, mark the position to attach them with chalk and then stitch them on, as well as modelling the tabard at various points to make sure we'd got it the right size and could attach organs in roughly anatomically correct locations.  I wasn't sure whether the sewing with a 3 year old would be a nightmare.  However, we did almost all of it together at his request and whilst it's certainly not worthy of an appearance on the Great British Sewing Bee, it's not far off how I envisaged it might look when I decided to try it.

Testing out the heart and lungs

So what have we done with it?  It's been a good prompt for talking about the organs and what they do.  My eldest son can now tell me what all the organs on his tabard - the heart, lungs, stomach, liver, kidneys, large intestine and small intestine - do in his body, and he can put them in the right place using the Velcro.  It's been worn by him, his brother (who is good at pulling the organs off, but less good at sticking them on!), his Daddy (who just about fitted in it) and his toy snowman.  The snowman has proved the best 'patient' for medical play as he doesn't have his own ideas about wandering off, and is entirely cooperative when his heart needs transplanting...

The tabard and organs
Tabard modelled by my son

This has been a nice project both to make, and a fun thing to play with and talk about. I'm sure we'll get more play out of it over the coming months, and if parts of it get broken by little hands, it's all fixable.  Also, as my husband proves, it will fit the boys until they are grown out of wanting to play with it!