Saturday, 28 January 2017

Boys and Dolls

For those who know me, they know that I have a special affinity for boy dolls.  I am not sure how this came about, perhaps because I had two boys of my own, or maybe because I taught predominantly boys, or maybe because I used to like to climb trees, ride on skateboards, go tramping and hunting with my Dad when I was a child.  I also played with dolls - there was no 'right or wrong' pushing towards one thing or another  - I was given a choice.  Whatever the reason, there is something special about boy dolls, but also dolls in general and people should be free to play with them, enjoy them as they wish, without being made to feel that they are being childish, or whatever.  Women playing with or enjoying dolls can often be ridiculed, but boys and men can often experience this even more! Dolls can be good therapy, they can be calming, they listen to your troubles and worries without passing judgement, they can be a good source of historical interest, inspire creativity, whatever and wherever your interest may lie.  

Both my boys were allowed to play with dolls as and when they chose as well.  One enjoyed playing with them more than the other and he enjoyed playing with them right up until he was about 10 or 11 years old. This may be in part because he was home-educated until this age, so didn't have the peer pressure of 30 other children his age in a classroom that told him it was 'wrong'.  Other home-educated children seemed to be much more tolerant of one's interests and games.  I have fond memories of him dressed up in his great grandmothers felt hat, pushing a push chair up the street with 'Baby' his cabbage patch boy doll in it.  Him and a friend of his used to play with dolls in the garden - both action man and barbie type dolls - they used to get up to all sorts of adventures and imaginative play together and I remember the excitement on his friend's face when for his tenth birthday we gave him a girl doll - dressed in safari clothes.  He had never had one before and was thrilled.  

Yet when my son was asked by my husband's friend what he would like for Christmas one year and he said a doll, my husband's friend was horrified.  'I am NOT buying your son a doll!' he exclaimed. Of course whatever he did end up giving our son for Christmas is forgotten as it wasn't what he really wanted, so wasn't as memorable.  Very sad to see that he was so prejudiced and of course this was carried through to his own son when he had one.  He was not allowed to play with dolls and pushed very firmly in one direction.  Now his son  may never have wanted to play dolls, or 'home corners' (another of our son's favourite games) but the important thing was, he was never given a choice to make that decision himself.

My friend Jesse in New Zealand who has the blog 'A Boy Doll Diary'  which features Angelo and his friends, wrote a brilliant post on this subject with links to videos as well and it is worth reading and watching. You can see it here:  'More about boys playing with their dolls'

I must go through my photo albums and see if I actually took any photos of my son and his friend playing when they were young.  I don't think I did, as the focus was them enjoying themselves and the camera often wasn't to hand like it is now.  Most of his dolls and teddy bears are currently packed away in the loft, but 'Baby' and Brian'   stay down and sit together on the top of my wardrobe.

My son's 'Baby' as he called his Cabbage Patch boy.  I made him a load of clothes, which we still have packed away somewhere that include little cloth nappies and various outfits.

I introduced 'Brian' his Waldorf boy a few days ago.


  1. Thanks, Lorraine, for this excellent and supportive blog post. You hit the nail on the head: it's about allowing children a choice in their play. I advocate gender non-exclusive play and we share this philosophy. It was a pleasure to read what you wrote here and thanks for plugging my blog!

    1. You are welcome Jesse, it was worth supporting and is something close to my heart as well.

  2. Wonderful post! It's really about allowing kids' imagination and creativity to take them on their play journey. You sound like a pretty awesome mom. I agree that dolls are very therapeutic. Whenever I have a stressful day at work, I look forward to some 'doll time' when I get home. Anyone who thinks dolls are silly or of little consequence should consider the fact that they can be found in all cultures and are among the earliest things that humans have created.

  3. I totally agree - I find it so frustrating that children's toys are gendered so strongly in marketing and in the ingrained prejudices of adults who don't see beyond the item being played with to the learning and play value involved. Interestingly we are watching Dragon's Den and Frances the 'Girl for All Time' creator had brought her dolls to ask the Dragons for an investment. The thing that intrigued and pleased me was that one of the men actually interacted with the doll (as in talked to it, moved its head) as he had daughters who played with dolls. He didn't invest (nor did any of the others) because they didn't like the starring eyes (his comment was that the eyes needed to close at night), some of the others also didn't like the serious faces! We thought immediately of the Sasha dolls who are serious but don't have starring eyes (waking up in the room with them at night is not creepy). But I still think it is a great shame that some doll makers like American Girl Doll, Australian Girl Doll, Our Generation and Girl of our Time don't have boy dolls in their range, how can they break down the prejudices about boys playing with dolls if they don't provide boy dolls as well, or dolls who could be transgender and accessories which aren't PINK.


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