It’s safe to say that our house is being overtaken by a growing doll population. They are like the sorcerer’s apprentice, appearing from nowhere with no end in sight. I recently left the country for seven days and had a few SOS messages from the husband about the doll plague. He sounded panicked; ‘They’re everywhere!’
I admit they look formidable when they are tipped out of their box onto the floor like a mini army. There are, naturally, princesses but also a very muscled Action Man we inherited. There’s Ken and Barbie, and Buzz Lightyear and Jess – the usual power couples. Then there is the baby doll posse. Sleeping doll, feed and wee doll, and bath doll. Dummies, bottles, tiny nappies, bibs, spoons, bowls, potties, baths…
We have three girls. There will be dolls. There’s not much we can do to fight it. I’ve tried to balance out the unrealistically proportioned Barbie with some Jessie the cow-girl and some princesses who can save themselves. The Our Generation dolls go camping and fishing, play soccer and ride their scooter. We’ve also bought car garages, trucks, scooters and pirate dress-ups. But the dolls are still the favourite.
And let’s face it. A single category of toys is easy to clean up. Kids can easily put them back in one box. There’s no sorting or confusion.
But I’ve also come to understand the role that dolls play in a child’s development. Playgroup-wa.com.au has come great information about the benefits of doll play for all children (yes boys too!) By playing with dolls young children can learn valuable life skills as well as practice helping, sharing, nurturing and caring skills.
My three year old’s favourite activity for her dolls is to remove all their clothes. She can whip those clothes off in no time and then present me with a pile of naked dolls and clothes to redress them. But she’s learning how to dress them now as she matures and in the process is learning basic life skills of dressing, routine – undressing for a bath, getting ready for bed, getting dressed in the morning, eating, drinking and, yes, even using the potty.
Dolls can help children to prepare for big events like welcoming a new baby to the family, getting ready for school or seeing the doctor. They can work through difficult emotions in a safe place. This all helps their social and emotional development.
My Miss 11 still loves to play with dolls. I have to admit to telling her on occasion perhaps she is too old for dolls but there are still benefits for older children playing with dolls. The scenarios they create are obviously different. Their imagination broadens into creating, staging, writing, and designing.
Doll play is also used by therapists and health professionals to deal with specific issues and situations such as for children who are grieving and children who have autism. And there are also benefits for older people with dementia.
But, yes, I need to stop adding to the doll count. There are many benefits in moderation too!