“Little girls wearing pink and playing with dolls.“ What do you think of when you hear this sentence? Maybe you think it sounds sweet and almost magical. Maybe you think it sounds stereotypical and sexist. Maybe you couldn’t care less.
When I was growing up, we celebrated El Dia De Reyes, a day in which every kid who was good received toys. Boys got cars, guns, sports gear, and sets that featured plastic soldiers with miniature weaponry. Little girls were gifted dolls and kitchen sets. If you were “rich” you got a bike – it’d be blue if you were a boy or pink if you were a girl. If you were me, you’d be lucky to get a paddle ball, a plastic jacks set, or a hula hoop.
And one day the “Reyes” left me a present at my godmother’s house, and it was a doll. I was really grateful, but I didn’t play with it much. I ended up selling her to another kid and putting the money in my piggy bank. I was not really excited to play “mommy.” In my mind, mommies were miserable. I had different dreams… Plus, she didn’t even look like me!
Fast forward to 2002, opening presents at my first baby shower, I was overwhelmed by all the presents – and all the pink. And a few weeks later, my daughter had a baby doll even before she was born. I blame it on the hormones but it was more approval addiction.
But then again, with my choice to practice child-led parenting, I’ve seen my girls dress up in princess dresses and other “girly” costumes. They’ve had plastic jewelry, plastic pets, and huge doll houses with all the amenities, and fancy vehicles including unicorn carriages. They’ve had a blast playing pretend in a tiny world of their creation. They’ve asked for pink, sparkly, fluffy things and I’ve gladly bought them… and I’ve been pleased to watch them practice being mommies and home-makers.
Surprisingly, I slowly found myself joining in the play (when invited), and even being excited about it. Turns out that playing with dolls is really fun and if having a boy is in the stars for me, he’ll be playing with dolls with all of us, which addresses the “boys with dolls” stigma).
Watching a child play with a dolly is a beautiful things to experience. Playing with dolls gives our children the opportunity to nurture, connect, and explore different layers of relationship building. Rather than limiting their identity, it is a tool to teach them social skills: to be caring, compassionate, and kind, and the concepts of sharing, cooperation, helping, and problem solving.
I cry when my daughters play with dolls because they treat their dolls like I treat them. They talk to their dolls in the way I talk to them. I can see how they see me, what they feel about me, and how my motherhood style is working (or not!). They re-enact different interactions and events of our relationship (cognitive reframing).
By closely observing my daughters play with their dolls, I’ve gained insight as to how they see themselves, what they are thinking, what they are feeling and what they love to do and dream about.
I’ve slowly left aside my opinion of what I thought feeding a doll, changing a doll, rocking a doll, tucking the doll to sleep, holding the doll, bathing the doll, carrying their doll, grooming the doll, dressing and undressing the doll, or pushing a doll stroller meant for my daughters. Some may say this lays the foundation for positive parenting when they are older, if you are uncomfortable with the thought of your baby preparing for parenthood, or if, like me, you think being a mom is certainly the most noble, but not your only calling in life, I want to assure you that doll play can benefit your child NOW and in any career they choose.
Children don’t just “play” with dolls, they dramatize. They learn to understand their world and the different roles people play in it. While true doll play begins about age 2 (Bronson 1995), role-playing evolves with their development and experiences. When they take on opposite roles, they can see things from another’s perspective, which will foster empathy in them, such a needed socio-emotional skill regardless of age and gender.
Jerome Singer, psychology professor at Yale University explained that pretend play gives a child the opportunity to bring the large, loud world into a manageable, relatable, and understandable size (1994). This is a kind of rehearsal that is truly beneficial for the child.
Playing with dolls provides an outlet for creativity, expression, and imaginative play. Pretend play (of which playing dolls is a part of) is vital in a child’s brain development because besides fostering a caring nature, role play encourages them to use their imagination, expands their vocabulary, helps develop both cognitive faculties, fine-motor skills and gross motor abilities, and teaches them to be independent.
Experts say that playing with dolls can foster self-help skills such as eating, hygiene, and potty training. And research shows that playing with dolls also allows our children to act our their frustrations and aggression in their fantasy world, thus releasing their tensions and coping with their emotions in a healthy and safe way. Doll play allows children to work through strong feelings and situations that may be happening within their family or environment.
I’ve used doll play to teach my girls their body parts: eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hands, fingers, tummy, feet, toes, knees, elbows, shoulders, chin, etc. Yes, even if their body doesn’t look like the doll at all or just yet. You can teach them about clothing items such as shirts, skirts, dresses, socks, pants, etc. and point out colors, sizes, and important other learning concepts. Most importantly, I’ve used doll interaction to teach them positive values and life skills that have shaped their lives.
And while it is no secret that many dolls do portray females as superficial, vain, consumerist fembots, not all send this frivolous message at all, and you choose to be an active agent in reframing this concept, you will motivate your daughter to create her own definition.
Enter the new empowering Elena of Avalor doll line, inspired by the Disney Channel television series, which will help kids imagine joining the courageous Latina Crown Princess and her loyal friends on her magical adventures, as she uses thoughtfulness, resilience and compassion, to become a great leader.
Available this fall for ages 3 and up (right on time for Little Pige’s third birthday) the Princess Elena of Avalor dolls do not only represent cultural diversity, they also inspire positive role playing. My daughters and I are excited that Princess Elena looks like us – and she is like us!
Disney Elena Of Avalor and Skylar 2-Pack
Retailing at $34.99, this is Little Pige’s set, which includes an Elena of Avalor fashion doll and a Skyler figure with large, vibrant wings that flap when little adventurers move him up and down! Kids can imagine Princess Elena and her loyal friend Skylar soaring fearlessly across the kingdom of Avalor. It also has a beautiful modest outfit, belt, hairclip, bracelet, pair of shoes, and a pair of earrings! I love to watch Pige play and pretend.
Disney My Time Singing Elena Of Avalor Doll
Retail Price is $29.99 and totally worth it. My daughters are musicians. They play the guitar and the piano, and they all sing. Kids can sing along with Elena of Avalor by pressing her gem necklace to hear her sing “My Time,” a powerful song featured in the television series. Her arms are beautifully articulated and allow her to hold the guitar – which is included. Elisha claimed this beauty for herself! This gorgeous doll requires three 1.5V A76 alkaline batteries.
Disney Royal Gown Elena Of Avalor Doll
Elyssa’s choice has a retail price of $19.99. This beautiful fashion doll comes wearing a ball gown adorned with a dazzling detailed glitter print. The doll also comes with a tiara, bracelet, and removable shoes to complete her majestic outfit!
Disney Elena Of Avalor & Princess Isabel Dolls
My first official doll retails for $24.99. It is a 2-pack that includes Elena of Avalor and her sister, Isabel – although Little Pige says she’s Isabel and I’m Elena. I am excited to see sisterly love being promoted and celebrated. These beautiful fashion dolls come dressed in their TV series-inspired dresses, complete with fun, removable accessories such as a book that opens and dolls can hold, a belt, hairclips, shoes, and dazzling earrings!
I do play with my dolls and I have been crying about it. I cry because it’s sad that my childhood trauma prevented me from enjoying this beautiful experience, and I cry because I actually have a doll – two dolls! – I can identify with. I’ve been waiting for this doll for three decades and I’m so glad she’s finally here, while my daughters can play with them.
Disney Elena Of Avalor Doll
I want this doll, too! Retail price is $14.99 and she comes dressed in the Elena of Avalor series-inspired adventure dress, includes the hairclip, belt, pair of earrings, and removable shoes AND the scepter of light! I had shared with you that Elena (and Elayna) means “shining light” so I am definitely obsessed with this scepter and I gotta have it!
The Elena of Avalor dolls will be available the fall of 2016 at most major toy retailers nationwide and on HasbroToyShop.com so you can get your favorite to a child in your life.
Dolls have been around for centuries and the benefits of doll play are imminent and I feel so much joy to know that in today’s video games and virtual game driven world, where tween culture is so predominant, my 12 and 13 year old daughters still choose to use their imagination and creativity, that they play with their dolls to act out their dreams, rather than watching someone else live theirs.
I’m happy that I can incorporate and encourage the use dolls as part as my playtime with my brilliant toddler, so her brain can develop and she can grow and blossom.
Did you play with dolls as a child? Do you let your kids play with dolls, both boys and girls? What other benefits do you see in doll play? How much do you love the new Elena of Avalor doll line? Share your answers with us in the comment section below.