Dolls have always been an incredibly popular choice for children, as well as proving to be interesting collector's items for fans of all ages. It is not difficult to see the appeal of dolls; they are versatile, flexible toys, which can be dressed up and adapted to whatever scenario takes the owners fancy.
They can be teachers, babies, mechanics, firefighters, veterinarians, the possibilities for creative and imaginative play are almost endless. In addition to being fun, however, there is a range of other educational and psychological benefits to playing with dolls, and they can prove more valuable than you may have initially anticipated.
What Do Kids Learn By Playing With Dolls?
Kids playing with dolls can offer significant benefits in all areas. These include skills such as:
Caring And Nurturing
Pretending to care for a baby can help children to think about the needs that all humans have, and how these can be met effectively. A human baby will need to be kept warm, will need feeding and changing, and to be comforted if they are sad or scared. Caring for a doll helps a child to develop empathy, which is crucial for social and psychological development.
Excellent Motor Skills And Essential Life Skills
Children can use dolls to practice skills they may struggle with. Dolls can be dressed and undressed during play, and this is an ideal way for children to practice using buttons and zips, as well as navigate tricky items of clothing.
Other areas of care can also be practiced, such as bathing and feeding. The doll can also be invaluable in perfecting the art of potty-training; once your child has encouraged and trained their doll, they are far more likely to want to practice the skills themselves.
A doll can be a great teaching tool for essential facts such as body parts and items of clothing. Children can also narrate and deliver stories about the activities they have done with their doll, helping them to practice their language skills and learn how to sequence events.
Prepare For Siblings
A new sibling can be an enormous undertaking for a child of any age, and a doll can be a great way to get them used to the idea and to prepare for a new baby arriving. They can practice playing with and interacting with a baby, and it will help to reduce the shock once the real thing has arrived.
Practice Social Skills
As children grow, they will interact more with other children, and a doll can be a great way to practice. It teaches children to consider something other than themselves and to think of questions and answers to prepare them if they are nervous about meeting new children.
Most of these skills are perfect for toddlers and young children, and playing with dolls is ideal for facilitating child development. It is important to note that these skills also apply to a boy playing with dolls; despite stereotypes to the contrary, a doll is a perfectly acceptable toy for a child of either gender.
Get To Know Your Child
Seeing your child play with dolls is like a window into their personality. The infant like nature of the toy is designed to develop the nurturing, caring side of your child and can be instrumental in helping them to improve not only their social skills but their emotional control.
Through observing their interactions with their doll, you will gain valuable insight into their personalities, aspirations, and attitudes.
Children project onto their dolls, and this can provide useful information and experiences. If you see your child acting unpleasantly or negatively towards their toy, it could offer an insight into behavior or issues which are occurring in their relationships or external lives.
It can provide a starting point to discuss important problems or conflicts they may be having, and offer a way to roleplay practice scenarios before they occur.
Similarly, if your child seems nervous or worried, they may act out scenarios with their dol, or confide their concerns in an indirect way. Through managed questions and observant play, you may be able to get to the bottom of any fears or worries they have in a way that simple, direct talking may not be able to achieve.
In a similar way, dolls can be a useful way to gauge your child's reaction to a future scenario, to help you be fully prepared.
If you are having a baby, you can introduce the doll in advance, allowing your child to ask any questions, or express worries or concerns about what may happen. It is a tool which will help you to see how your child may iract, and to help them get used to the idea in plenty of time.
This means that the new baby will not be a shock, and can help to reduce resentment and confusion when they are finally here. Many parents have also reported that using a doll has allowed their child to become excited by the prospect of a new addition, and allowed them to practice critical tasks and duties in a safe and controlled environment before the baby arrives.
What may initially seem a simple situation of kids playing with dolls may provide valuable psychological insight into the mood, attitude, and wellbeing of your child. A doll is a single toy which can have a dramatic difference and impact on your child's life.
Should You As An Adult Join In With The Doll Play?
Adults playing with dolls may seem unusual, but getting involved in your child's play can be an invaluable way of helping to support them on a range of levels.
By structuring the play appropriately, and managing your position within that play, you can provide a stimulating and educational experience which still allows your child to have fun, be creative, and use their imagination.
There are two main roles a parent may take when it comes to their child's play; leading or controlling. Controlling a child's play prevents the child from being able to choose, direct and control their own play experience. They must be allowed to explore their play with total and absolute freedom in order for the experience of play to have any meaning or purpose.
Leading and supporting, however, help to provide scaffolding for the experience, helping them to fully engage in their learning and the exploration of what they are doing. A parent who is leading can also spot and provide opportunities for their child to extend their learning, and grow and develop their experiences.
In a child's life, adults are the ones with the power and control, and it is vital that they take every opportunity to create a fun productive and appropriate environment which encourages and facilitates play, and allows your child to grow. There are some steps you can take to achieve this, such as:
Pay attention to structure and environment: Whether you are working indoors or outside, you should design the environment to ensure that it is tailored to the abilities and strengths of your child, as well as being able to meet their needs adequately. This will allow you to enhance and elevate their play naturally and promote independence and success.
This will let them know that you are invested in their play. It is also fun for your child to have a chance to play with you; their games are important to them, and it is nice for them to see you valuing these choices.
As an adult, you can also help to extend their learning and understanding through the modeling of positive behaviors. Many people ask how old should you be to stop playing with dolls, and the answer is that you are only as old as you feel!
Being present and involved in your children's play also allows you to be on the scene if a dispute should arise. It teaches them that you can intervene if they have an accident or concern, but also provides and supplies them with useful skills for managing conflicts or dramas independently a crucial ability in building and forming their relationships.
Dolls can be a valuable part of this teaching process, as they can be used as a neutral intercessor which helps your child learn and practice conflict resolution, or work out the best course of action if they come up with a problem or confusion.
Give A Boost!
Being a child can be hard work, and playing with them using dolls can help to encourage them if they are reluctant to join in with an activity or social event, or moving from playing alone to having the confidence and skills to playing with other children.
What Are The Benefits For Parents?
As well as helping your child with a range of crucial skills, parents can also benefit from the act of engaging in play with their child. Some bonuses for parents include:
Check In With Your Child
Playing with your child offers an ideal opportunity to check in with them, and may encourage them to open up about worries, issues, and concerns which may be affecting them in their everyday life. You can see how they play, which techniques are effective and use this to build a valuable bank of tools to help them later on.
Play can also provide information about existing and current relationships in your child's life; listen carefully to the things they say, their reactions, and the way they treat the doll. All of this can provide invaluable clues and insights which you can use to scaffold and support future play opportunities and provide the best possible outcomes for your child on every level.
See Where They Play
Physically getting involved with your child's play requires you to see the environment through their eyes, and this makes it easier to determine where adjustments need to be made or improved.
As an adult, getting involved in your child's play is an ideal way to support them in their learning, growth, and development. It helps you to make valuable observations which can inform future decisions and help you to make the best choices for your child.
As an added bonus, it can also be an opportunity to have some real fun with your child, show them that their time and interests are valuable to you, and give them the confidence to go forth and build new relationships, skills, and links with confidence and happiness.
Important Lessons You Can Give With Dolls
The act of little girl playing with dolls may seem a stereotype, but in fact, it is so much more than that. The lessons which can be learned from the process are useful to your child and can provide a variety of benefits and experiences for you both. These include the development of traits including:
Picking The Right Type Of Doll For Your Child
The doll market is a busy one, with a huge range of brands, styles, and sizes. It can be a good idea for you and your child to pick your doll together, as this helps to give them ownership and control over their toy. This may encourage play more naturally, and help your child to form a bond and emotional attachment to their doll.
With regards to type, it is best to go with whatever best suits your child. Everyone has an opinion based on their favorite; people playing with American Girl dolls will always swear that they are the best, while fans of Our Generation will recommend no other type.
Each brand has its benefits, and it is important to consider factors such as size and portability, material, and extra benefits such as the range of available accessories.
The latter is particularly crucial for encouraging free play and creativity; children want to create and build a world with their dolls, and so having a wide range of options available to dress and style them, create their hobbies and skills and so on is important.
The good news is that many accessories are interchangeable between brands; the clothing which you purchase for an American Girl doll will also be suitable for an Our Generation model. This will provide you with a wider variety in your wardrobe and styling option.
As well as the 18" dolls, smaller options are also available with models such as Barbie. These tend to be more portable, and often come in different themes or varieties, allowing your child to build up a set or family.
With these types of dolls, it is important, to be honest with your child about issues such as body image and the unrealistic expectations these dols can set out; they can be instrumental in generating such discussions, and opening discussions which involve expectations around body image and self-esteem. These issues are equally important for children of both sexes.
Is It Okay For Boys To Play With Dolls?
Although girls playing with dolls may be the image we have come to expect, there is absolutely no reason why boys should be discouraged from owning, playing with and caring for dolls. The valuable lessons and discussions which can come from this play are equally valid for boys and girls.
In fact, in a society which tends to shy away from allowing men to express feelings and emotions openly, it could be argued that it is more important than ever for boys to be given the opportunity to develop and nurture these skills and experiences.
The concept of relationships, family dynamics, and helping children to understand and explore their feelings and emotions are all relevant to both sexes, and dolls provide an ideal vehicle with which to discover these concepts in a safe and supported environment.
Similarly, the physical benefits of dolls, such as developing and practicing fine motor skills, life skills, and sequencing, are equally applicable to boys and can be a creative and fun way to help children gain confidence and independence in these areas.
While the stereotype may be that dolls are only for girls, this idea is something we should all be striving to eliminate and overcome, or boys risk missing out on valuable play and learning due to a narrow-minded and potentially damaging viewpoint.
At What Age Do Girls Stop Playing With Dolls?
One of the main questions many parents ask is when do girls stop playing with dolls? The answer is, of course, subjective, but in simple terms, children will stop when they are ready. Most children will have grown out of dolls by the time they reach their teens or slightly before, but it is not unheard of for children to keep their childhood toys throughout adolescence.
Teen years can be confusing, and it can be comforting to surround oneself with remnants of childhood. The same skills, of conflict resolution and emotional and social issues, are also relevant as we grow and explore our way through the world.
Though they may not admit it, many older children may still utilize their dolls for this purpose, even subconsciously. There is no need to pressure your child or worry about what age is the ‘right’ one to stop; when they are ready, they will naturally move on to something else.
Playing with dolls can sometimes appear to be an old-fashioned past time in our modern world, full of screens, technology, and flashing lights. In truth, this can be an incredibly useful insight into the psychological wellbeing of your child, and if the play is managed correctly, can have a vast variety of benefits.
Play should be child-led, allowing them to explore and navigate issues and interests which grab their attention. Dolls can be a vessel through which many themes and skills are tested and discussed, and provide children with a solid foundation and toolkit to take on the battles of life with confidence.
Playing with dolls can also be an excellent way for you and your child to spend time together, and for parents to show their child that they value and respect their interests and preferences. What begins as a simple toy can have endless benefits for children of both sexes, and is something which should be well managed, encouraged and nurtured.