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How Kids Learn By Playing with Dolls

Updated on September 2, 2016

How to Teach Valuable Lessons By Playing With Your Children

At wits' end, my dear sister talked on the phone with the pediatrician. She explained that her impending baby's birth was a cause for concern for her toddler daughter. "I just want there to be as smooth as transition as possible" she said.

The doctor was patient and kind. "Have you tried to get your child used to the idea of a new baby by purchasing a special doll and letting her learn about baby care with the doll?

We went and purchased a special doll for my niece. We named it the same name as the baby that would be coming home. When my sister was doing things to get ready for the new baby, such as preparing the nursery, she would bring out the new doll and show it off to my niece, showing her how to care for the new, special baby.

As time went on, we purchased a small "crib" for the very special doll. We made sure that at no time was rough play allowed with the doll. We also did not allow her to play with the doll all the time, drag the doll around carelessly, nor did we allow her to play with the doll unattended, since she would not be allowed to interact with the baby unattended.

When choosing a doll for lessons on infant care, choose a doll that can withstand water. A "drink and wet" baby is the best selection. Also choose a doll that looks similar to him or her and the coming baby. (Same skin color and gender of the new baby if it is known.)


Both Genders Can Play With Dolls

Some families may be hesitant with the idea of letting a male child interact with a doll for fear that it will somehow make them less manly or less accepted by their male peers. Studies have shown again and again that children learn how to behave and how to express themselves by social interactions.

Male children, whether we call them dolls or call them action figures already play with dolls. Allowing them to play with more infant or baby like dolls can serve to teach them the very same lessons of care, kindness and compassion as their female counterparts.

Having worked in a daycare in my life, I can assure you that both boys and girls play with all of the toys that are in their play room. Little boys will take turns cooking and caring for babies and little girls love playing with the lawn mower toys as well. Children want to emulate what they see at home and see others around them do.

By not attaching stern gender labels to toys and children, we allow them the opportunity to become the most rounded person that they possibly can be.


How Children Learn When They Play With Dolls

When children have supervised play with dolls, instead of free play with no learning plan, it allows you to present the idea in a fun and non threatening way while still educating them. I used dolls with my nieces to simulate what it would be like when we were going to get our vaccinations. I showed on the doll where the shots would be administered and then we practiced "taking good care of one another" after our shots. I never said that the shots would not hurt, but instead said that there would be a sharp pinch.

When my nieces got their shots, they told one another to "give me your sick arm" afterwards and blew over the top of each others' bandage. They were the only two children at the shot clinic that day who did not cry. The nurse was amazed, and they said "We already knew what it would be like."

Where did they learn such behavior? We learned it from when we gave shots to our dolls, and then we took turns being the patient.

The best part about playing with dolls and teaching your child using this valuable tool? You can have a special doll for learning times that automatically generates attention if it is only brought out for special play times. My nieces have learned to help set the table with their dolls as guests coming from out of town, how to help their parents, how to go to the restroom on the commode and loads of other things from playing with their dolls.


Allow Your Child to Have Independent Play

After you have spent time with your child to share a learning idea, allow your child to have some independent play time with the special doll. This will allow the idea that you are planting in your child's mind to be cemented in place.

My nieces really love to care for their special dolls, and they get excited when they see me bring down those dolls, because they are for special times.

Always make sure that playtime with dolls is a fun and upbeat time. If it ceases to be fun, the value of learning is lost!

Making Learning Child's Play

My niece stood there looking at me, her big blue eyes filling with tears. "I fell down." She said, offering me her knee to look at. I grabbed a compress for her knee and her special doll. I asked her "Did you want to hold your baby while I look at your knee?" I asked. She smiled and nodded yes.

Having played with the doll before during only special occasions, she reached for the doll with both hands. As soon as I handed her the doll, she began to care for the baby and play nurse, checking the doll's knee. It made me feel really good about it.

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