I've been selling dolls for almost two decades now, but just recently got interested in learning more about child development. I was shocked to learn how important doll play is to developing and expanding the brain. I knew in general some of the old truisms: that Baby Doll play teaches children to nurture, that boys that play with dolls are generally better fathers, that soft dolls are better than security blankets out in public, etc.
But my recent study of child development taught me three new truths:
- Self-Esteem: When a Black child - or any other child of color - is given a doll that looks like them, the thought process goes like this: "This Black Doll is pretty, and she looks like me. I must be pretty too." This healthy racial self-identity has been proven to increase self-esteem and self-worth, leading to much greater self confidence! And a confident child is going to do better in school and in all other aspects of their life.
- Brain growth: Children learn from watching their parents and families. When they role play with their dolls, they not only play what they've learned, but also create new stories based on what they've observed. This creativity leads to brain growth - they actually grow new neural connections in their brains! It's easier when their dolls resemble the people that they see in their families. (Of course in mixed families there should be mixed dolls. That's a given.)
- Socialization and Self-Awareness: When children play with other children, they learn important socialization skills like 'sharing' or that 'there are rules to games.' But your one to two year old is also learning self-awareness, and is comparing herself and her learned rules to the other children's doll play. Race has not yet entered her mind, (not until about age three), but she is curious about skin color and hair texture differences. When that little blonde girl offers to switch 'babies' with your child, your child should have a black doll to trade.