We all had a favorite toy during our childhood, didn’t we? And for most of us, it was a doll! Be it sleeping, eating, dressing or even bathing – our favorite dolls seemed inseparable! And despite outgrowing our dolls, the memories remained etched in our minds forever. So much so that as soon as we become parents, the first toy that we choose for our kids will probably be a cute doll. But what if the little one does not like the doll at all? Science has an answer to this and it is not a simple one at that!
Before we get into the details, let us discuss how playing with dolls can be helpful in the first place. Many child behavior experts believe that playing with dolls help children in developing their imagination skills. When kids bathe and feed their dolls as humans do, they learn about relationships and emotions too. It also helps improve their fine and gross motor skills and coordination skills when they push their doll strollers or rock them to sleep (1). But, not all children like dolls. Some might prefer stuffed toys like teddy bears or other animals. While some may not be interested in any kind of dolls at all. This is really nothing to worry much about.
However, if your child reacts to dolls in a more intense manner, like getting angry or scared, then there could be a strong reason for it. As Dr. Mayra Mendez explains, this could be due to the emotions your child associates the doll with. Dr. Mendez is a licensed psychotherapist at the Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California (2). She further explains that the negative response that your child elicits to dolls comes from the child’s own experience at the time the doll was perhaps introduced to him/her. It could come from a bunch of frightening or negative sensations too. Sometimes the child can even experience a negative emotional stimulation upon being exposed to the doll. For instance, if a child would have witnessed a domestic quarrel where a doll acted as a catalyst, then the child would forever hate playing with the doll.
Similarly, if the child would have experienced sudden, frightful sensations at the time of being exposed to the doll, then he/she would associate it with fear. Thus, the child would forever remain frightful of the toy. There are other reasons too, apart from emotional ones, which might make the child reject a doll. For instance, if the doll is too big or overwhelming in size for your child, then your child might reject it in favor of another toy that would be easy to move around with. There are also different kinds of dolls like the musical ones or those that converse in a robotic fashion. So, if your child does not like such weird sounds, then he/she will show no interest in playing with the doll. Then there is also the appearance of the dolls that should be taken into account. Often, kids prefer dolls with soft features and a fluffy appearance. So, if the doll has harsh or scary features, your child might immediately reject it. In such a situation, do not force your child to like the doll. This might make your child fearful and uncomfortable in the company of the doll, thereby causing hi/her a lot of distress.
So, does this mean that by rejecting the doll, your child will lose out on the chance to enhance his/her social and emotional skills? Not at all. According to Dr. Mendez, there is something else that is better than dolls to enhance all these skills in a child. It is the mother-child bond! There is a lot that you can teach your child through your bonding. And, as far as toys are concerned, there are many other toys out there to help your child develop his/her skills. So, don’t worry and just enjoy some fun playtime with your little one!
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