We change our items regularly. We want every visit here to be a new and different experience for our guests. One thing that we’ve insisted on having here from the beginning is dolls. We’ve had life-sized baby dolls. We usually have a doll house full of peg dolls. Right now, we have Barbies and Kens. Whatever kinds of dolls we have here, one thing we never call them is “girl toys.”
There have been times that we’ve heard mothers say to their sons, “if your dad saw you playing with those doll babies, he’d have a fit.”
Do boys need dolls?
This is not surprising to hear from parents who were raised in a divisive “Pink Vs. Blue” gender world. Stanford Psychologist, Judy Chen studies masculinity. The Psychology Today article, Why Boys Really Need Dolls talks about Chen’s work.
“Chen’s studies show that by age five, boys are already performing their masculinity for external approval.”
Yes, dolls have been traditionally marketed to girls, and we know that there are those out there who stick with conventional gender roles when it comes to toy choice. However, we would argue that our space is not designed to support the historic use of toys or to further any past gender-bias. Our space and items in it are arranged so that every child has access to every type of age-appropriate play. That means that boys play with dolls, as often as girls play with trucks and we encourage it to be that way.
The reason that we insist on having dolls in our space is not to make a statement about toxic masculinity, but because we realize the impact that this kind of play provides in a child’s life.
Benefits of Doll Play for All Children
- Children who play with dolls learn empathy. When a child is taking care of a baby, they are put in the position of thinking about someone else’s needs.
- Playing with dolls provides opportunities for language-building. Typically, when a child is playing with dolls, they will give the doll a voice, thus offering a chance to work on their vocabulary skills.
- All good play develops the imagination, and doll play is no different. Children can pretend they are anywhere and doing anything with their dolls.
- Hugging and cuddling releases oxytocin and other happy brain chemicals. Holding, rocking and caressing a baby doll simply makes children feel secure and loved.
- Often times, children want to figure out their role (at school, in families, at home). Playing with babies affords them the ability to try out different roles and see how these fit together.