playing with dolls

March & Play to a Different Beat: Respect Differences in How Children Play

Kids, like adults, can march to a different beat, and play to a different one too; it’s important to respect differences in how children play.respect differences in how children play

Play is not the same for all children. Parents only need to have two kids to see the tremendous differences there can be from one child to the other. While all children love to move, some are far more active than others. These kids seem to be constantly on the run, jump, or hop. Some children talk far earlier than others. During their play, kids kids talk to the stuffies and toys and pretend to be their voices. Favorite toys might be a pretend telephone, or a real one whenever they see it around! Hands-on is the interaction of choice for many children. Blocks and construction toys of all sorts lurk on the floor for unsuspecting adult feet. In this case, it’s not marching to a different beat but limping.block and construction play

While there may be some general similarities for the ways girls play as opposed to the ways boys play, there are vast differences for children of the same gender. Many girls engage in building with blocks, rough-housing, and zooming cars and trains around a track. By the same token, many boys will play with dolls and kitchens. Just as many boys as girls have baby brothers and sisters, so caring for younger family members is common for both. Girls and boys can snuggle a doll, take it for a walk in the stroller, give it a bottle, and tell it not to cry. These are natural activities and show how we care for each other. Boys can ask for an easy-bake-oven and girls can want a science kit.boy playing dolls gender equality

When we respect differences in how children play we are respecting children themselves. Kids can march to a different beat in what they want to eat, how they dress, the books they like, and the way they play. How will your child choose to play today?


Doll Play for Kids Inspired by Barbie’s Birthday

This week was the birthday of the Barbie doll. Is it too obvious to use this to inspire some doll play for kids? Any doll, stuffie, or plastic figurine can be part of play, as well as both girls and boys. Kids often have a favorite toy or character. doll play for kids

No matter what toy children choose, doll play includes a story. Before Barbie, most dolls represented a baby or young child. With baby or young child dolls, that story is naturally about caring for a baby and the child takes on the role of parent or other caregiver.

Despite the controversy about Barbie, she is an adult. Having a grownup doll as a possibility means kids can create a different kind of story. Now, the doll can go to the office, make the decisions, drive the car, talk on the phone, go shopping, and do the things adults do. Through the doll, kids can act out what it’s like to be grown up. They get to make up the story as they play.

When playing with an adult doll, instead of being the parent to a baby, kids can interact with the doll on a grown up level. The scenarios become quite different, as the child and the doll-adult interact. They may go out for coffee, have a conversation as adults do, and decide who will be the boss at work. With two adult dolls, kids can step back and just let the dolls interact. Either way, we can observe how children interpret what adults to and what they think happens when we’re grown up. Often, adult dolls don’t have to go to bed so early.

doll play for kidsBarbie dolls are changing to be more inclusive and realistic. There will now be seven different skin tones and four body types, including one in a wheel chair.  Ken is also getting a new image to more closely resemble a dad. The industry is reflecting the diversity of children that play with dolls and how kids play with them.

Whether playing with a baby doll, toddler, stuffie, Barbie or character figurine, what’s central to doll play for kids, both boys and girls, is the story. It could one of caring or conflict, a time at home and job or a life and death battle. What engages kids is what is happening in their imaginations. What have you seen as children play with dolls?

Doll Play for Boys, Not Just Girls

Kids will be asking Santa for toys and that includes dolls. Doll play for boys, not just girls, still raises some eyebrows. Author and dad, Doyin Richards, gives “3 Reasons why you should buy your son a doll” in his article on Upworthy.  Besides wondering if girls can do it why boys can’t, he states doll play for boys encourages the development of empathy and confidence. Both of these have lifelong impact on outcomes for kids.

boys playing with dolls
Slow & Careful, 2 Boys with Dolls (photo L. Price)

Last summer, in a series of articles on supporting children’s play, doll play was one of the topics. Here is an excerpt:

Dolls give children a different kind of play opportunity….In this century, it really should be possible for all kids–girls and boys–to play with dolls if they want. Most children’s toys need some kind of action, such as fitting puzzle pieces, stacking blocks, or zooming cars. Dolls are for feelings as well as actions. The play experience is also one of relationships.

Play with dolls stimulates imagination. Pretend play can be very involved and creative. Children often feel like they have no power, that adults have it all. When kids play with dolls, the play can sometimes be rough and aggressive, as kids explore how it feels to be in control. Watching their play can sometimes give us clues as to what children are feeling.

When kids, girls and boys, play with dolls they are figuring out the skills and strategies used in real relationships. They are rehearsing how to care for others. As they talk with their dolls, they engage in conversation much as we do. They check on what their dolls need, asking many of the questions we ask them. It’s much easier for kids to practice how interactions work with a doll.

doll play for boys

Play brings the world into a manageable size for kids. We want to give kids the best parts of it. Why would we restrict boys from such a big part of play? When they have a chance, they do choose to play with dolls. Doll play for boys–would you say yes?

Helping Children Learn to Play Series: #4 Dolls

Helping Children Learn to Play with Dolls Dolls give children a different kind of play opportunity. Just like other toys, kids could use some support to help them figure out this play. In this century, it really should be possible for all kids–girls and boys–to play with dolls if they want. Most children’s toys need … Continue reading Helping Children Learn to Play Series: #4 Dolls