Firefly, LLC.



How Doll Play Benefits Early Childhood Development

One of the gifts my one-year-old son is definitely getting this year (shhh! don't tell him) is a baby doll. Yes, my SON, a BOY. He's getting a baby doll. I wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, if I could, I'd make sure EVERY child EVERYWHERE has a baby doll. 

I would never make a claim like that without backing it up with some solid reasons. At the foundation of those reasons is early childhood development, of course. So, let me tell you a bit about why if you don't already own a baby doll you should get one for your child and what to look for when you do. 

Imaginary or pretend play begins to develop at very basic levels between 12 and 18 months. Children learn through observing and imitating the actions of those around them. Even very small children benefit from acting out nurturing and taking care of a baby. As they do so they learn valuable skills and build a foundation for future learning. 

Social-Emotional Development

Perhaps the most important skill promoted through doll play is the ability to understand and verbalize emotions and relate to other people. Baby care naturally builds empathy skills as children imagine that baby is laughing, crying, eating, or sleeping. 

Forming attachment to a doll can ease separation anxiety when children venture out into the world. Play with dolls can also be a valuable tool for helping a child prepare for a younger sibling. 


As their play develops children's sequencing actions feeding, bathing, dressing a baby promotes cognitive development. They also develop fine motor and self-help skills as they dress and undress and position baby for different activities. 

Taking care of a baby doll sets the foundation for learning to dress, bathe, and feed themselves. 

Speech-Language Development

On, off, up, down...positional words are easily introduced as children take care of a doll. Using "wh" questions (Where will the baby sit? What does the baby need?") is also extremely valuable as their language skills develop. 

Doll play is also a great opportunity for labeling items and building vocabulary. Learning body part names and items of clothing occurs naturally as children care for and dress their dolls. 

doll play in early childhood development

Regardless of gender, children are little people. Right? They'll grow to be big people. People need to take care of themselves and each other. Realistic, appropriately-sized dolls are an essential part of the toy inventory for any household. 

The style and size of a doll that children use is important. There are some characteristics that are desirable and enhance development and some to avoid. 

Especially if your child is drawn to taking the doll along as a companion, the weight and texture will play an important role in developing emotional attachment. Choose one made from natural materials, isn't too heavy, and fits nicely under your child's arm. 

When caring for baby dolls at home having a a few with a variety of skin tones is valuable basic introduction to social diversity. Also, a variety of those that are soft and cuddly as well as some that can easily get messy and be bathed will also be important. 

Also an important factor to consider is the realistic features of a doll. As they use them to identify body parts, it's crucial that children see the dolls features as reflections of themselves. Dolls disproportionate or with exaggerated features can likely cause confusion and body image issues later in life. 

As children grow, they likely will outgrow their desire to play with dolls. They may not even remember doing so. But being provided with appropriate dolls for play and a nurturing environment will be reflected later in their learning, language, self-care, and social interactions with others.

Basically, they'll be good human beings. Don't we all want that? I thought so. 


Does your child play with dolls? Do you have a favorite kind? What is your child's favorite way to play with or take care of dolls? I'd love to read your thoughts and comments!