*Updated October 2021*
Children can learn so much from playing with toys! Whether it’s a doll, workbench or pretend play kitchen set!
Why is it that it’s ok for a girl to play with a doll?
But, if a boy becomes attached to a doll and enjoys coming up with pretend play scenarios with his doll, many parents would try to convince him to drop the doll and play with the tool bench and dump trucks.
Let me assure you that boys playing with dolls is absolutely a good thing!
It’s one of the best ways a child can practice pretend play and thus develop their language (and nurturing) skills.
Why Should Boys Play With Dolls?
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Before I get into why boys should play with dolls I want to talk about a few things that bother me about the whole “boy toy” vs “girl toy” phenomenon.
Play is something that all children should have the privilege of experiencing.
There should be no rules or stereotypes around play.
If your child is interested in something, then let him (or her) follow that passion.
Your child will learn much more if you follow their lead!
Here’s an interesting personal story.
We got my daughter a tool bench when she was 18 months old (my son wasn’t born yet) and it quickly became one of her favorite toys (she had dolls and other “girly” toys as well).
She also had a ride on truck that turned into a dump truck, so she was able to put all of her tools into it when she no longer wanted to ride on the truck.
Nobody batted an eye.
But when my son was around 2 and decided to push around a pink stroller with a doll in it, I would hear comments like “oh, he must have an older sister”.
Yes, he does, but why would it be so odd that he decided to do this himself?
His Dad pushed him around in a stroller, so it’s something he saw regularly.
Even if my son were my first born child, I still would have made sure to have dolls and strollers around for him to play with.
Just like my daughter had a tool bench.
She is now 14 (where has the time gone???) and she still loves LEGO, science experiments, dancing, gymnastics and from time to time even making mud pies when some of her younger friends come around to play!
She will be the first to tell you that she has never liked Barbie, princesses, Monster High or anything girly. I did not push this on her. I just let her choose what she wanted to play with.
My son has become a pretty typical boy despite having a sister. He loves Lego, the latest video game and Nerf Guns. Up until he was about 8 he still enjoyed the play kitchen and crafts.
The last 2 don’t sound so manly, but that shouldn’t matter.
However, if he enjoyed playing dress-up, dolls, house, etc. I’m sure people would wonder what was going on.
Yet nobody thinks it’s odd that my daughter isn’t into all things “girly”.
Unfortunately it’s a societal double standard that we need to work to break down.
Do we not want our boys to become kind, caring and compassionate men?
On the other hand do we want our girls to be pushovers or do we want them to have some competitive and aggressive (not necessarily in the violent sense) qualities?
Playing With Dolls is Great for Pretend Play
When a child plays with a doll there are so many language opportunities that can arise. \
Here are just a few examples:
- feeding the doll
- bathing the doll
- taking the doll for a walk
- putting the doll to bed
- taking the doll to the Doctor
- taking the doll to school
All of these scenarios will lead to language development as the child gets older and narrates what is happening in the scenario.
There are so many benefits of pretend play that I have written two articles dedicated to the subject:
Playing With Dolls Allows for Language Development Opportunities
Children are sponges and they learn through observation.
A little boy sees his parents helping to feed him, bathe him, get him dressed, so it is natural that this would come out through pretend play.
A doll is a great way to practice what he sees.
Language opportunities are practically endless with dolls.
For a young child you can label body parts (eyes, nose, mouth, stomach, hands, feet, arms, legs, toes, fingers, etc.) and other vocabulary words such as “bath, wash, clean, wet, dry, eat, drink, spill, bib, cloth, sleep, bed, blanket, etc.” all while playing with a doll.
Additionally, prepositions can be practiced in a natural way.
For example “the doll is sleeping on the bed” or “the baby’s cup fell under the chair”.
Playing With Dolls Can Boost Social Emotional Development
When my children played with their dolls and stuffed animals, they would go through a variety of emotions.
Sometimes the baby is scared because mommy turned the lights off. Or the puppy is crying because he fell off the couch and got hurt.
Children often use real life events when they are playing with their dolls and “stuffies”.
This is how children learn about their surroundings.
It’s also a great way for children to take on different roles and therefore learn about the feelings of others through play!
Do you want to learn more about the role of play in social emotional development? Then read this!
Playing With Dolls Facilitates Social Skill Development
Often children will play with dolls together.
My son used to play dolls with my daughter and her friends when he was between 5 and 6. Usually this ended in a game of “house”.
Eventually the doll they were playing with became part of the “family” and each child took on a role such as: mother, father, sister, family pet, etc.
The children must all take turns in their various roles in order for the “game of house” to run smoothly. They also must decide who will play what role.
My son and daughter love taking their dolls and stuffed animals to the Doctor’s office, daycare, school, a restaurant, summer camp, etc.
One child is the parent and the other is the Doctor, teacher, etc.
Some of the scenarios they have come up with are quite entertaining to listen to.
So many times I hear them say phrases that they have obviously heard elsewhere.
Have I Convinced You To Buy Your Son A Doll?
Parents, please encourage your young sons to play with dolls.
You do not need to force them to do so if they choose not to.
But, have dolls and doll accessories available and don’t make it seem like a doll is for girls and they shouldn’t be playing with one.
The same goes for a pretend play kitchen! This should not be labeled as a “girls” toy.
Your son can grow up to be manly tough guy who is also kind, compassionate and caring and perhaps even a great chef too!
Make sure to read this mother’s story about her son’s natural love of dolls and what she is doing about it.
If I Haven’t Convinced You, How About This?
If you are still opposed to your son playing with dolls, why not try some puppets.
You can use some of my suggestions for dolls and replace them with puppets or stuffed animals.
It really doesn’t matter if the puppet is a boy, girl, animal, dinosaur, etc.
The point is for your son to have fun while learning important skills.
If you have a son, do you encourage him to play with dolls, or would you rather he stick to tool benches, trucks, Lego and all things boy?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.