How Dolls Aid in Child Development
We all know that educational toys play an important role in the development of young children. Games teaching math, logic, words and physical skills are clearly valuable. But what about toys that seem to be just for fun and entertainment? Do they have any educational purpose?
This month we take a look at how something as simple as a doll can play a meaningful role in the development of your young child.
In the Five Enchanted Mermaids series, we offer books that are fun and engaging but also include a learning component. We focus on helping develop the social and emotional skills of a young child. Each mermaid has her own special skill set (or superpower, as the mermaids describe it) and the benefits of these skill sets are woven into each of the stories. We have adopted the same philosophy in developing the Five Enchanted Mermaids merchandise.
Earlier this year, we wanted to extend the collection and looked at potential toys, both educational and non-educational.
The Five Enchanted Mermaids series is designed to meet the needs of the 3-7-year-old child who is transitioning from being wholly dependent on grown-ups to becoming more independent and self-reliant. At this age they start to embrace social skills, such as courage, honesty, confidence and kindness. Educational toys per se do not focus on these emotional and social skills.
So, back to the original question: Are “non-educational” toys useful for this? Our research led us to decide to introduce a range of dolls – one for each of the Five Enchanted Mermaids.
In this age of “social distancing” children are missing out on the stimulus and development associated with physical interaction – school, sports, play dates. Technology has also reduced the amount of play time and one on one communication.
Playing with dolls usually doesn’t come with an instruction manual. It’s a solo activity driven nearly 100% by the child’s imagination. The best approach for adults is to hand over the doll and then leave, allowing the child to fully express themself. The child will start to play with the doll without guidance, which in itself is a step towards more independence. The adult can also find a lot of value by listening in on that interchange.
Unlike playing with friends who may be argumentative, the child can project all their imagination and creativity into the doll. They can practice interactions with “pretend play”. This builds empathy and interaction without consequence. Your child fills in both sides of the dialog, which contributes to the development of emotional intelligence.
Intuitively this seems to make sense. But is there any research to support this?
For many years, Mattel has marketed their hugely popular set of Barbie dolls. Initially, these were targeted to girls up to 12 years of age. As children have become more sophisticated, Barbie is now marketed to children as young as 3-5-year-olds. Recently, Mattel sponsored research into the value that playing with a doll can bring.
The sponsored study was undertaken by Dr Sarah Gerson of the University of Cardiff in the UK. The study was part of an ongoing program to study child development and used a technology called fNIRS, which enabled the researchers to study the part of the brain used when people think about or interact with others. Dr Gerson’s findings were that playing with dolls activates the brain region associated with processing social information. It showed that solo doll play allows children to develop empathy and other social skills far more than, for example, playing games on a tablet or computer.
Take a look at the research.
The stories and characters of Five Enchanted Mermaids allow children to weave more into their play than with a generic doll. The child has gotten to know the character of the doll through the books and stories and the mermaid doll becomes ‘’a friend” to play and interact with.
Our first mermaid doll, Zari, is an African American mermaid whose super power is self-reliance and favorite color is purple. She will be available in early November and would make a wonderful gift for any child who loves mermaids A collectible hardcover version of the book that is all about Zari “Meet the Mermaids: Hi, I’m Zari” by our partner and children’s book author, Lois Petren is also available. They can be bought individually or as a book doll set from Amazon.
In the meantime, you can pre-order either item alone or the doll/book set by clicking on the links shown and receive a 30% discount.
The Five Enchanted Mermaids celebrate diversity in our world and the belief that each child deserves to have a mermaid that looks like them. Through their individual personalities and traits, they weave stories that help teach skills for children in this age group.
The idea for the Five Enchanted Mermaids was born to provide a fun but educational backdrop for girls aged 3 to 7 years. The characters address emotional skills (making friends, resolving conflicts, coping with change, making their own choices and “being good people”) and educational skills (learning to read, the alphabet, counting, symmetrical shapes, time, value of monetary coins/notes) that are important at that age in the development of young girls.
The stories use each of the diverse mermaids as a role model for behavior and values.
LifeMadeSimple, LLC and acclaimed children’s book author, Lois Petren, are collaborating to provide a series of books, party accessories and other appropriate items to support these goals.
Visit us at www.fiveenchantedmermaids.com