Sometimes when I visit my parents’ house, I go back to my old room and relive the moments that made me who I am today. As an only child, I spent quite a bit of time playing alone so that play was often imaginative. Sometimes I’d dream that Ken and Barbie got married and lived happily ever after or that the many “baby dolls” were my own children. To this day, I still love a warm cup of tea with friends and as a child, I’d often bring my favorite doll with me when my mom and I headed to our local tea room to spend an afternoon together.
I often see myself in my daughter and her imaginative play mirrors that of my childhood. I absolutely love watching her feed, dress, rock and talk to her dolls as if they were real. One of the things I’ve noticed about our time together is that she’ll often dream of stories and adventures that closely resemble our time together.
Just in time for the holiday season, Walmart introduced My Life As Dolls, which focus on real girls doing real things. So more than just a beautiful doll, the line inspires girls to discover who they are, what they love to do and what they are good at. The newest dolls in the collection are named after their skill, talent, or persona. For example, my daughter received “My Life as a Dog Walker,” which I think is absolutely fitting given her connection with my own dog Niko and her desire to feed and walk him. In fact, her doll’s description includes a glimpse of the responsibility that comes with being a dog owner and encourages little girls to discover what type of pet is her favorite.
Each My Life As Dolls character is available as a Blonde, Brunette, Hispanic or African American doll, which I think is wonderful for helping girls identify who they are. The dolls themselves are absolutely gorgeous and feature a soft, poseable torso, hair that little girls can brush and style, and a washable surface (perfect for girls like my daughter who like to test out their artistic skills).
The dolls stand at 18″ and come with a variety of accessories which mirror her personality and a set of clothing. Additional clothing and accessories can be purchased at Walmart. Additionally, if your child already has clothing and accessories fashioned for 18″ dolls, they can be used on her doll.
As I was watching my daughter play with her new doll, it inspired me to think about why doll play is so timeless and compelling for young girls.
1. Dolls teach children to care for another person. Caring for another person is instinctive. Children often mirror what their parents do and yet my daughter, as the second child, never observed me caring for a baby. Her desire to care for another human being is reflected in her gentle holding, rocking and singing to her dolls.
2. Dolls teach children gross and fine motor skills. From holding and rocking to feeding and changing, little girls are refining the skills that will carry them through school, sports, and life’s most important activities.
3. Dolls teach children necessary social skills. Once a child becomes verbal, talking to and with their toys becomes an important part of how she plays. Initially, that play is parallel, but as a child grows and matures, that play becomes cooperative and here is where children practice important verbal and nonverbal communication both with their friends and their dolls.
4. Dolls teach children to explore their creative side. If you’ve ever watched a child play with a doll, you’ve likely listened to the stories she’s fashioned about her doll. Even the simple task of naming her doll or choosing her clothes is reflective of her creative, imaginative side. The stories and adventures she fashions in her mind continue to cultivate her creativity and imagination.
5. Dolls teach children how to prepare for or process life events. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I explored a number of ways to introduce the concept of a new family member to my son. Simple discussions and books were useful in preparing him for the changes that would ensue within our family, but perhaps the method that resonated most with him was through play. When I worked in the hospital as an RN, we’d often utilize dolls to help children understand the procedures they would be experiencing as part of their medical treatment. Play in general, is a great way to help children express how they feel about life situations in ways that a simple discussion cannot.
You can purchase My Life as Dolls Doll of the Year Collection at Walmart in advance of the holiday season for just under $40 .