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Dolls, Open Ended Play, and Child Development

Professionals and parents everywhere agree that play is important in the development of children. Play can encourage growth in creativity, leadership, and logic. It's amazing all the different ways kids play; games and playing pretend come so naturally to them. As adults, we want to foster as many positive cognitive skills as possible in children. Help them grow up smart and strong! It's our job to lead them in the directions best suited for them.

There is so much educational media readily available for almost every age group. Put an infant in front of a screen and they can learn so much! It's easy to assume that educational screen time from a young age is more beneficial than playing with distracting toys. What educational value could dolls and blocks possibly have? 

Screen Time Teacher

Before you turn on that tablet, you may want to reconsider. In 2005, a review led by Daniel Anderson, PhD- a developmental psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts- found that educational television viewing consistently failed to teach children ages 2 and under when compared to live interaction.

These children were tested in simple imitation tasks that included language learning and emotional learning. It was in these tasks that the children displayed a “Video Deficit”.

Similar issues have been found when testing the behavioral, cognitive and social development at 36 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend no screen time at all for children until they are at least 18 to 24 months, with the exception being video chatting. Additionally they recommend children ages 2 to 5 get less than one hour of screen time per day. 

Despite the recommendations by health organizations, screen time limitations are rarely enforced. A study out of Florida International University found in 2014 that, in the United States, children aged 2 and under averaged 3 hours and 3 minutes a day. That is a 131% increase in screen time since 1997. Experts suggest that children aged 2 and under have not yet developed the cognitive abilities to equate what is seen on video, to something in the real world. However, parents who participate alongside their children are able to learn simple concepts from video or television. As children get older, the screen and educational programs can serve some educational purpose, but again it's most effective when adults participate in the learning. 

doll play helps child development

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend no screen time at all for children until they are at least 18 to 24 months.

For more information about screen time and child development, please visit the resource below from the American Psychological Association.

Open-ended play materials allow children to make choices, express their creativity and support their independence. Open-ended materials by definition do not have a predetermined use.

open end play and child development

The Value of Chaos

So how do children learn if not from educational materials? Kids are a lot more resourceful than we give them credit for. When given the opportunity, kids imprint on the world around them, and use their play to problem solve and feel out the world around them.

The best way to provide children with these opportunities is with open- ended play. Open- ended play is allowing kids to play without rules, guidance or structure. Kids will create their own games, their own goals, and their own rules, bringing their own creativity to play.

The materials that allow for open ended play are generic, and allow the imagination to create and improvise. Remember when we were kids and the world around us became a playground? Branches became wands and back porches became castles, and the entire yard a fantasy world. Building cities with building blocks and acting out action stories with dolls and action figures. Those fond memories of childhood are all of open ended play!

Open- ended play materials don't have rules or a set way to use them. Crafting materials, blocks, blankets, dolls and found materials are all examples of what children can use for open ended play. Children learn best by not being told how to play. Just let them play.


Find more information about Open Ended Play

How Do Dolls Fit in?

How do dolls fit in? I am so glad you asked. Dolls play a unique part in the social and emotional development of children. According to Senior Psychologist Alice Lee in Melbourne, Australia, dolls have several developmental benefits. "Earlier on, it's about using dolls to enact life experiences and understanding their place in their world and themselves — and as they get older, it takes them through to more imaginative play," she says.

Dolls often look like real children, and kids will use them to act out scenarios as a socially safe means of practice. “If you think about play, it's the child's way of understanding our world, and our world is diverse, it's full of people of color, from different cultures” It is generally agreed upon that children benefit from dolls that look like them, but it's also important to allow children the means of simulating the world around them, learn how to empathize, relate and communicate with people who are different than they are. Parents and other adults can also play a role in developing empathy and compassion with how they also respond to the dolls.

Children learn quite a bit by modeling the behaviors that they witness. Lee recommends parents focus on imaginative play when playing with children and dolls. ”Saying things like 'Oh, I wonder how Dolly's feeling right now, she just fell down’ rather than focusing on the doll's clothing or appearance. If the emphasis is, 'Oh she's so pretty' and she's doing all this household stuff, that's part of [teaching little girls that], 'Oh girls do this'”

Doll clothing and accessories provide different avenues for exploration and adventure. There is no correct way to play with a doll or what they are wearing. Doctor’s uniforms, scrubs, firefighter uniforms, and other accessories help children to populate their stories and worlds or even tap into new and emerging interests.

For more information on the benefit of playing with dolls.

playtime by eimmie dolls for open ended play

"From a young age, a lot of that script is heard from what they hear around them, and then they might replicate it."

At Playtime by Eimmie, we understand all the beautiful ways that kids play. Our dolls might have names and personalities, but that's how we bring them to life. The children in your life will have different names, personalities and adventures with Eimmie and her friends. We are so excited to see what they come up with and what the world looks like to them. We love seeing our dolls out with your youngsters, dressed up in all their adventure outfits! We are so glad that you are part of the club… and family of Playtime by Eimmie, and we are all so very excited to watch your kids grow and develop and see who they become!

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Article by Brin Blakesmith

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