The Wilde Olive Blog: Why you should buy your boy a doll!


Why you should buy your boy a doll!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sometimes being a mom to a boy brings up questions and surprises I never even thought to think about. This is especially true for someone like me who grew up with only sisters. So, when the questions come up like “Does it go up or down when closing the diaper?” or “How did he learn to make car noises before he could talk?”, I defer to my husband and then he shrugs his shoulders and makes me feel better because he doesn’t know the answer either!  So we are just learning as we go and using our best judgment.

When shopping for Jonah’s first birthday I wanted to get him a doll. I did run it by my husband and my reasons why I wanted him to have this doll and he reluctantly agreed. I think his mild reluctance was partly because he was known as the boy who had “pink baby and purple baby” as a toddler and maybe he wanted something a little more manly for his son, but I was always going to buy the doll anyway. I think if you asked him today, he’d say he loves that I bought Jonah the doll and sees the positives of him playing with that doll and the others we’ve acquired since then.

Originally, when I bought Jonah’s first doll “Lukas” who I wrote about here, I wanted him to interact with him by identifying his features…eyes, mouth, nose, hair. I picked Lukas because he looked similar to Jonah, was a boy, was soft and had real looking features. Secretly, though I hoped he’d get attached to Lukas. I wanted him to have some memory he could carry with him as he gets older. Well, none of that happened when we got Lukas and you know I even chose to give the doll to Jonah on his real birthday rather than at his party? I guess I was worried about people judging me for buying my son *gasp* a doll. He liked Lukas, but didn’t really play with him until much later. (He pretty much played with balls for 8-12 months straight.)
Then a few months before he turned two, he was reintroduced to Lukas and other babies we had around the house, including a frog and this cabbage patch baby that was mine as a child. Since that time, he plays with them all the time. He used to insist on falling asleep with all of them, but now it's more just Lukas or Baby who crawl into the rocking chair with him each night.

  What I've learned from watching my son with his babies, is that little boys should be taught to be gentle and caring too. They should be taught to be caregivers and nurturers just like little girls. Giving my son a doll has brought out all of those attributes that ARE innate. He is a rough and tumble type of boy. He jumps and kicks, wrestles and tackles, but he also kisses and hugs. He wraps the baby to make sure he/she is warm, he tells me that "baby was crying cause he wanted his mommy". He tells me that baby needs his diaper changed and asks me to fix sippy cups and bowls of goldfish for Lukas. He puts baby in between us because he needs a snuggle too.

These behaviors show me that he'll one day be an excellent big brother and even father to the luckiest of little babies. I hope it means he'll have compassion for the little guy, a heart for those less fortunate than him, and a gift for care giving.

After some thought about what I've observed with my own child mixed with some of my early childhood development training (as a Clinical Social Worker), I've come up with five ways I think your child (boy or girl) can benefit from having a doll:

  1. Enhances Pretend Play: Playing with a doll allows a child to further develop their imagination. The doll can act and do the things the child wants them to. This can lead to many adventures and great story time! Rather than pretending to be monsters or fast cars, they get to pretend to be whatever they want, even that they are playing with a friend. Jonah often shows his dolls his other toys. I have overheard him showing Lukas his pirate ships and puzzles and even reading to him.
  2. Dressing: One of the worst things about an active boy, is getting him to change his diaper and clothes. Practicing this with a doll can add a little fun. He can even take turns.
  3. Other ADLs (activities of daily living): feeding the baby, bathing the baby, brushing baby's hair or even going potty. This can even teach them about the sequence things are done, like first you get your wash cloth wet, then you put the soap on, then you rinse.
  4. Language Skills: Interacting with your toddler and a doll can enhance identification of body parts, pieces of clothing, and even wants and needs like hungry, thirsty and sleepy.
  5. Reenactment & Social/Emotional Development: Children will often reenact a social situations or interactions with/or between their family members. This helps them to process and learn from the situation. If paying close attention it can also give parents some insight into their child's emotions and perceptions of what they are observing.

How do you feel about raising your children according to gender roles? Would you buy your son a baby doll?

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  1. I got so upset when a coworker once said that her 6-year-old son wanted a play kitchen set for his birthday and she wouldn't get it because it was "girly." I don't like to argue with people about parenting decisions so I just casually mentioned, "You DO know that most professional chefs are MEN, right?" I feel like sticking to gender stereotypes really limits your child's development because there are so many things they never even get exposed to (at least, until it's too late and they've already developed the mentality that it's only appropriate for the opposite gender).

    One thing I've noticed lately, especially for girls, is that parents try SO hard to break gender stereotypes that they don't even exposed their children to traditional activities for that gender. For example, parents who won't let their girls wear pink, play with dolls/Barbies, watch Disney princess movies, etc. That's just as bad, in my opinion.

    1. I totally agree with you Shannon! I never really thought of a play kitchen as a girl's toy. We definitely have one of those too. When/if I have a little girl we will definitely embrace the pink. I think introducing your children to a wide variety of activities and letting them form their own likes and dislikes is important for their independence as they grow.

  2. Love this!! I had thought about buying Dustyn one when he was much younger, but I never did.

  3. Totally! Little boys can learn to love and care for babies. After all, they may be fathers some day! Our youngest son LOVES babies. We got him a doll for his 2nd birthday. :)


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